The OAPEN Library and the origin of downloads – libraries & academic institutions

On a regular basis, we look at the download data of the OAPEN Library and where it comes from. While examining the data from January to August 2021, we focused on the usage originating from libraries and academic institutions. Happily, we found that more than 1,100 academic institutions and libraries have used the OAPEN Library.

Of course, we do not actively track individual users. Instead we use a more general approach: we look at the website from which the download from the OAPEN Library originated. How does that work? For instance, when someone in the library of the University of Leipzig clicks on the download link of a book in the OAPEN library, two things happen: first, the book is directly available on the computer that person is working on, and second, the OAPEN server notes the ‘return address’: We have no way of knowing who the person is that started the download, we just know the request originated from the Leipzig University Library. Furthermore, some organisations choose to suppress sending their ‘return address’, making them anonymous.

What is helpful to us, is the fact that aggregators such as ExLibris, EBSCO or SerialSolutions use a specific return address. Examples are “” – pointing to the library of the Western Sydney University – or “”– coming from the library of the Università di Bologna. And in this way, many academic libraries can also be identified from their web address. Some academic institutions only display their ‘general’ address.

Academic libraries and institutions, sorted by type
Academic libraries and institutions

As mentioned before, our analysis delivered over 1,100 – 1,121 to be exact – different addresses. The chart displays those addresses divided by type, and we see that many academic libraries not just rely on aggregators such as ExLibris, but also directly give access to the OAPEN Library through their catalogs. The metadata of the OAPEN Library is freely available under a CC0 license, and can be downloaded as a MARCXML file to ensure easy library integration.

Which libraries and institutions are the biggest users of the OAPEN Library according to this data? The most downloads come from MediaLibraryOnLine, the first Italian network of public, academic and scholastic libraries for digital lending; the Bodleian Library of the University of Oxford; and Universidad Peruana de Ciencas Aplicados.

We are happy to see that our collection is finding its way to libraries and academic institutions all over the world!

Finding relevant books without sacrificing your privacy

Web retailers such as are able to find just the right book for you. This is a great feature, but it comes at a cost: its recommendations work because it is storing information about you. The better it knows you, the better its recommendations.

At OAPEN, we do not track people. Instead, we used the full text of the open access books and chapters in our collection. In an experiment – based on over 10,000 titles – we took the complete text of a book, cut it up in blocks of three consecutive words (called trigrams) and filtered out all the common phrases. This leaves you with a small group of terms that are unique for that particular book. The next phase is finding other titles that share the same terms. The more terms they share, the more they are connected.

Using this algorithm helps to find books that are very similar: if you are interested in a certain book, you should also download these books as well. However, it can also find books that are a little less similar: you might use this to expand your research, or to create a collection of books. Surprisingly enough, this algorithm can also find translations; it even works across languages.

Finding related titles in this way does not have to be confined to the OAPEN Library. The same method can be applied to other collections of open access books or even open access journal articles.

More information can be found in this article:

Snijder, R. (2021). Words Algorithm Collection—Finding  closely related open access books using text mining techniques. LIBER Quarterly: The Journal of the Association of European Research Libraries, 31(1).

The Holy Grail does not exist: OPERAS-P and OASPA’s workshops for publishers on innovative business models for books

The Holy Grail does not exist: OPERAS-P and OASPA’s workshops for publishers on innovative business models for books

workshop 1 business models

By Agata Morka & Tom Mosterd

In May 2021, together with the Open Access Scholarly Publishing Association (OASPA), OPERAS hosted a series of three European workshops on business models for open access books targeted specifically at small and medium-sized academic book publishers1. As part of the OPERAS-P project work package 6 (Innovation) OPERAS was looking into innovative, non-BPC business models. The feedback gathered in the course of these three workshops informed a report The Future of scholarly communications, published at the end of June 2021 as an OPERAS-P project deliverable.

We have heard you

The first workshop in the mini-series was informative in nature, not only for the audience, but also for us, as organizers. Participants had a chance to familiarize themselves with six different models for OA books, ranging from these based on BPCs, national subsidies, to those relying on collaborative funding from libraries (see a short report on the first session here). From the organizers perspective, the event gave us a chance to understand which of the presented models were of particular interest for the gathered participants. The following two workshops were therefore shaped by what we heard in this first one. It became clear that the community sought to explore non-BPC approaches, these based on collaborative funding in particular, in more depth.

Following this desire, we invited Vincent W.J. van Gerven Oei, from Punctum books (see his presentation here) and Rupert Gatti from Open Book Publishers to talk about mixed collaborative funding models for the first session. Martin Paul Eve and Tom Grady graced the second one (see their presentation here) discussing their Opening the Future idea (now nominated for the ALPSP Award for Innovation in Publishing). In these focused workshops thirty small and medium-sized academic book publishers came together to ask questions, express their doubts, and discuss challenges they encounter when it comes to OA books.

The Holy Grail of OA book publishing

Recent studies on OA book business models has shown that there is no one model that will suit all cases. Both the OPERAS white paper from 2018, and the 2020 COPIM report came to this conclusion and our workshops further proved it. Publishers in both workshops stressed the importance of circumstances in which every single one of them operates: different approaches might apply for OA born publishers than to those seeking a full or partial transition to OA. Regional context, with existing publishing traditions, also comes into play as a factor affecting the choice of the pursued model: while publishers from Germany were less reluctant about applying BPC-based models given the fact that their researchers are used to paying for publication under traditional models, others found OBP and Punctum’s approaches more appealing.

University presses looking into transitioning towards OA expressed interest in applying the Opening the Future model, although some doubts about its scalability were also voiced. The discussion showed that while the Holy Grail of OA book publishing does not exist, what does exist however, is a strong will to experiment with various approaches, spearheaded by small and medium sized academic book publishers.

Do you speak digital?

Among challenges raised by the workshop participants two stood out as the most common: these of production and distribution processes. Some publishers expressed a certain anxiety when it comes to dealing with “all things digital”, starting from offering formats other than PDF, to assigning DOIs and creating high quality metadata. A certain lack of technical expertise was found troubling and, in some cases, resulted in production and distribution parts of the publishing process being outsourced or simply neglected. Distribution of digital copies proved to be somewhat of a terra incognita, and navigating between the DOAB, Google Books and Amazon proved to be no trivial endeavor, especially for non-OA born publishers. Some participants found learning digital intimidating and saw it as a substantial hurdle to overcome. It became clear that strong support is needed in this area. In this context COPIM-originated Thoth, an open bibliographic metadata management and dissemination system, gained a lot of interest among the participants. Discussion about its features dominated the second workshop with Rupert Gatti and Vincent W.J. van Gerven Oei, both engaged in the development of this project.

Let’s collaborate on collaboration

One of the most important takeaways of the two workshops was perhaps the realization that events of this type are found truly helpful by the community. We received several emails following the workshops stressing their relevance and usefulness. The opportunity to discuss a particular model with colleagues who are practicing it, in the spirit of openness and sharing, might be a powerful tool to encourage a larger uptake in OA book publishing initiatives. We would like to continue this best practice exchange to enable interested publishers to pick and choose from existing models and create their own, tailored solutions that would be most suitable for their needs. As the first step in this direction, we will be launching a publishers’ database with case studies of different models, open to everyone to use and contribute their own cases. We are looking forward to officially launch the project in the autumn 2021. For now, mark the database link and stay tuned for further developments.

  1. While these three workshops focus on innovative business models and approaches used within Europe, we would like to emphasise similar innovative business models have been implemented outside of Europe too. []

It’s the system that counts

You would expect it to be simple: when somebody downloads a book from the OAPEN Library, the system adds one to the total number of downloads. After a while you put the numbers in a report, and share it with the world. Sadly, the reality is more complex. All the books and chapters can be downloaded by everybody, including automated processes (bots). Also, if you think as downloads as a measure of impact, it becomes tempting to inflate it by downloading a certain book again and again.

So, the raw download numbers need to be filtered, in order to give a more realistic indication of the true impact. Many libraries use the COUNTER Code of Practice as standard, which enables them to compare the data from different sources. However, many online platforms measure their visitors using Google Analytics. The OAPEN Library uses both (but we only report the COUNTER data). Together with the migration to a new platform, a new version of the COUNTER reporting (Release 5) was introduced. A good moment to compare Google Analytics (GA) with COUNTER Release 5 (R5).

Comparing the amounts of monthly downloads is simple: where GA reports over 1 million downloads per month, R5 stricter filter lets it report around 400,000 downloads. Again, when we look at the details, the reality is more complex. For instance, comparing the number of downloads per country shows large differences for the USA, France, China and Russia. In contrast, the numbers for Australia, Canada and Austria are virtually the same. When we compare the usage data of each title, the differences are even less simple to explain. You would expect that both GA an R5 more or less agree about the order of books: which book was downloaded the most, which one comes after that etc. But that is very much not the case.

GA and R5 have made their own choices on what is reported and what not. One metric is not better than the other, but we should be open about the choices made. After all, open access book metrics are complicated and we can only benefit from clarity.

More details about usage data and the two systems can be found in:

Ronald Snijder, “Open access book usage data – how close is COUNTER to the other kind?,” Insights 34 (1): 9. (2021),
Submitted on 11 November 2020 and published by UKSG in association with Ubiquity Press on 28 April 2021

You might also be interested in the OAeBU DataTrust Pilot or this OBP blog. Things get even more complex when you try to compare different platforms…

Crowd-funding the Open Science and Open Access Infrastructure: Reports from the Field 2/2

As part of the 2020 Charleston Conference we participated in a, virtual, Lively Discussion organised by SCOSS and moderated by Vanessa Proudman (SCOSS). During this session, Eelco Ferwerda (DOAB / OAPEN) together with Lars Bjørnshauge (DOAJ), Kevin Stranack (PKP) and Silvio Peroni (OpenCitations) shared their reports from the field forming the basis for an exciting conversation around the crowd-funding of Open Science and Open Access infrastructure.

This blog post is a short summary of this session, the reports, discussion and some of the questions asked. It is split in two parts, this being the second part including the lively discussions and some of the questions. Part one can be found here.



SCOSS: What particular risk does your service face if it is not sufficiently funded and how would it affect the open science community?

PKP: I think we really face two primary risks. The first being that, without sufficient funding, the pace of our development and level of innovation slows down. This’d be concerning since this would mean we’d fall behind with the commercial sector in terms of development of features and general levels of innovation.

Second, we give away a lot of free support, free documentation, free online support and learning how to use our services. Having to cut back in this area could result in a downward spiral as we can offer less help to the community which can impact the adoption of our tools and services.

OpenCitations: We need manpower to manage the technical infrastructure, such as the server, and also developers who maintain and develop new services, e.g. to allow for new data queries via the REST API. We need people to work on that, to make these services a reality and make sure they are used by the Open Science community.

DOAB & OAPEN: We’re not publicly funded, or part of an institution. So if we cannot fund our activities we are faced with the risk that we may have to shut down. So we do rely on support from the community to provide our services.


SCOSS: Has your not-for-profit status made any difference compared to the commercial players with your users, members or clients?

PKP: our independence has really allowed us to be led by the community and not by shareholders. It has allowed us to translate our software into 40 languages, and give away the software and everything around it for free in multiple languages. Enabling those around the world to really make use of the software.

OpenCitations: Our independence allowed us to serve the community without an ulterior motive. We follow Open Science principles, our data is completely freely available. Since there is no commercial interest, we can make everything available without limiting users to earn revenue.

DOAB/OAPEN: The mission is essential to what we do. Commercial considerations would have probably prevented us from starting such an infrastructure at all.


Questions from the floor


Do you have any efforts underway to reach beyond libraries to reach richer funders to support these wonderful services? As libraries are, especially in these times, under budget pressure and our coffers are slim.


SCOSS: SCOSS is starting to talk to funders but at the same time we are talking to libraries and with COVID this is particularly challenging. However, even if it is just 500 dollars that can be contributed, or a similar small amount, this all contributes to the greater good of open infrastructure. After all, the consequences of not supporting these infrastructures might lead to these infrastructures disappearing, and as a consequence this might mean that you face having to develop and offer this service at a higher cost yourself or alternatively a commercial party takes over with a prospect of vendor locked in.


DOAJ: In DOAJ we have more or less a policy not to apply for grant funding. So far we have managed. To rely on crowd-funding from many individual institutions has brought us a lot of good things, it is as well a channel to listen and learn from the community. While COVID has brought many bad things, as a former Librarian, it has also meant less traveling and conferences saving some budgets, and this might be an option, though perhaps not for all. But we have to be creative these days and small contributions help us a lot.


PKP: We’ve also been able to count on some additional areas of funding, such as paid services on top of our free offerings. Everything we do we give away for free. Now if a library wants to use our software but doesn’t have the technical ability to host it themselves they can pay us to host these services. So I think all of these projects we are all looking at innovative ways to sustain ourselves in addition to the crowd-funding, but the crowd-funding has proven extremely helpful because it allows us to focus and spend directly on our operations. Grants often have strings attached, but typically don’t pay the day-to-day operations.


One of the big things that libraries have justifying to University administration is investing in crowd-funding initiatives that are freely available. What is the return on investment for that crowd-funding investment? And also, how do we choose between different investment opportunities?


SCOSS: SCOSS helps take the pain out of the infrastructure funding selection process since we vet infrastructure in need of immediate funding on an annual basis on your behalf; recommending 2-3 infrastructure (after rigorous evaluation) in need of funding on an annual basis.


PKP: I think this is the core question. Part of it is having this conversation about the values of these projects and what are some of the problems library budgets have found themselves in because of the commercial dominance within traditional publishing. We’ve seen the cost of publishing gone up and up.  And then there are some infrastructures here, some communities and some librarians that got together and are showing an alternative way. Though it is still early days, things are changing and we can think about how we want to be part of this change. I think all of the projects here offer benefits so it is not just writing a check.


How does membership and support of these excellent organizations translate into annual communication about annual achievements so we can use these to convince the others?

SCOSS: For all the SCOSS infrastructures on the call today, they have completed the thorough application process including what their plans are and what they plan to do with their fundraising target. The infrastructures also have to enter into a contract with SCOSS which includes obligation to report what they have achieved from the work plan at the end of the year. SCOSS also publishes these reports , so you, as a contributor, know where the funding is going.


End of part 2.

Help sustain the SCOSS infrastructures. More information here.

Crowd-funding the Open Science and Open Access Infrastructure: Reports from the Field 1/2

As part of the 2020 Charleston Conference we participated in a, virtual, Lively Discussion organised by SCOSS and moderated by Vanessa Proudman (SCOSS). During this session, Eelco Ferwerda (DOAB / OAPEN) together with Lars Bjørnshauge (DOAJ), Kevin Stranack (PKP) and Silvio Peroni (OpenCitations) shared their reports from the field forming the basis for an exciting conversation around the crowd-funding of Open Science and Open Access infrastructure.

This blog post is a short summary of this session, the reports, discussion and some of the questions asked. It is split in two parts, this being the first part including background information on SCOSS and the field reports from the various infrastructures. Part two, which you can find here covers the discussion and some of the questions part of the discussion.

What is SCOSS?

Vanessa Proudman: SCOSS, which stands for the Global Sustainability Coalition for Open Science, is an initiative formed in 2017. So what problem is SCOSS trying to solve?

Over the last fifteen years, we have seen critical non-for-profit open science and open access support services develop and we have come to depend on many of these, with our services, or policies that have been developed. Many of these services initially starting out as projects or receiving initial funding have grown and developed but now some of them are on somewhat unstable footing. What happens to those services that have served us well over time but are struggling now to operationally continue and further develop? Will the community step up now to sustain these services and encourage diversity and equity in the scholarly communications ecosystem? The SCOSS mission is to provide a new coordinated cost-framework to help ensure not-for-profit open science infrastructure are sustained.

SCOSS is a community-led and governed initiative. Mainly consisting of networks of academic libraries including ARL and CARL among others. SCOSS forms a consolidated voice that vets open science infrastructure before recommending anything to you, the community. Furthermore, SCOSS encourages good governance in anything they promote.

SCOSS is not a subscription or payment agency and thus do not collect any funds, these funds go directly to the individual infrastructure. Encouraging potential funders, libraries, to build direct relationships with these infrastructure service providers.

Thus far 2.35 million dollar has been committed to Open Science infrastructures.

Reports from the field


Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ)

Lars Bjørnshauge: The SCOSS program has made a real difference for the DOAJ. Thanks to the SCOSS program many new supporters joined and existing supporters were willing to grow their commitment in order to help sustain the DOAJ. Thanks to support received due to the SCOSS recommendation significant improvements have been made in technical improvements, reducing the backlog, creating more efficient processes, for instance for handling applications, and many other improvements to the DOAJ platform.

Our mission is global, to help publishers to do a better job and see to that open access journals are made as visible as possible. We operate in over 60 languages, and have been able to put together a brilliant team thanks to the funding support we have received from libraries through SCOSS. It has been a pleasure for us to participate in SCOSS and I’m very fond of it as it is one of these initiatives that is getting things done as we speak.

While for individual libraries, the level of support may just be the equivalent of 1 or 2 article-processing-charges (APCs), it means a lot to us and thanks to the crowd-funding effect makes a real difference for us.

Public Knowledge Project (PKP)

Kevin Stranack: The Public Knowledge Project (PKP) is a non-profit started on the principles of openness with the goal of increasing the quality, access and diversity of the voices heard in scholarly publishing. We’ve developed Open Journal System (OJS), which anyone can use and modify to run their own high quality journal as what we often refer to as WordPress for journals.

With over 10,000 journals being published from almost every country in the world. Library publishing has taken of internationally, many of the journals using Open Journal Systems are in the DOAJ and we actually work closely with the DOAJ team on helping journals apply and assist the DOAJ staff in any way we can.

Translated OJS in over 40 languages, thanks to which we think uptake has been so great. Volunteers contribute code, write documentation, and donate financially. We’ve developed a community based governance structure and a technical committee to advice on our future software directions.

Supporting an international community of this size really requires financial support. We give everything away for free so we must rely on these funding sources for maintaining and further developing the infrastructure.

Directory of Open Access Books (DOAB) & OAPEN

Eelco Ferwerda: The DOAB and OAPEN are two interconnected services dedicated to open access for academic books. Both operate globablly, OAPEN launched 10 years ago, and works with publsiehrs and research funders to hosts books. By contrast, the DOAB only hosts metadata for books and provides links to the freely available open access edition on the publisher website.

Both platforms make the metadata freely available in various formats for download and integration into library systems and third-party aggregator systems. DOAB became its own independent non-profit entity in 2019 governed by OAPEN and OpenEdition. It currently host over 32,000 open access books and chapters from over 400 publishers around the world.


DOAB has become a global hub for open access books and it must recognize the diversity and publishing practices around the world. This connects with efforts around quality assurance which is essential to achieve trust. Currently, the DOAB is developing a certification services for peer-review practices to improve quality assurance and transparency for open access books.


Silvio Peroni: OpenCitations has been established as a fully free and open infrastructure to provide access to global scholarly bibliographic and citation data and to have quality coverage of data to rival proprietary services in this area. OpenCitations is not-for-profit and all our services are free though we have costs to maintain and keep this available for free.

We provide data containing more than 700 million citations that the community can use and re-use for any purpose. Such data can be crucial as a vehicle for making national and international research evaluation excellence exercises and to make such activities more transparent and reproducible compared to other proprietary services. As a librarian, you can use our citation data through the to enhance or develop new tools that can support your authors, students or institutional administrators. For instance, by providing metrics or new discoverability tools.

The community is directly involved in the governance. One can become a member of opencitations, or support us through a one-off financial donation. Through this you can become involved and play a part in the OpenCitations governance structure.


End of part 1

Help sustain the SCOSS infrastructures. More information here.

OA Week 2020 Interview: the Dutch Research Council (NWO) funding for Open Access Books

The OAPEN Library is a partner of the Dutch Research Council (NWO) and provides a quality hosting environment for all peer-reviewed academic books, book chapters and collected volumes which are the result of or report on research funded partly or in whole by NWO and are primarily aimed at an academic reading audience.

The interview below discusses the new funding scheme for Open Access books introduced by the NWO in June 2020. The first two books financed through this new funding scheme can be found on the OAPEN Library:

Worlds of Labour Turned Upside Down : Revolutions and Labour Relations in Global Historical Perspective; Brill;

The Journeys of a Taymiyyan Sufi : Sufism through the Eyes of ʿImād al-Dīn Aḥmad al-Wāsiṭī (d. 711/1311); Brill;

An overview of all 89 NWO-funded Open Access books can be found here.

This interview is a cross-post from the interview posted on the Open Access Books Network on October 21st 2020 which can be found here.


Start of interview

Amidst a year filled with turmoil and change, the International Open Access Week makes it annual return (19-26 October). Its theme is ‘Open with Purpose: Taking Action to Build Structural Equity & Inclusion’. As part of Open Access week the Open Access Books Network (OABN) would like to zoom in on a few developments in the open access books world through a series of interviews. As part of this second interview Agata Morka (OABN) spoke with Hans de Jonge (Dutch Research Council, NWO) to learn more about their recently announced funding scheme for open access books.

Agata Morka (OABN), Hans de Jonge (Dutch Research Council, NWO), October 2020

As part of the OA week we want to focus on developments in OA books; could you give us a short overview of your initiative in 2-3 sentences as an introduction?

At the Dutch Research Council NWO we have recently launched a dedicated funding scheme for Open Access Books. It is part of our strategy to step up our efforts for Open Access and Open Science in general.

How would you describe your initiative to someone who knew nothing about it?

At NWO we are deeply committed to making sure the results of our funding are made openly available. Open Access to journal articles have over the years become an established practice. For NWO in 2019 around 68% of all scholarly papers are openly available. The transition to Open Access for academic books has been much slower, which carries the risk of leaving disciplines behind for which the book is (and hopefully will remain) an essential means of scholarly communication. In the Netherlands around 40% of scholarly output in social sciences and humanities has a “bookish” format. NWO wants to contribute to making sure that at least the part of those books that are the result of NWO research funding will become available in Open Access. That’s why we have launched a new funding scheme for Open Access books.

What is the main goal/ambition of the project and why?

It is becoming increasingly clear that Open Access has the same benefits for scholarly books and monographs as for scientific papers. Open Access books are more findable, are downloaded more, are cited more and have a much wider readership than non-OA books. Unlike in countries such as the UK, where we have seen a series of very inspiring reports, there has not been much debate about Open Access books in the Netherlands. Only recently it was stated in the National Plan on Open Science (NPOS) that the aim is to extend Open Access to academic books and other formats. Together with colleagues Eelco Ferwerda, Jeroen Sondervan and Astrid van Wesenbeek we prepared a note for the NPOS. In our view the reason why Open Access books are lagging behind is: (1) a lack of policies (it is not clear whether books are in or out of scope of existing OA policies in the Netherlands), (2) a lack of funding and (3) persistent misconceptions about Open Access and a clear need to communicate about the benefits of Open Access for books. With the new Open Access book fund, NWO wants to contribute to help solve the funding problem. But we also updated our OA policies with regard to books as part of our new Plan S compliant OA policy. It is now crystal clear that we expect books that are the result of project funding by NWO awarded from January 1 2021 onwards to be made Open Access, either by publishing in Open Access or by taking the repository route (also known as ‘Green’ OA). We have partnered with the OAPEN-library so that it will become our dedicated Open Access book repository for this purpose.

What is the biggest problem you are trying to solve and how?

NWO has always allowed its grantees to use (part of) their grant money to pay for open access fees. This also includes possible book processing fees charged by publishers. The problem, however, is that very often books are long in the making and often will only get published a significant period of time after the NWO research project has ended. This effectively makes it impossible to use our grant money. The new Open Access book fund wants to solve that problem by providing post-project funding for books that are the result of NWO funding.

What one thing would best help you achieve your goal?

In developing this new funding instrument I have been very fortunate to have received the help and advice of many in the Open Access book community. Experts from the Netherlands like Eelco Ferwerda and Jeroen Sondervan, but also from sister councils in Austria (FWF) and Switzerland (SNSF) where similar funding instruments have been developed in recent years. And also the contacts with some of the commercial book publishers in preparing this funding instrument have been very inspiring.

As an organization how do you respond to this year’s OA week theme, ‘Open with Purpose: Taking Action to Build Structural Equity and Inclusion’?

Last year I attended the OASPA conference in Copenhagen where these issues were brought forward very prominently by Professor Sarita Albagli. Her presentation has made a big impression on me. Also, as members of cOAlition S NWO is of course very well aware of the critique around the APC-based business models that have come up in the West. And although I think cOAlition S has genuinely tried to be as agnostic as possible as regards business models, I do understand the critique from parts of the world where alternative, very well-functioning and most probably also more equitable models have been developed. I am glad that, together with Science Europe, cOAlition S has now taken the step to commission a study on these alternative Diamond business models. I hope this will lead to a better understanding and ultimately to more equitable and inclusive OA business models.

What question do you wish we had asked but didn’t, and why

Where does your passion for Open Access come from?

One of the things that made the biggest impact on me when I graduated and started my working life outside of the university some 20 years ago was the inability to access scholarly literature. From one day to the other suddenly my library pass was blocked and I couldn’t access the vast digital (and physical) collections to which I had become accustomed. Frustration about this grew over time as I worked as policy advisor at several organisations that just couldn’t afford access. It’s simply absurd working as a policy advisor in higher education but not being able to access the most recent papers on the topic you are working on. I found my way around it obviously, as we all do. But I am very thankful from my current position to be able to contribute towards opening up all the research that is being done in the Netherlands!

End of interview

Scholar-led open access book publishing in Linguistics – an interview with Language Science Press

Language Science Press (LangSci) is a scholarly-led open access book publisher in Linguistics. Initiated in 2012 by academics for academics, the press fully embraces new publishing possibilities and offers open access book publishing to its authors, free of any charges. Rooted within the field and with an active and involved researcher community, LangSci has published well over 120 open access books thus far and continues to publish around 30 books per annum. To learn more about the press and its approach to open access book publishing, we spoke with Dr. Sebastian Nordhoff.

Tom Mosterd (OAPEN), Dr. Sebastian Nordhoff (Language Science Press), September 2020


Where did the idea of starting an own press come from?

A couple of linguists connected to the Freie Universität Berlin (Stefan Müller, Anatol Stefanowitsch, Adele Goldberg, Thomas Herbst) met in 2012 and discussed that scholarly books were absurdly expensive and that things could not continue like that any longer. Everyone had their own share of ludicrous experiences with legacy publishers. This fell in the same time as the call to action by Tim Gower in “The cost of knowledge”.

So the idea of setting up a scholar-led press was born. At the same time, Martin Haspelmath at the MPI for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig was thinking about the same issues, and so Stefan Müller and Martin Haspelmath jointly submitted a proposal to the German Research Foundation (DFG). That proposal was granted, and the rest is history.


It has been 8 years since the initial idea and 6 since it has been put in practice, how is the response from Linguistics communities?

Linguists are very enthusiastic about open access in general, as is shown by the Lingua->Glossa transition for instance. As a publisher, we do not have to convince authors that open access is a good thing; the authors demand open access. I suspect that this has to do with many linguists working with languages from economically disadvantaged regions in the Global South or elsewhere, and they have first hand experience of the prohibitive prices for accessing scholarly literature.

We started with 7 series in 2014 (phonology, typology, syntax, …) and have now grown to 25 series, extending to more and more subfields of linguistics, such as phraseology or Romance linguistics. For all of these series, the initiatives came from resarchers from those fields, not from the publisher.

We have a list of public endorsers, which stands at 1068 as of today, and we have around 400 volunteers who help with proofreading. Uptake varies between subfields, but for certain subfields, LangSci is on its way to becoming the publisher of choice, and the question is no longer “Why should I publish with LangSci?”, but rather “How could I not publish with LangSci?”

Our latest title ”Syntactic architecture and its consequences” is a three-volume collection of 62 papers by over 80 scholars in generative syntax, basically the all-time all-star team of that field, ranging from Noam Chomsky to Jonathan Bobaljik and Artemis Alexiadou. So, to answer the question: it seems fair to say that the response from the community has been overwhelming.


How does Language Science Press differ from a non-scholarly led press?

We do things researchers need, and we do not do things they do not need.

Researchers sometimes need only one chapter of a book, sometimes they need the whole book, so we provide PDF files both for chapters and for the whole book. This is something which sounds completely trivial, yet the legacy publishers somehow have not managed to cater to this need – and don’t get me started on embedded pdf viewers!

We have a very lean setup. We have no marketing department, no invoicing department and no storage since we don’t have to do any marketing, invoicing or storage. Since we do not charge readers, we can have very lean IT, no paywalls and no legal department. We do not have acquisition editors who are jet-setting across the world to visit all conferences in order to attract new authors since the authors are from within our very own community anyways.

People often ask:
“How many people are working for LangSci to produce 30 books a year?”

This is an interesting question. The bulk of the work is obviously being done by the researchers, so that is 30+, but this would be true for all other publishers as well, so let’s discount that. Then, we have 2 salaried positions at 50%, so that is 1.0 full-time equivalent. But then we also have 57 series editors, over 400 editorial board members and close to 400 volunteer proofreaders who also contribute their time as a service to the community.

This involvement of the community, the fact that linguists got their act together and got organized, is really what sets LangSci apart from other publishers.


What is the business model and how do you financially sustain the press?

We have no charges for readers and we have no charges for authors. We are financed by a network of 100+ institutions worldwide, ranging from the University of Stockholm to MIT. These institutions jointly finance LangSci as a platform. They commit to giving 1000 EUR per year for a period of three years. If we fulfill their expectations, they are likely to renew, otherwise they will most likely not participate in the next funding round.

We disclose our business data as far as possible. This means our revenues and our expenses are detailed in a blog post, normally in January, so that people can see where the money comes from and where it goes. LangSci is a “gemeinnützige UG”, ie a non-profit, so our profit margin has to be 0% by law. We do not have to satisfy the demands of shareholders for return on investment, we only have to satisfy the needs of the scientists.


Is there anything you would like to share with like-minded people who may be contemplating starting a similar initiative?

Aim high. Signal prestige.
Make clear that you will not just publish anything, only the very best content. Quality begets quality. If you start low, you will get shoddy submissions; if you start high, you will get great submissions

Make sure to get legal counsel on how you can protect the scholar-owned brand you will create. There are numerous cases of scholar-led projects where the brand rights ended up in the commercial sector because the academics couldn’t care less about this issue. This is the most important thing. DO NOT GIVE AWAY THE BRAND YOU ESTABLISH.


Where is LangSci headed within the next couple of years?

We are in the renewals phase for the next funding round 2021-23. We need 115 institutions until November, of which we have about two thirds right now. We think that we should be able to convince all those institutions of the quality of our initiative, but it will still require some work, by us and by our supporters.

We will probably get a couple more series, and we might go from 30 books to 40 books per year or so. How growth can be managed within a non-profit scholar-led initiative is a very interesting question, where a very vibrant discussion is still ongoing.

End of interview

In 2018 Dr. Sebastian Nordhoff published a ‘’Cookbook for Open Access books’’, describing the experiences of setting up a community-based publisher. The book can be accessed here.

To learn more about Language Science Press, their titles, or the current renewal campaign have a look at, or contact Dr. Sebastian Nordhoff at

OAPEN open access books toolkit


In June 2020 OAPEN announced the development of an open access books toolkit: an open and easy to use toolkit to help authors better understand and trust open access book publishing.


Editorial Advisory Board

Over the past months, work on a community-built open access books toolkit continued and we are pleased to introduce the Editorial Advisory Board. This Board is a global and multi-stakeholder group, including authors, publishers, research support staff, funders and other key stakeholders:


Editorial Advisory Board Members

Andrew Joseph, Digital Publisher, Wits University Press

Christina Emery, Open Access Books Marketing Manager, Springer Nature

Claire Redhead, Executive Director, OASPA

Dylan Law, Head of Cultural Value and Equality, Diversity & Inclusion, UKRI AHRC

Eelco Ferwerda, Director, DOAB Foundation & OAPEN Foundation

Graham Stone, Senior Programme Manager Open Access Monographs, Jisc

Hannah Hope, Open Research Coordinator, Wellcome Trust

Jan Bergstra, Guest Researcher, University of Amsterdam

Jeroen Sondervan, Project Leader Open Access & Open Science Programme, Utrecht University

Kevin Hawkins, Assistant Dean Scholarly Communications & Interim Head, University of North Texas

Koen Leurs, Assistant Professor Media & Culture, Utrecht University

Lucy Barnes, Editor, Open Book Publishers

Lucy Montgomery, Assistant Professor Internet Studies, Curtin University

Margo Bargheer, Head of Electronic Publishing, Göttingen University Press

Mithu Lucraft, Marketing Director Open Research, Springer Nature

Ros Pyne, Director Open Access Books, Springer Nature

Sotiria Psoma, University Lecturer BioScience and Technology, The Open University

Tom Mosterd, Community Manager, DOAB Foundation & OAPEN Foundation

Valerie McCutcheon, Research Information Manager, Glasgow University


Schedule & launch

By now, the Editorial Advisory Board has collectively written 42 articles, as the collaborative writing phase for the toolkit is coming to a close.

Over the summer, the toolkit website will be further developed and additional reviews shall take place for the toolkit and its contents. We look forward to sharing this new public resource with you shortly after the summer. 

If you would like to stay informed and receive project updates about the toolkit, please sign up to the OAPEN Open Access Books Toolkit newsletter here.

OAPEN-Springer Nature Interview on the occasion of reaching 1000 OA books: Part 2

This is the second part of this interview, to read the first part please click here .

Eelco Ferwerda, Ros Pyne, May 2020

Looking back over the last ten years or so, what have been the important developments for books to become OA?

I expect the answer to this could take up a whole interview in itself!

To name just a few – the early experiments coordinated by OAPEN in the Netherlands, the UK, and Switzerland were important in encouraging publishers to experiment with OA for books, and in providing early insights into OA book models. OAPEN and the DOAB continue to play a crucial role both as a central point of discovery for open access books, and, through their peer review requirement, in helping to maintain standards and provide reassurance as to the quality of OA books.

The Wellcome Trust was one of the first big funders to explicitly support and fund OA for books, and their policy and related advocacy has, I’m sure, been influential in persuading many publishers to offer OA book options. The TOME initiative to fund OA monographs in the US has also been important in raising awareness in a region in which authors tend to be more cautious about OA.

I think we at Springer Nature have also played a part here, through our sustained commitment to OA books over the last nine years and our growing programme, and through our research into the benefits of OA for books.

So, now let’s try to look into the future…

First of all, do you think academic books will remain an important part of scholarly output in certain disciplines? Do you think our perception of academic books are changing, or likely to change in the next few years? Why is open access for books important?

I’m convinced that scholarly books will continue to be the pre-eminent mode of communicating research and thought for many disciplines. The world is multifaceted and interconnected, and increasingly globalised. Books allow complexity and depth for solutions: a monograph allows the space to fully explore and contextualize a topic that short-form outputs can’t provide, and that won’t change. Opening up access to monographs allows many more readers worldwide to access the important research published in them.

Looking at the portfolio of Springer Nature, can you give us an idea of the relative importance of books? Is it changing?

At Springer Nature, we are strongly committed to books: they have always been the backbone of the company, and this will not change. What has already changed, though, is our interpretation of what is essential about a book and how we can develop it further to benefit authors and readers. We use our innovation and expertise to help shape the future of books.

What is the current growth rate of OA books, how does that compare to articles, do you see books catching up? Where do you see the growth coming from, in terms of types of books, funding sources?

We’re certainly seeing strong growth in OA books – we published 30% more OA books in 2019 compared with 2018. It’s difficult to meaningfully compare growth rates, given that books start from a much lower base than journals and that, as your question suggests, we see very different trends and growth by region and by country.

Funder policies influence the trends: we’ve seen a big increase in the number of OA books we published by authors based in Switzerland since the SNSF introduced their funding programme, for example. Authors from countries whose national funders already have OA books policies and a strong history of leading in the OA arena, such as the Netherlands and Austria, also feature prominently in our OA books programme. In the last couple of years there’s also been increasing interest from China and India.

The majority of our OA books are monographs and edited collections. This makes sense, as historically OA movements have focused on access to primary research. However, one of our aims is to offer an OA option for all types of scholarly book, and we continue to expand the options we offer our authors: earlier this year we started offering OA for major reference works for the first time.

In your opinion, what are the things that need to change, or happen, for OA books to become the mainstream model?

We know from our 2019 survey that authors are positive about an OA future for books. That’s a good start. We can still do more, though, to increase awareness and understanding of OA, especially amongst groups that are currently more sceptical, such as senior scholars and those based in North America. We also need to keep combatting misconceptions about quality and peer review; organisations like DOAB and OAPEN that set standards for acceptance play an important role here.

Research funders’ policies can be hugely influential in changing behaviours, so it’s good to see more of them turning their attention to OA for books: I’m sure the UKRI consultation and policy will have an impact. Alongside this, we know funding is a barrier, so from funders we will need not just mandates, but also the financial support to enable OA.

Finally, as OA for books becomes more mainstream, we will need better solutions for enabling authors based in low-income and lower-middle-income countries to publish open access.

We’ve seen for journals that making OA mainstream has required cooperation between publishers, institutions, funding bodies, and governments. I think ultimately the same will prove true for books.

What do you think the effect will be of the current pandemic? In terms of reading habits and the transition to OA?

The pandemic demonstrates the importance and benefits of open access to the research literature. Along with many other publishers, we have made all our research on SARS-CoV2, Covid-19, and related topics, including work in the humanities and social sciences, books as well as journals, freely available via our own website and the PubMed portal.

It will also be interesting to see if reading habits start to change as a result of scholars and students not having access to physical libraries for a long period of time. While journals have almost completely moved online, print books are still widely used and purchased alongside ebooks. But of course, right now few people can access those print books, and that could continue for months. In order to support learning for students who are away from libraries, we also made a set of Springer Nature textbooks freely available for several months, and we’ve seen great engagement. But all our OA books are already freely available to download and re-use in perpetuity. It seems likely there will be a faster transition to use of ebooks as a result of the current situation. Given that OA is inherently a digital concept, that move to e might also help with the move to OA.

Is it fun to work in this area?

I love it! It’s a good feeling to know that, in whatever small way, I’m contributing to making the world’s knowledge more accessible. I have a humanities background and I began my career in humanities and social sciences publishing; enabling open access for books supports those disciplines most of all, and that’s also important to me. Finally, there is a very special community of people working on open access books and that makes it an even more enjoyable area to work in.

OAPEN-Springer Nature Interview on the occasion of reaching 1000 OA books – Part 1

This interview will be published in two parts, we hope you enjoy reading the first part of this interview part 2 of this interview can be found here

Eelco Ferwerda, Ros Pyne, May 2020

Let’s start with taking a look at these first 1000 OA books. When did Springer Nature publish its first OA book?

Our first OA book was the conference proceedings Future Internet Assembly, published in 2011. At the same time Palgrave Macmillan participated in OAPEN-UK’s Matched Pairs Pilot, an early attempt to understand the impact of OA for books, in which we made some backlist titles available OA.

Both publishers – at that time still two separate companies – rolled out OA options across their monograph programmes in the following two years. In 2013, Fungal Disease in Britain and the United States 1850-2000, Palgrave’s first official OA book, was also the first OA book to be funded by the Wellcome Trust under their expanded OA policy.

What were the early challenges in setting up the OA books programme?

We had to look at every part of the book publishing process and consider how open access might affect it – and it did affect most of them! In the early days this meant publishing OA books required a lot of manual intervention.

To give a couple of examples of specific issues… Many authors early on had concerns that the APC/BPC model was tantamount to pay-to-publish; this misconception was particularly resonant amongst book authors because of the associations with ‘vanity publishing’. We had to demonstrate to authors that we were applying the same high standards and rigorous peer review to our OA books as we did for the rest of our books programme. We wanted to ensure that authors’ interest in OA would not prejudice reviewers’ expectations, so we put in place a guideline (which exists to this day) that external reviewers should not be informed if a book was to publish OA.

It’s always been fundamental to our approach to make our OA books as open and accessible as possible. One way in which we do this for our OA books is that we make every format of ebook that we offer (HTML, ePub, PDF, and MOBI for Kindle) available OA under a CC licence, in order to increase the opportunities for those books to be downloaded, shared, and re-used. I remember it being particularly complex to arrange free download of Amazon Kindle versions. We also realized we would have to mention open access in the blurb of the book, as Amazon and many other third-party providers did not have a place for us to indicate if a book was available OA.

Can you tell us something about your expectations when you started publishing OA books?

As a leading academic publisher, we always strive to be an innovative partner for our partners and authors. We launched our OA book programmes very much in the spirit of experimentation. We wanted to understand and learn from the reaction amongst the scholarly community, and start to seed interest in this new way of publishing.

Did you develop a long term plan for OA books?

We first started to seriously plan for the future of our OA books programme back in 2016. OA was starting to take off in the journals world in response to OA policies from major funders, Springer Nature had already signed its first transformative deals, and it was clear that academic publishing was on a trajectory towards open access. We wanted to play a part in ensuring that scholarly book authors could also benefit from this innovative publishing model and be part of the OA movement. We encouraged our commissioning editors to actively focus on signing more OA books, we invested in automating our internal OA books workflows so that we could scale up, and we started to think about how we could contribute to the policy discussions about OA books.

Over the years, Springer Nature has put a lot of effort in the OA books programme, doing research around usage, holding surveys among authors, introducing book metrics and retroactively adding DOIs to references. Can you tell us a bit about your motivations and goals?

Some of these developments, like our providing usage and citation stats for books and our inclusion of DOIs in references, are offered across our books programme and are not specific to our OA books. At Springer Nature we are firm advocates for the scholarly book and are always looking to improve our service to authors and readers and add value in the publication process.

We have run a number of research projects on OA books. These include our 2017 report The OA Effect, which found that our OA books achieve 7x more downloads, 50% more citations, and 10x more online mentions than our non OA books, and our 2019 survey, The Future of OA Books, which was the first to focus on the views of scholarly book authors on open access. We found that the majority of book authors think all scholarly books should be available OA, and that gold OA is their preferred model. We also have some exciting new research coming out later this year, developed with the COARD team at Curtin University, exploring the geographic usage of OA books.

Our core motivation in running these projects has been to increase the take-up of OA for books. When talking with researchers and policymakers about OA, it’s hugely powerful to be able to point to the download and citation benefits. Having a better understanding of researchers’ views about OA in the context of books helps us to shape our conversations with potential authors and also helps us understand what changes in the publishing and policy landscape might be needed to encourage more book authors to choose OA.

In keeping with the spirit of OA, it’s also been important to us that we’ve made our research freely available under a CC BY licence so that others in the OA books community can also benefit from it.

Which OA books are best represented in the list of 1000, and can you explain why? Can you see emerging trends in the OA books programme?

We publish OA books across a wide range of subject areas in both the humanities and social sciences (HSS) and science, technology and medicine (STM). We do see differences in the OA books portfolio: social sciences disciplines, as well as education, energy, environment and economics are particularly prominent there. Delving a bit deeper, we find topics and sub-disciplines aligned with the sustainable development goals (SDGs) – development economics, sustainable development, climate change, renewable and green energy, migration and demography – are strongly represented in our OA books portfolio. Our 1000th OA book, which explores climate change as a public health emergency, is a great example.

Several of the OA books we’ve published on SDG topics have been very high-profile. Some recent highlights include The Hindu Kush Himalaya Assessment, which defines nine mountain priorities with a particular focus on climate change; Achieving the Paris Climate Agreement Goals, which was published in association with the Leonardo Di Caprio Foundation and explores the critical question of how we can achieve 100% renewable energy by 2050; and Climate-Smart Food, which follows an average day’s worth of food and drink to see where it comes from, how far it travels, and the carbon price we all pay for it, to help us make better decisions about the food we eat.

Can you see a change in authors’ attitudes towards OA books?

Absolutely. It’s often said that open access humanities and social science researchers, and therefore scholarly book authors, don’t understand or engage much with open access. But I’m not convinced this still holds. Our 2019 Future of OA Books survey found that the majority of book authors agreed that all future scholarly books (monographs or edited collections) should be made available via OA. I don’t think that would have been the case five years ago.

In our survey we also found that junior researchers, researchers based in Europe and Asia, and previous OA authors had a more positive attitude towards OA. This might point to generational change, and to the positive impact of funders’ OA policies (which have so far been concentrated in Europe).

Authors do still have concerns. One interesting finding was that authors were concerned about the perception of quality of OA books – that is, even if authors are themselves convinced that OA books can be of high quality, they are concerned that OA books might be perceived more negatively by others, and that it might affect promotion and tenure.

Overall, though, I’m very encouraged by the shift in attitudes that we’ve seen over the years. I think all of us in the scholarly communications community can play a role in helping to normalize OA for books and changing perceptions. At Springer Nature, we’ve tried to put out clear advice to authors – a recent blog explaining the basics of CC licences was a big hit – and of course our commissioning editors worldwide play a hugely important role in talking to book authors of the benefits of OA.

End of part 1, to continue reading part 2 please click here

‘Scaling small: the story behind ScholarLed’ – Part 2

Roundtable Conversation with ScholarLed – Part 2 of 2.
To read part 1 of this interview please click here

ScholarLed is a consortium of five scholar-led, not-for-profit, open access book publishers that was formed in 2018, consisting of Mattering Press, meson press, Open Book Publishers, Open Humanities Press, and punctum books. OAPEN recently added ScholarLed as a new collection of the OAPEN Library. Together, these 5 presses have already published 517 OA books, which makes it our second largest multi-publisher collection (Knowledge Unlatched being the largest). We invited the members of ScholarLed to join us for an online discussion about their collaboration.


Eelco: What are you after as a collective?

Gary (Open Humanities Press): For me this question raises a larger issue. What would success be for us? What would it look like?

The fields in which many of us work (critical theory, digital culture, networked media, STS etc.) have their roots in the humanities and social sciences (HSS). And while it’s certainly true we operate in different countries, one thing many of us have in common is that our respective political systems do not especially value work in HSS, much preferring STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) research, seeing it as being more in line with society’s requirements.

Let’s take as one of the many possible UK examples we can use to illustrate this, the infamous ‘Weirdos and Misfits’ blog/recruitment ad of Boris Johnson’s chief adviser and humanities graduate, Dominic Cummings. Here we find an explicit rejection of ‘English graduates who chat about Lacan at dinner parties’ – a phrase we can read as being shorthand for those who are interested in abstract ideas to do with language, interpretation and critique. Instead, Cummings prioritizes supposedly more concrete subjects such as the kind of computer modeling and super-forecasting that is made possible by big data and artificial intelligence. Or, if a further example is needed, there’s this from Philip Augar (of the Theresa-May-commissioned Augar report fame). It’s taken from a piece published in the May-June 2020 issue of the Times Higher Education titled ‘It is Time to Face Up to the Reality of the Market’:

The Exchequer loses money on a third of all subjects studied by women and a quarter by men. The state writes off more on social studies subjects than on maths, computer science or engineering; more on communications and media studies than on agriculture and veterinary science; and more on creative arts than on any other subject…. Without challenging the intrinsic worth of any subject… there is a misalignment between the state subsidy and the economy’s needs.

Given this kind of political context – which is by no means untypical – we could say that one measure of success for us in ScholarLed is to be (still) doing what we’re doing. (At a time when Covid-19 is having a disproportionate impact on BAME communities, with black people four times more likely to die in England and Wales than white people according to the Office of National Statistics, and when there are protests across the world over the death in US police custody of George Floyd, and what all THAT says about reality and the economy’s needs, God forbid more people should have access to critical humanities and social science subjects.) But I’m aware that at Open Humanities Press we’ve long thought success would also be to get to a stage where, actually, we don’t need to do what we’re doing anymore. It would be to arrive at a point where enough other people are publishing open access books and journals of critical theory on a non-profit, scholar-led basis for us to be able to turn our attention elsewhere. That’s what we’re after as a collective: our own redundancy or obsolescence. (Just so long as it comes after that of Cummings and Augar.)

Vincent (Punctum Books): I think we are very much still discovering what we are after, but I think some contours are already becoming clear. We have no intention to grow or merge in any usual sense of the word. We are interested in finding ways in which we can share resources, knowledges, and infrastructures in such a way that everyone can keep doing their thing at their own pace.

Lucy (Open Book Publishers): Yes – the idea behind the collective isn’t to homogenise; it’s to preserve our different ways of working but finding ways to support each other in what we do. I think we also share the goal of making academic-led, non-profit publishers a more powerful voice within the academic and para-academic communities. It’s very frustrating to see many researchers look at the legacy presses and assume that is the only way to publish OA books, when we do it differently (and, we think, better!)

Julien (Mattering Press): Again, I think Janneke’s notion of scaling small encapsulates our aim beautifully. There is this idea in publishing and publicly-funded infrastructure projects that scale is crucial. Emphasising scale justifies homogenisation and in many cases, monopolisation. The latter is especially evident in attempts to establish one-stop platforms. Drawing on an ecological metaphor, we advocate for the diverse publishing landscapes that we believe are necessary to develop desirable knowledge infrastructures in response to radically uncertain futures. From a technological perspective, this requires a shift from platforms, that homogenise, to open infrastructures that enable small initiatives to operate effectively.


Eelco: Do you share a business model?

Vincent: Because we operate from different countries, the legal structures of the different presses are different. However, we all are public benefit corporations in a broad sense of the word: for each of us, making profit is subordinated to providing a public good.

Lucy: I think I’m right in saying that we all have a mixed funding model – for example, OBP’s primary sources of revenue are sales (of print and ebook editions), grants and donations, and our Library Membership programme.

Andreas (meson press): During our time at the Hybrid Publishing Lab, we researched various business models for the monograph publishing area. And although we gained some significant insights from this, at some point it was more important for us to get started and remain flexible. In a way, the decision to establish meson press as a cooperative was more important than a perfectly elaborated business model. With its principles such as democratic membership control, autonomy, independence, and the concern for community, the co-op perfectly fits our approach of building a network of scholars around the press(es).

Julien: Of course, we all strive to sustain ourselves. Still, there is also space for the question if business models are necessarily the right, never mind the only way to model infrastructure futures that primarily provide public goods. All academic publishers, after all, exploit the labour provided by public institutions such as libraries and universities. And the seemingly common-sense idea that we can model business at all is a relatively new notion that implies politics we might well choose to interrogate.

Eelco: What is the relationship with COPIM and OPERAS?

Lucy: So we are key partners in the COPIM project, with several of us leading different work packages. We will also be adopting the infrastructures COPIM will build, and so we’ll act as test cases or guinea pigs for COPIM builds. As part of COPIM, there is a formal link between us and OPERAS-P, since Agata Morka is the liaison between the two projects. And we’re open to working with organisations like OPERAS, Invest in Open Infrastructure, etc – any organisation that shares our goals and broad ethos, really – if opportunities present themselves.

Eelco: Will you expand? Are you open for new members?

Vincent: Actually, the idea to incorporate was partially spurred on by several requests from other presses to become ScholarLed members. This made us think about how we can define ourselves and how we can facilitate our expansion without sacrificing our idea of “scaling small.”

Lucy: Yes exactly as Vincent says, those conversations are ongoing amongst ourselves at the moment. We’re working out what the next phase of ScholarLed will look like, while still maintaining our publishing activities and our work on COPIM – and amid the convulsions the world is currently experiencing, which are affecting us all in different ways.

Eelco: Will you provide services to other presses?

Vincent: We will for now concentrate on providing services to member presses. There is always a risk, when providing services to third parties, that the profit motive and concerns for “customers” take over the core mission of the organization. We want to be very cautious about replicating economical models that may prove detrimental to our goals in the long term.

Rupert (Open Book Publishers): Having said that, we are committed to being open and transparent in our operations, and ensuring that the software we create is open source and is available for others to download and utilise (e.g. So we hope that other publishers and presses will be able to directly benefit from our activities, even if they are not formal members of ScholarLed.

Eelco: I presume you didn’t expect ScholarLed to take off as it has, or did you?

Vincent: To be honest, it does not come as a surprise. We are 5 presses, all led by scholars with an active career in the humanities, social sciences, or the arts. We all chose publishing as one of our main creative and intellectual outlets. So when the synergy is right, of course it takes off.

Julien: Uhhh, I still gain hope from the experience that working this way can generate such momentum. The collaboration is dynamic, productive and inventive, more so indeed, than most of the many commercial or institutionalised projects I have worked on.

Eelco: So where are you heading?

Vincent: We have no intention to become “the model” for scholarly publishing. It is our modest goal to provide a viable, long-term alternative to the predatory publishing models that currently dominate the market. We have no illusions that these will always exist, but scholars should at least have a fair choice.