Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Friday, August 31, 2007

More on OA to monographs, a blog discussion

There’s a good blog discussion taking place about the accessibility of Samir Chopra and Scott Dexter’s new book, Decoding Liberation: The Promise of Free and Open Source Software (Routledge, August 14, 2007).  Understandably, the authors and their audience would like it to be OA or published under some flavor of open license.  The book is neither, although Chopra and Dexter did ask Routledge for an open variation on the standard license and were turned down. 

The discussion started with a blog post by Biella Coleman, announcing the book’s availability.  A growing number of comments on the post (now up to 23) discuss the access and licensing question.  Then separate posts by Chopra and Dexter (one, two) explain what they wanted and what they tried.  At a third blog, ACRLog, a post by Marc Meola launched new discussion yesterday.


  • I’m sympathetic:  I also have a Routledge book that Routledge will not allow to become OA, even now, nine years after publication.  One year after publication (1999) I got permission to provide OA to the preface and introduction.  Six years after publication (2004), when the OA edition of Lessig’s Code came out and more monograph publishers were experimenting with dual editions, I asked Routledge to try its own experiment and volunteered to let it use my book (thinking it might have difficulty finding a Routledge author willing to put his/her royalties at risk).  But I was turned down again.  One mitigation is that my book has a paperback edition, and so far Chopra and Dexter’s does not. 
  • There’s a good reason why the OA movement focuses on literature that “scholars give to the world without expectation of payment” (as the BOAI put it) —in short, journal articles rather than books.  The economics are easier, and the legal prerequisites, in author and/or publisher consent, are easier.  I’m one who would still like to see OA to royalty-producing monographs, and I believe that many authors and publishers can be persuaded that the benefits outweigh the costs.  (Dexter quotes my thoughts on this in one of his posts.)  But it’s important to remember that OA to royalty-producing literature is higher-hanging fruit than OA to royalty-free literature.  It’s also important to remember that book authors have fewer OA options among prestigious publishers than authors of journal articles, and face much longer turn-around times in between submissions if they decide to make the access conditions a deal-breaker.