Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Temporary free online access to books

Adam Hodgkin, Exact Editions for Book Publishers, ExactEditions blog, September 22, 2007.  Excerpt:

...We [at Exact Editions] have for some weeks been testing how Exact Editions works as a promotional service to book publishers and the first customisation is now in the open for Berkshire Publishing....

Berkshire Publishing is a young and highly innovative publisher of academic and general reference titles (Berkshire MA not UK). They have produced a list of outstanding and ambitious multi-volume reference works in the last decade. We are pleased to be helping promote these great resources in a web environment. The entire books are available and searchable for a limited period through this promotional service. A typically bold move from Berkshire's CEO, Karen Christensen. Her decision makes me wonder why publishers do not as a matter of course make their new titles available for free for a limited period through the web? Surely there is no better way of promoting a title? Opening access for a limited period makes complete sense. Complete commercial sense if the aim is to sell more books.

The Berkshire Encylcopedia of World History runs to well over 2,000 large format, double column, pages. It employs three different page numbering schemes over five volumes. So it was quite a challenge for our automated clickable-indexing system....


  • I don't normally blog promotional offers of temporary free access.  But this is the first time I've seen that strategy used for books, as opposed to journals, and I agree with Adam that it should increase net sales.  (There's evidence that permanent free access increases net sales for some kinds of books, like monographs, but that's another story.)  I'd like to see more book publishers try this, in part to help authors and readers, even briefly, and in part to test the waters of OA publishing.  Publishers who worry that an OA edition will reduce net sales can always switch the digital edition from open to closed after an initial promotional period.  But I hope they will also be ready to switch it back from closed to open again when sales drop below a critical level or when they are ready to test the theory that visibility and access boost sales.
  • There may be good reasons why TA journals tend to lead with closed access and follow with open access (after the embargo period or moving wall) rather than vice versa.  But there may not.  Very few journals are even trying the second model.  The only ones I know are the three journals of the London Mathematical Society published by Oxford UP.  It may be that net sales of books and journals would both benefit from an initial period of free online access, just as they would both benefit from permanent free online access after a certain period.  The more experiments we see, the more we'll know about when OA does and doesn't add more to sales than it subtracts.