[-empyre-] Week Three - Open Access

Sigi Jottkandt sigij at openhumanitiespress.org
Fri Jun 18 18:51:19 EST 2010

Hi all,

I've been following the discussions here with great interest over the 
past couple of weeks. It's been great hearing about these other 
fascinating projects, which resonate really strongly with me in their 
outlook and strategies.

First off, I don't really have a lot to say on the issues around the 
politics of OA. My feeling is that while it's important to reflect 
critically on what one is doing - and I really appreciate Gary's, Paul's 
and David's theorizations of these questions within the larger context 
of free culture and the role of the institution - what really drives my 
interest in OA is action. So for me, the question of "the politics of 
access" at this point in time is more pressing than "the politics of 
open access".

(As a side note, though, it might be worth reiterating that open access 
is not a business model but an *access model*. OA is compatible with 
for-profit, not-for-profit, institutional subsidies, "gift" economies, 
and any combination in between. OA has no direct relation to the 
financial viability (or lack thereof) of the publishing system - there 
are presses that offer OA, and are financially sound; others that are 
toll access and sinking fast, etc. The fact that many of the UPs that 
are now offering OA are also receiving renewed institutional subsidies 
in the form of library affiliations strikes me as incidental - it's the 
culture of the library that is promoting OA, and making it a requirement 
of library support, rather than OA that is driving the move back towards 
increased subsidies from institutions who are remembering that one of 
the core missions of a research university is the dissemination of 
knowledge. Of course, in the humanities, OA is heavily reliant on 
institutional subsidies of one kind or another, but so is any form of 
publishing. (See for e.g. a recent report suggesting that peer review 
"costs" around 1.9 billion a year in unpaid labour by scholars 

A bit more on Open Humanities Press: although we're an open access 
publisher, OHP has no inherent or permanent attachment to "publishing" 
per se. If and when scholarly communication stops revolving around 
publishing as the chief means of dissemination, OHP will no doubt change 
as well. Creating a high-profile open access publishing brand is just 
the particular tactic we've chosen in order to advance our goal of open 
access to scholarly research in the humanities.

Originally, OHP started out as a journal publisher. We conceived it as a 
way of providing OA with additional academic certification through a 
meta-refereeing process that we felt would be useful to OA journals that 
still struggle to gain academic recognition. Since last year, we've 
begun publishing books in partnership with University of Michigan 
Library's Scholarly Publishing Office (SPO). The way the partnership 
works is that OHP provides the editorial labour (the series concept, 
editors, peer review, etc.) and SPO provides practical support in 
various forms including production, hosting, preservation, dissemination 
in POD and HTML. It's an interesting model, and as far as I know unique 
among the library/press partnerships because of its non-institutional 
nature. OHP is essentially little more than an international board of 
scholars who gather around their areas of interest as series editors and 
form independent sub-boards for selecting and developing manuscripts. 
SPO then publishes the books on the basis of the editors' 
recommendations. Unlike some other library publishers, which are tasked 
with publishing only the work of their own faculty, SPO is able to 
publish the work of any scholar, regardless of the author's 
institutional affiliation.

We're just beginning production for one of our first books (for Tom 
Cohen and Claire Colebrook's Critical Climate Change series 
http://www.openhumanitiespress.org/critical-climate-change.html ) and 
we've signed contracts for 3 more (for Graham Harman and Bruno Latour's 
New Metaphysics http://www.openhumanitiespress.org/new-metaphysics.html 
). Our aim is to publish at least 5 books this first year, and hopefully 
continue to double that in the coming years.

We're also actively working to foster the OA humanities community. We 
have an arrangement where ibiblio has agreed to host an install of the 
open source publishing software Open Journal Systems. This free hosting 
solution is freely available for anyone from anywhere who wants to 
create an OA scholarly journal. The only stipulation is that they abide 
by ibiblio's collection criteria. We came up with this as a response to 
a problem that we were frequently hearing, namely, that scholars and 
students were eager to start an OA journal but didn't know how to begin 
technically. OJS is remarkably easy to learn once it's installed, but 
the installation can be a little tricky for people straight off the bat. 
Anyone on this list who is interested or might know someone interested 
in using this service is very welcome to contact me. We'll also be 
starting another round of assessment of OA journals for inclusion in OHP 
in August, and welcome expressions of interest from journal editors 
interested in potentially joining the collective. I'd be happy to talk 
off-list about the kinds of things that an affiliation with OHP involves.


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