Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Case study: self-archiving is easy

Alex Golub, An open access case study, Savage Minds, December 19, 2007.  Excerpt:

The current issue of the journal Games and Culture is running an article I’ve written with the scarily erudite Kate Lingley....If you want to read the other articles in the journal and your library doesn’t subscribe to Games and Culture, you will have to ILL them or pay US$15 to download a PDF. If you want to read my article, however, you can download it for free or even check out the preprint on Mana’o. Let me take this as a case study in open access…

When Lingley and I started working on the article, I began looking at open access possibilities. The first thing I asked was: what are this journal’s policies on open access? I found the answer to this question at RoMEO...[which is] incredibly easy to use—all you do is type in the name of the journal you are publishing in, and they tell you what its policies are....

So Romeo told me that Games and Culture would allow me post my pre-print (i.e. my page proofs) but that I had to wait 1 year before I could archive my post-print. Now for most people this is fine, since page proofs are pretty much finished projects. But because I am an open access nut I wanted to do more—I wanted to make sure the final version of our article was available to everyone.
What I had to do was change the author’s agreement—the contract that you sign before a publisher publishes your stuff. But how to deal with all that legalese when you’re not a lawyer? Easy—SPARC, another open access organization...[has developed] the SPARC author’s addendum. You just print this out, fill it out, and attach it with your author’s agreement —it keeps you from signing away your right to post PDFs of your work (for nonprofit purposes).

Most publishers I’ve encountered don’t have any problem with the SPARC addendum, but Games and Culture did....So in due course I got an email from the publisher saying that they wouldn’t accept my addendum, but would be willing to work with me to find other solutions to my concerns.

I told them that I wanted the article to be open, since many anthropologists didn’t read Games and Culture and the subscriber base was still relatively small. They agreed to make my article free for download for the first three month it appeared, and then to also open it up over the course of the periodic ‘free trials’ that they offer—roughly three months out of the year. The result is that my article will be available for download 6 out of the 12 months before I get control back over the post-print.

The end result: success! Using simple tools like RoMEO and the SPARC author’s addendum my work is now (mostly) open. Readers benefit from access to my research, I benefit from increased publicity for my work, Games and Culture gets a lengthy plug on my blog, and Sage gets a positive write up as well.

The moral of this story are simple: open accessing your work is incredibly easy if you use the tools that others have made for you, and journals are willing to compromise. If anything, anthropologists fixated on the belief that the only possible business model for journals is closed access, pay for content underestimate the flexibility and innovation of the publishing industry. And visions of punitive publishers take you to court for insisting on retaining the rights that you as an author have are vastly over estimated.

So go for it—the next time you publish something, try taking these simple steps. And then email your postprint or preprint to and we’ll help make your work available for all.