Notes from the Road


The are lots of conferences these days about Open Access. Increasingly the conferences and meetings are about how to fund Open Access and encourage open innovation. Some concentrate on how to make the transition to open as painless as possible, others report on new enterprises that are already doing it. As one would expect in a time of transition, these events include both winners in the new digital world and those who are fearful of becoming the losers.

Last month I went to three such meetings in five days … in three cities located in two countries - well maybe three if Scotland goes independent.

Towards the end of January I attended the Academic Publishers in Europe meeting in Berlin. The conference theme was The Funding of Publishing: Changes and Consequences for Science and Society. The title says it all, as did the keynotes. They were all on Open Access – including a presentation by Dame Janet Finch. There were a few presentations defending old models but the general thrust was that we are on an open trajectory. We just need to get there in a way that doesn’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. Exactly what the baby might look like is still unclear. But in our small section of this child, book publishing, we heard of the new Palgrave Open programme for books and also deGruyter’s numerous initiatives, which include new arrangements with the Max Planck Society who will be funding open book publications and their stand alone line through Versita.

As is beginning to be de rigour at such conferences there was a whole session on open books. Eelco Ferwerda led with an array of business models that shows there is more than one way to approach opening up books. Eric Hellman and I did a double act, showing the similarities and differences between and Knowledge Unlatched ( opens up already published titles and funding is through a universal Kickstarter model; KU is setting up a library consortium that will fund the first copy costs of forthcoming new academic titles). Carrie Calder of Palgrave took us through her vision of what the life cycle of a book will be and what publisher value added could be in the world of digital.

I then went to Glasgow where I gave the keynote for the opening of a new research centre, CREATe: Copyright and New Business Models in the Creative Economy. The evening reception was held at the Hunterian Museum and I spoke in a room full of dinosaurs, yes the real ones from millennia gone by! A funky one-day was held at the Lighthouse, and we were regaled with people just getting out there and doing it. From music, to film to publishing – there are lots of new models that are simply taking no notice of how things were done before.

Finally, I went to a meeting in London called by the AHRC, ESRC and attended by HEFCE to talk mainly to Learned Societies and the implementation of the Finch report. I was asked to give a presentation on monographs and open access business models. The meeting, however, was mainly devoted to the concerns that learned societies have over the length of embargos for green OA journal articles and the impact that short embargos might have on their excellent work. While no one is owed a free ride the concerns in the academy are real, and it was good to see that they are being listened to. There are risks, but there are ways of adapting and saving that precious baby that we all want to see grow and flourish with the new strength and vigour.

I’m taking a break from conferencing. My next one is at the end of February when I’ll be at the Association of Subscription Agents annual meeting in London –  but only to listen. Much of the programme is devoted to the question ‘who pays’.

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