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Open Access to Books

As a general backgroung to this debate, we need to look at 
scholarly communication costs and structures holistically on 
campuses. There is surely no point in institutions supporting the 
huge costs of academic research if there are decreasing means of 
distributing and accessing it effectively in the social sciences 
and humanties. The current scholarly publishing process is flawed 
in access terms in the social sciences and humanities from a 
monographic point of view.

Many academics spend years researching and writing a book but 
then find themselves either without a publishing outlet or that 
their book when published -often years later- has relatively few 
sales and thus exposure for their research. In many cases this is 
a laborious and costly process, often including subsidies, to 
produce a static book artefact for tenure and promotion purposes.

As Richard Fisher, the Executive Director, Academic and 
Professional Publishing, Cambridge University Press, noted last 
year in Sydney, we should address the question- "assuming the 
primary research is original and important, what is the best 
means to disseminate that research to the wider world".  The 
opportunities provided for university presses through the 
twenty-first century digital revolution and the reworking of 
scholarly communication frameworks can ensure a greater public 
accessibility to scholarship.

The 2007 "Ithaka Report" 'University Publishing in a Digital Age' 
reaffirms the relative isolation of many university presses from 
their core administrative structures: "Publishing generally 
receives little attention from senior leadership at universities, 
and the result has been a scholarly-publishing industry that many 
in the university community find to be increasingly out of step 
with the important values of the academy".

The Ithaka exhortations will certainly need some work however. 
Shulenburger has noted in an ARL piece that when he asked 
American University Provosts whether their university had a 
formal, written research publishing strategy, the overwhelming 
majority of Provosts who responded had no strategy! Clearly at 
the present time neither university presses nor institutional 
repositories in American universities are seen by most provosts 
within the context of "research publishing strategies". Contrast 
the Rentier comments on this list.

The potential for Open Access books is arguably as strong if not 
stronger than for articles in terms of availibility of final 
versions, impact, accessibility and distribution, as E-Press 
statistics demonstrate. The Open Access debate is about all 
disciplines not simply STM articles and needs to be linked into 
university wide missions of disseminating knowledge as Sandy 
Thatcher has cogenty argued in several recent articles.

The recent establishment of an Open Access journal fund at the 
University of California, Berkeley is another attempt to 
stimulate access within existing publishing guidelines. The 
Berkeley Research Impact Initiative (BRII)is quoted as supporting 
faculty members who want to make their journal articles free to 
all readers immediately upon publication. The program is funded 
by the discretionary budget accounts of the University Librarian 
and the Vice Chancellor for Research. Given the success of 
'Californis Escholarship',the same approach hopefully will be 
extended to monographs, which in terms of dollar value per page 
could offer better access returns.

It will be interesting to see how much of a take-up occurs, given 
the recent studies of faculty behaviour at the University of 
California, which highlighted the perceptions and realities of 
the reward systems and their strong influence on publishing 
behaviour and attitudes. In the end, the faculty perceptions have 
to be tackled in situ, with the process including both local and 
national advocacy programs. The impact of successful projects 
also can percolate through the system. Thus the word of mouth by 
leading academics at the Australian National University on the 
success of the penetration of their E-Press monographs has been 
more effective than any press release.

An underlying motivation of the funding of the ANU E-Press in 
2003/4 was to provide an emerging vehicle for the monographic 
distribution of ANU research on a global basis in the humanities 
and social sciences. The Vice Chancellor of ANU,Professor Ian 
Chubb at the launch, with the Spanish Ambassador in Canberra, of 
the Spanish version of a major ANU work on the Spanish in the 
Pacific, stated that the "E-Press was a result of a strategic 
decision to get our scholarship out to the rest of the world ... 
free and online".

The ANU E-Press is now a continuing budget line in the overall 
budget of the ANU's Division of Information, which includes the 
library, digital infrastructure provision, administrative 
computing, etc etc. As such, the Press is a relatively small 
component cost within the Division's budget which runs into the 
tens of millions of dollars.

There are two crucial issues. Firstly that the Press is seen as 
an essential part of the scholarly communication infrastructure 
and is not "isolated" within the University and secondly, that 
the Press relies on the existing ICT infrastructure of the 
Division and the University. The aim here is to reflect that 
there is no point in supporting key academic research if there is 
no means of distributing and accessing it effectively.

The ANU publishing framework has a distributed editorial model 
with twenty E-Press Editorial Boards,supported locally, spread 
across the university and then supported centrally by a set of 
ICT services. It has been argued by some STM publishers that this 
use of university infrastructures constitutes a hidden subsidy to 
university presses. This overlooks however, the much larger 
subsidies the other way, to the same multinational publishers 
from university infrastructures - in addition to their receipt of 
university scholars' original research "free of charge", and the 
fact that traditional print subsidies fail to alleviate the 
access and distribution problems.

I would agree with Jean-Claude Guedon here re future OA pathways 
for the Canadian subsidies. Robin Derricourt,Managing Director of 
UNSW Press argues in the January 2008 issue of 'Learned 
Publishing 'that "the nominal sum of, say, A$10,000 (a little 
more for a complex technical and illustrated title) could allow a 
well-written, strongly peer-reviewed manuscript to appear in a 
reputable imprint, priced at a level such that specialists in 
Australia could acquire personal copies, and distributed 
worldwide. ...This is a small cost to pay to achieve impact and 
productivity from publicly funded research".

Peer reviewed ANU E-Press titles are freely available in html, 
PDF, and mobile device formats. E-Press titles are discoverable 
through Google Book Search and Google Scholar. 2,400 POD copies 
were sold January to November 2007 but the press monographs are 
freely downloadable around the world and sales are not the main 
means of distribution. Download statistics have been impressive, 
particularly when compared to average sales of traditional print 

ANU E-Press staff are conscious of the late 2007 email discussion 
list comments on the issues of downloads, hits and the impact of 
spiders. Thus the preamble to the ANU E-Press statistics for 2007 
notes that, "the ANU E-Press undertakes additional filtering of 
these statistics in order to differentiate between human visitors 
and webcrawlers, and to eliminate the latter from presented 
statistics. While we believe that the statistics provided by ANU 
E-Press are largely accurate, a margin for error should be 

Nonetheless, even given conservative margins, the figures are 
significant for complete downloads.Total PDF and HTML downloads 
from January to November 2007 totalled 1.16 million. Top 
countries in order were Australia, United States, New Zealand, 
United Kingdom, Fiji, Canada, Indonesia, France, Germany and 
Japan. The Spanish book 'El Lago Espanol' had 62,408 downloads - 
in order to Australia, Spain, Mexico, Indonesia, and Venezuela 
-four of these countries not usually on the old ANU press print 
distribution radar.

As an aside, the fact that complete monographs are downloaded 
does not necessarily mean that they are read, just as books 
borrowed from libraries or books bought in bookshops, are not 
necessarily read either.

It is often said that the most acrimonious debates take place 
between poets as they have the least funding to fight over. 
Similarly it makes no sense for libraries and presses to squabble 
on campuses when they should be uniting on campus so that the 
institution's scholarship is available in the most accessible and 
cost beneficial terms.

Richard Fisher has compared the academic monograph to the 
Hapsburg monarchy in that it seems to have been in decline for 
ever!  The current situation in publishing and university 
institutional settings is certainly Balkanised in terms of the 
scholarly monograph and the distribution of its content. 
Scholarly communication frameworks need to be reassessed so that 
the presses become an integral part of the research framework of 
the university. It is clear that many key players such as 
publishers, university administrators and researchers are still 
wedded to historical web 1.0 monograph environments. Peer 
reviewed digitally constructed monographs, available within Open 
Scholarship institutional frameworks, the 2.0 or 3.0 models,will 
hopefully become the norm in the 21st century.

Colin Steele
Emeritus Fellow
The Australian National University
Canberra  ACT 0200

Tel +61 (0)2 612 58983
Email: colin.steele@anu.edu.au

University Librarian, Australian National University (1980-2002)
and Director Scholarly Information Strategies (2002-2003)