Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

More evidence that OA books increase sales of the print editions

Ellen Finnie Duranceau interviewed Eric Von Hippel for the MIT Libraries News on his decision to provide OA to two of his books (April 9, 2007).  Excerpt:

Eric Von Hippel is T Wilson Professor of Management at the MIT Sloan School of Management and Professor of Engineering Systems at MIT. He specializes in research related to the nature and economics of distributed and open innovation....He made two of his books available openly on his website at no cost to the reader: Democratizing Innovation, published in 2005 by the MIT Press, and Sources of Innovation, published in 1988 by Oxford University Press.

Libraries: What motivated you to make your books openly available, and to what extent was your motivation a direct result of the subject of your research?

EVH: My whole purpose – doing all of my research – is not to get money from book royalties. That’s not my goal. I’m trying to diffuse my work and ideas, much the way MIT does with OpenCourseWare. Society is already paying me for my work via my research funding....

Libraries: What was involved in making the arrangements with the two publishers?

EVH: For Sources of Innovation, Oxford University Press made a special deal with me. I approached them about 15 years after my book was initially published. Oxford agreed I could post the book for downloading, but they required that I make some compensation to them for any significant decline in sales. If the sales remained stable, we’d be even. I did not end up having to pay them any money.

In the case of Democratizing Innovation, I worked with MIT Press from the start to be sure I would have the right to offer my book on my website. In that case, I kept copyright to the book, and gave MIT Press the right to publish the printed version. This is why I was able to post the book under the CreativeCommons license....

Libraries: So by your estimates, sales of Sources of Innovation went up well over 70% after you made the book openly downloadable, and you believe at least some of the sales of Democratizing Innovation were the result of the open access version. It would seem these numbers would please MIT Press and Oxford University Press. What have the publishers’ reactions been?

EVH: It’s counterintuitive for publishers that they will sell more books if copies can be downloaded for free. So Oxford thought the result was really great. I’m not sure they’ve altered their business model based on the results, but they were pleased. In the case of MIT Press, my book was their first real experiment with this model. Because sales were higher than otherwise expected, they have begun to experiment with offering this option to other authors....