Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Interview with Greg Tananbaum

Gordon Freedman, Scholarly Publishing in the Digital World, educate/innovate, March 15, 2006. An interview with Greg Tananbaum, President of the Berkeley Electronic Press (bepress). (Thanks to William Walsh.) Excerpt:

GF: What’s unique about bepress in the world of scholarly publishing? Certainly, this capacity exists in a number of other companies.

GT: Because of our status as both a publisher of our own primary journals and our work as a software provider for institutional repositories, we have a rather unique view of many of the important issues facing scholarly publishing today. We see, for example, how the best elements of the traditional journal publishing system can be combined with the more recent phenomenon of open access. This has led us to champion quasi-open access for our own peer-reviewed journals....

GF: If I am a faculty member or university library, what is the value of bepress for me, for my institution, and for my field?

GT:...Because our technology is both flexible and easy to use, we have seen that the uptake ­– measured as content posted into an institutional repository – is substantially higher for our Digital Commons sites than for schools using the open source alternatives. The biggest challenge facing schools running institutional repositories today is how to fill them. Given our deep understanding of how the professoriate operates, we are able to give them a user experience that facilitates their ongoing participation. A specific example might help. Each month, Digital Commons authors receive an email telling them how many full-text downloads their posted materials have logged. The message also includes tips to help them publicize their materials, as well as instructions on how to post more content. We help make the authors stakeholders in their repositories, thus ensuring their ongoing participation....

GF: Are all your journals open? If so, what is the economic model that makes this capacity worthwhile to an academic department or to a group of faculty members?

GT: As I mentioned before, our peer-reviewed journals follow a quasi-open access model. Quasi-open access offers a middle ground between the existing poles of free open access and fee-based subscription access. Quasi-open access balances the need for cost recovery against authors' and editors' desire for maximum readership and distribution. Those without subscriptions can access any article by filling out a short form that allows us to inform their library of their interest in reading our journals. When libraries are convinced of sufficient interest in the journal, they subscribe. Afterwards access for all faculty, staff, and students at that institution is immediate and there are no more forms to fill out. Why do libraries subscribe to Berkeley Electronic Press journals? One simple reason is that if one’s community uses the journals, paying for them is the right thing to do. Beyond these moral obligations, our data indicate that readers completing the guest access forms represent somewhere between one-tenth and one-quarter of an institution’s likely readership. They are the tip of the iceberg when it comes to institutional interest.