Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Clarification on the Gutenberg-e business model

Letter from Jim Jordan about Gutenberg-e, Columbia University Press blog, February 28, 2008.  Jim Jordan is the President and Director of Columbia University Press.  Excerpt:

The recent Chronicle of Higher Education article about Gutenberg-e got a number of facts wrong, which is not surprising given the fact that Columbia University Press was not contacted before the article was published.

First, it is wrong in fact and in spirit to conclude that the Press has radically restructured the Project from a subscription only to an open access model. Rather the Press recognized some months ago that with so few subscriptions purchased for its online version of these electronic works, usage would continue to be disappointing, and promotion would continue to be made all the more difficult. So the Press insisted that the project explore a working relationship with the ACLS e-history project as a service to our authors and their works. ACLS has an installed user base nearly 10 times the size of the former Gutenberg-e site which the Press managed in collaboration with the Columbia Libraries....

[T]he Press did not migrate the project to Open Access abandoning a subscription model. Rather we have moved it to a more mature and widely used subscription platform. A significant disappointment for me is that there was so little support within the library community to promote and support the project as a service to scholarship. Certainly the modest subscription costs for these projects were a barrier to no one. Personally, I remain skeptical of the long term value of open access publishing to support the kind of rich and deep scholarly publishing our industry has developed over many years. Open access shifts the costs, but does not eliminate them. To the extent that it also shifts the expertise, it is a threat to all of us who care about publishing scholarship.

The Open Access model for Gutenberg-e resides at the Columbia Libraries and was created subsequently. We wish it every success. It is important to realize that its success will be largely influenced by the tremendous resources already expended to create these projects in the first place....

All should be wary of any conclusions being made from this very unusual and highly costly experiment about the superiority of open access publishing....

Update. Jim Jordan clarifies further in a post on LibLicense, March 6, 2008.