Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Sunday, January 20, 2008

More on the possibility of a funder OA mandate for books

Stevan Harnad, What About Open Access to Books? Open Access Archivangelism, January 20, 2008.  Excerpt:

Les Carr (U.Southampton) wrote:
"Do ERC (or other short-term funders') research projects result in books? ...I am not asking whether books count as research outputs (they do) but whether they are the outputs of funded projects...."

(1) I would be very surprised if it were not the case that (in some disciplines at least) books count as the outputs of funded research. (Book citations certainly redound to an author's research credit as surely as article citations do.)

(2) Insofar as OA (and Green OA self-archiving mandates) are concerned, however, the relevant question is not whether books count as the outputs of funded research. (OA is for the outputs of research, whether or not the research is funded. And Green OA self-archiving mandates apply to the research output of a university's salaried academics, whether or not their research receives external funding, just as the university's publish-or-perish mandate applies to publications irrespective of whether they are the result of external funding.) ...

(4) So the relevant variable is not funding but whether the research publication is an author give-away, written purely for the sake of research uptake, usage and impact -- the way all peer-reviewed articles are written -- or whether it is also written in the hope of royalty income (as many books are -- even though their hopes are usually not realized!) ...

(9) Some have suggested that making a book OA online will not hurt but help the sales of the print edition, but this is far from empirically established as the general rule (although it has happened in a few cases).

(10) Hence, although funders and institutions can and should mandate the self-archiving of peer-reviewed articles, they cannot and should not mandate the self-archiving of books.

(11) If it were proposed to extend Green OA self-archiving mandates to books, there would be (justified) resistance from both authors and publishers, and that would needlessly reduce the chances of adoption of what would otherwise have been an articles-only mandate....


  • For my comments on the possibility of a funder OA mandate for books, see my post yesterday.
  • In the excerpt from Stevan's post above, I've omitted a dialogue between him and Klaus Graf on whether the burden of proof lies on the person arguing that OA editions of books boost the sales of priced, print editions, or on the person arguing that they don't.  I have no opinion on the burden-of-proof question, but have often blogged evidence that OA books do boost sales of print editions, at least for some kinds of books.  For research monographs in particular, see three articles by Mike Jensen (in 2001, 2005, and 2007) on the experience of the National Academies Press, which has published dual (OA/TA) editions of all its monographs since March 1994.