Wednesday, 18 October 2017

International Open Access Week 2017

Next week is International Open Access Week. Colleagues at the University of Hertfordshire have devised a full week of activities related to #openaccess #OAWeekUH #OAWeek. The theme of the week is #OpenInOrderTo and my answer to that prompt is #OpenInOrderTo reach more readers, more easily.

Last week, I was interviewed by Jane Housham (Publisher, University of Hertfordshire Press), and filmed by Chris Dunkley, for a short film about Open Access publishing. The interview was based on the fact that my book, Designing Worlds: National Design Histories in an Age of Globalization was published as an open access book as well as in hardback in 2016 by Berghahn. The book is available as an entire pdf and the chapters are available as individual pdfs on the publishers' website. I co-edited this book with Professor Kjetil Fallan of the University of Oslo. Both of the editor's institutions - the University of Oslo and the University of Hertfordshire - contributed funds to Berghahn to support the open access book.

You can watch the film on Youtube and hear more about my experience of open access publishing. Although the initial impact has not been as great as I had hoped, I remain convinced that there will be longer term benefits in terms of increased readership and use of the book, and I remain committed to the ethos of open access.

Professor Grace Lees-Maffei
TVAD Research Group Leader.


  1. Thanks for sharing this blog and video about open access.

    My own experience of open access publishing leaves me cold (as distinct from journal articles - I'm much more positive about that aspect of open access, though with major provisos).

    In my own experience of open access books, the going rate for publishing is about £6,000. Sometimes more. At the moment, this cost is usually shouldered by the authors, or editors if it's an edited volume. The research councils do not yet allow open access costs as legitimate expenditure when applying for funding, so the cost falls to individuals.

    Instead of creating deeper and richer access to publicly-funded scholarship, as was the open access movement's original goal, what has happened is that the economic risk of publishing a title has been inverted. Risk has fallen to the author, instead of the publisher. And there is no benefit for us in this new model: as you mention, having open access for books doesn't even have an observable positive impact on levels of readership.

    Open access is not not to a general audience's benefit because they are not accessing the pdfs in any great number, despite the success of tablet readers. It is not to an author's benefit because it is we who pay for publication, and it is not to scholar's benefit because we had access via libraries anyway.

    Instead of fulfilling the democratic ambitions of the open access movement, the real impact of open access has been the publishing industry movement towards the rentier capitalist model that Uber and Airbnb use (for example).

  2. Thanks Alana. I think the distinction you make between OA books and OA journal articles is a useful one. My post was based on my very mixed experience as a co-editor of an OA book. But, my experience as a reader is that I am delighted when a book I want to read is OA and therefore readily available to me, even though those of us with institutional affiliations can access some digital books freely online even if they are not OA. Not everyone who reads academic research has an institutional affiliation or library access to digital materials: I imagine that group benefits more than most from OA book publishing. I want to remain positive but I accept your critique.