Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Friday, September 26, 2008

Penn State's experiment with OA/TA books

Shaun Manning, Penn State Press and Libraries Come Together for Digital Publishing, The Exchange Online (newsletter of the AAUP), September 19, 2008.  Excerpt:

...Given that the [Penn State Press] Romance Studies titles are available for sale in a print format as well as having significant portions available for free online, there was...some concern as to whether the availability of these free chapters would ultimately hurt sales of the print volume. “Indeed there were concerns, and the jury’s still out,” said [Patrick H. Alexander, Co-Director of Penn State’s Office Digital Scholarly Publishing (ODSP)]. “We wrestled with the conflict of interest between an Open Access online version and a printed edition. If the volume were available online, who would buy the print?” He added that the press’s partnership with the library alleviated many costs associated with digital publishing and distribution, but that print sales were still very important to offset the editorial, production, and other overhead costs of publishing.

“We weighed various options: no access, partial access, degraded print access, and full access,” Alexander said. ODSP’s solution was to offer all of books’ content available as chapter-by-chapter downloadable PDFs, but only around 50% of each book will be printable from these files. “It’s possible that some potential readers of Romance Studies titles will be happier to get a single chapter or do a short check online, rather than buy a book. But the online reading experience will not replicate the in-print experience, nor will printing out a whole book on the laser printer really replace the book.” He noted that the open access model presents an opportunity for greater dissemination of scholarship, but that questions remain as to how a majority of users will interact with the material in digital and print formats. For example, are the PDFs read on screen or printed out? What would each case indicate as to how Penn State should offer the Romance Studies books? Are users likely to print out an entire book, if all chapters were available, rather than simply purchasing a bound copy? “The problem is that we won’t be able to definitely prove these assumptions unless we can discover what motivates our readers’ behavior,” Alexander said....

“The Penn State Romance Studies series also represents a commitment to experimenting with ‘open access’ to book content that was emphasized as an imperative in AAUP’s Statement on Open Access drafted by our director, Sanford Thatcher, so as to help bridge the growing ‘digital divide’ between book and journal content in the OA world.”