Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Friday, March 14, 2008

On OA for orphan books

Peter Brantley, Homes for Good (Orphan) Books, Peter Brantley's thoughts and speculations, March 11, 2008. (Thanks to Adam Hodgkin.)

I've been thinking a lot recently about the availability of books in online searchable repositories, and the likely outcomes for publishers, libraries, and the public. Most particularly, I have been considering the impact of a possible settlement between publishers, authors, and Google involving the books that are currently under litigation in the Google Book Search product.

A significant portion of the implicated works are likely to be out-of-print, of uncertain copyright status, and no longer present in any publisher's archive -- available only in the less-visited shelves of the largest research libraries. This substantial category, numbering in the millions of books, incorporates a large number of what are called "orphan works" ...

What might break the logjam of access to these works, and frustrate the otherwise inevitable near monopoly of access that Google might obtain through a court proposed settlement? A digitization agreement involving universities and a suitable hosting service that would make this lost material broadly available on reasonable terms, with clear benefits that facilitate research and education, would make a strong counterpoint.

[Funding] arrangements, such as those pursued by the high-energy physics community's SCOAP3 journals project, might also be feasible, depending on the topology of interested parties. ...