Open access books – measured in a context

For over a decade, there have been open access books platforms. Each of those platforms share usage data and when you are an author of an open access book, you would find that it has been downloaded a certain amount of times. But how should you interpret that number? Unfortunately, the answer is not straightforward. The usage is influenced by the language of the title, its subject, but also by the platform: not all platforms reach the same audiences; furthermore, there might be seasonable differences. For instance, usage of the OAPEN Library is lower in the months of June to August, compared to September to November.

So, it would be helpful to have some clarity. A possible solution is a new metric – the Transparent Open Access Normalized Index (TOANI) score. It is designed to provide a simple answer to the question of how well an individual open access book or chapter is performing. The transparency is based on clear rules, and by making all of the data used visible. The data is normalized, using a common scale for the complete collection of an open access book platform and – to keep the level of complexity as low as possible – the score is based on a simple metric: the usage is either average, below or above average.

How does it work? As a proof of concept, we analysed the usage data of over 18,000 books in the OAPEN Library. Each book was assigned one high level subject, and the language was categorized as either English, German or Other languages. Each book was placed in a group that combined one subject and one language. Within those groups, we looked at the usage data, and determined whether a book was having average, more or less downloads.

Between groups, there are large differences: for instance, a German-language book on Humanities with 300 downloads is doing better than average, while an English-language book on Humanities would need to have reached at least 652 downloads to reach the same level. Another example is the difference between titles on Language in German versus other languages. Here, German-language books downloaded more than 250 times are scoring better than average. For books in other languages the bar is much higher: 385.

In this way, we can see how well a book is performing, compared to similar titles. In other words: when we consider the context of a book, we can actually say if its usage is better than expected.

Read more in the newly published article by Ronald Snijder, “Measured in a context: making sense of open access book data,” Insights, 2023, 36: 20, 1–10; DOI: https://doi.org/10.1629/uksg.627

PRISM & Peer Review Week: building trust in OA books through transparency of peer review procedures

What comes to your mind when you hear the words peer review? Perhaps it’s a group of academics evaluating manuscripts and papers, or maybe it’s a specific type of peer review, like open, double-anonymised, or collaborative. Some of you might even think of DOAB’s Peer Review Information Service for Monographs, or PRISM, as we like to call it.  

If you’ve never heard of PRISM or need a little reminder, for this year’s Peer Review Week (25-29 September), we at DOAB thought we’d tell you (especially you publishers out there) all about it! 

So, what exactly is PRISM? Good question! PRISM is a standardised way for academic publishers to display information about their peer review processes across their entire catalogue through DOAB. And the best part about it? It’s completely free!  

How does it work? you may ask. Well, first and foremost, participating publishers send us their peer review information. As well as displaying each publisher’s peer review processes, we also show which process applies to which individual publication from that publisher, for complete transparency. 

PRISM is recognisable through the handy logo visible next to a publisher or the title of a publication (all you need to do is click the logo to display more information). You can also use the search query ‘peerreview.id:*’ to find all DOAB publications with linked PRISM records (of which there are over 5,200). Last but certainly not least, the PRISM API, which includes peer review metadata, allows application developers to seamlessly incorporate peer review information into other applications. 

PRISM benefits the academic publishing community by: 

  • giving librarians confidence in recommending open access publications to their patrons 
  • allowing funders and users to see key details about quality control processes of open access books, and 
  • providing publishers with the opportunity to showcase their best practices

PRISM has been around for about a year now, and we’d love for more publishers to join us as we grow and expand this free service. We’re even developing a widget for publishers to use on their websites! You can participate following these simple steps: 

  1. Check you’re a member of DOAB and join us if you’re not 
  1. Agree to the T&Cs of PRISM
  1. Provide DOAB with your peer review process(es) as described in our documentation for publishers
  1. Log in to DOAB and create a PRISM peer review submission. When it’s accepted, your submission becomes a record. If it’s rejected, the information is deleted
  1.  Attach your PRISM record to the applicable publication(s).

Don’t forget that the OAPEN Library’s participating publishers’ peer review policies are also listed on OAPEN’s website for anyone to access.  

Please reach out to us with any questions, comments, feedback, or to participate in the PRISM service at info@oapen.org

DOAB celebrates its 10th anniversary!

This year, the Directory of Open Access Books (DOAB), led by OpenEdition and OAPEN Foundation, celebrates its 10th anniversary. Since its inception, DOAB has evolved from an idea for indexing high quality peer-reviewed open access books and chapters to a globally used and open directory serving not only researchers and the wider scholarly community, but also the public. 

Back in 2009, following the successful example of the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ), the OAPEN project leaders thought to create a similar resource for open access books and chapters. Discussions first took place at the Open Access Scholarly Publishers Association (OASPA) conference in Lund in 2010.  

DOAB was officially launched at the First International Conference on OA Monographs in the Humanities and Social Sciences in April 2013. The difference between the OAPEN Library and DOAB is that DOAB is a directory linking to open access books and chapters on other platforms and publishers’ websites to increase discoverability, whereas the OAPEN Library is a digital library where you can access the full text. They both share a mission to increase trust in open access books and book publishing. 

DOAB becomes and independent not-for-profit organisation 

DOAB was established as a Foundation in March 2019 under Dutch Law, jointly managed and governed by the OAPEN Foundation and OpenEdition, the French national infrastructure dedicated to open scholarly communication in the SSH. The creation of DOAB as an independent, not-for-profit legal entity ensures its sustainability to continually serve the needs of the academic community, including libraries, publishers, researchers, funders, and the public. 

Marie Pellen, Director of OpenEdition, says: “DOAB is a successful example of European cooperation across borders. We are delighted to see DOAB becoming more mature and recognised as a crucial infrastructure for open science. We are grateful to CNRS, Aix-Marseille University and the French Ministry of Research for their constant support.  This common effort enables us to create a resource that serves the research community worldwide and promotes bibliodiversity in scholarly publishing.”  

In 2020, DOAB was jointly chosen alongside OAPEN for the SCOSS second funding cycle which aims to help infrastructures become more sustainable and financially independent. SCOSS encourages universities who are invested in open science and open access to support the non-commercial services on which it depends; DOAB and OAPEN are crucial infrastructures that support the transition to open access book publishing and increase trust in the industry. 

DOAB today 

DOAB is an open infrastructure committed to open science. Its main mission is to increase discoverability of open access books and maximise their dissemination, visibility and impact. All DOAB services are free of charge and all data is freely available.  

At the time of the launch, DOAB contained 750 books from 20 publishers. Today, DOAB includes over 68,000 open access books and book chapters from over 600 publishers in more than 60 languages.  

DOAB created the Trusted Platform Network to enhance the discoverability of open access books and enable a more seamless process for publishers to list their open access books by allowing them to check whether their content meets the DOAB criteria and automatically list books and chapters.   

In November 2022, the Peer Review Information Service for Monographs (PRISM) was launched to further build trust in peer review and open access academic book publishing. PRISM is a standardised way for academic publishers to display information about their peer review processes across their entire catalogue. The PRISM logo is included on title level and at metadata level.  PRISM is now integrated in the OPERAS portfolio of services and, thanks to this, is exposed in the EOSC marketplace.

Looking to the future 

DOAB is designed to improve transparency around the quality assurance practices in open access book publishing by further developing the PRISM service and intend to continue to build trust by partnering with more publishers and aggregators globally to expand the directory for researchers, the wider scholarly community, and the public to discover.  

DOAB is still mainly populated with publishers from Europe and North America, so it aims to prioritise being more globally inclusive in the coming years, supporting bibliodiversity. An important part of DOAB’s mission is to enable equitable access to global distribution for book publishers and authors, in the same way that open access books are already provided to libraries and readers globally. DOAB seeks to serve open and equitable scholarly publishing in the best possible ways. 

Explore the collection today! 

Le DOAB fête ses 10 ans !

Le DOAB (Directory of Open Access Books), piloté par OpenEdition et la fondation néerlandaise OAPEN, fête cette année ses dix ans d’existence. Né de l’idée d’indexer des livres et des chapitres de livres en accès ouvert évalués par les pairs, le DOAB est aujourd’hui devenu un répertoire ouvert utilisé dans le monde entier, non seulement par la communauté scientifique, mais aussi par le grand public. 

En 2009, s’inspirant du succès du Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ), l’équipe d’OAPEN a l’idée de créer une ressource similaire pour les livres et les chapitres de livres en accès ouvert. Les premières discussions ont eu lieu à la conférence de l’Open Access Scholarly Publishers Association (OASPA) tenue à Lund en 2010.  

Le DOAB est officiellement lancé à l’occasion de la première conférence internationale sur les monographies en accès ouvert dans le domaine des sciences humaines et sociales en avril 2013. Le DOAB est différent de la plateforme OAPEN, car il s’agit d’un répertoire qui renvoie vers des livres et des chapitres de livres en accès ouvert se trouvant sur d’autres plateformes et sur les sites Web d’éditeurs afin d’accroître les possibilités de découverte. OAPEN est quant à elle une bibliothèque numérique qui donne accès au texte complet. Les deux ont toutefois pour mission commune de renforcer la confiance dans les livres et l’édition de livres en accès ouvert. 

Le DOAB devient une organisation indépendante à but non lucratif 

En mars 2019, la fondation DOAB de droit néerlandais est créée. La Fondation OAPEN et OpenEdition, infrastructure nationale française dédiée à la communication scientifique ouverte en sciences humaines et socialees, en assurent conjointement la gestion et la gouvernance. Doter le DOAB d’un statut juridique à but non lucratif assure sa viabilité pour continuer de répondre aux besoins de la communauté académique, y compris les bibliothèques, éditeurs, chercheurs, organismes de financement et le grand public. 

Pour Marie Pellen, directrice d’OpenEdition, le DOAB « est un exemple réussi de coopération européenne par-delà les frontières. Nous sommes ravis de voir le DOAB évoluer et s’imposer en tant qu’infrastructure incontournable pour la science ouverte. Nos remerciements vont au CNRS, à l’université d’Aix-Marseille et au ministère de la Recherche pour leur soutien sans faille. Grâce à cet effort commun, nous pouvons créer une ressource au service de la communauté de recherche mondiale qui favorise la bibliodiversité dans l’édition universitaire. »  

En 2020, le DOAB a été retenu avec l’OAPEN pour le deuxième cycle de financement de SCOSS, dont le but est d’aider les infrastructures à devenir plus durables et indépendantes financièrement. L’initiative SCOSS encourage les universités investies dans la science ouverte et l’accès ouvert à soutenir les services non commerciaux dont elle dépend ; le DOAB et l’OAPEN sont des infrastructures essentielles qui soutiennent la transition vers la publication de livres en accès ouvert et renforcent la confiance dans ce secteur. 

Le DOAB aujourd’hui 

Le DOAB est une infrastructure ouverte engagée dans la science ouverte. Il a pour mission d’accroître les possibilités de découvrir des livres en accès ouvert et de maximiser leur diffusion, leur visibilité et leur impact. Tous les services du DOAB sont gratuits, tout comme l’accès à l’ensemble des données.  

À son lancement, le DOAB contenait 750 livres provenant de 20 éditeurs. Aujourd’hui, il inclut plus de 68 000 livres et chapitres de livres en accès ouvert de plus de 600 éditeurs dans plus de 60 langues.  

Le DOAB a créé le Réseau des plateformes de confiance pour favoriser la découverte de livres en accès ouvert et faciliter la tâche des éditeurs dans le référencement de leurs livres en accès ouvert. Ils ont ainsi la possibilité de vérifier si leur contenu correspond aux critères du DOAB et de référencer automatiquement les livres et chapitres de livres.   

En novembre 2022, a été lancé le service PRISM (Peer Review Information Service for Monographs) afin de renforcer la confiance dans l’évaluation par les pairs et l’édition de livres académiques en accès ouvert. Le service PRISM permet aux éditeurs académiques d’afficher des informations standardisées sur leurs processus d’évaluation par les pairs pour l’ensemble de leur catalogue. Le logo PRISM figure au niveau du titre des ouvrages et des métadonnées. PRISM fait maintenant partie du catalogue de services d’OPERAS, ce qui lui permet d’apparaître sur la marketplace de l’EOSC.

Nous préparons l’avenir

Le DOAB doit permettre d’améliorer la transparence sur l’assurance qualité dans l’édition de livres en accès ouvert. Cela passera par la poursuite du développement du service PRISM et une confiance accrue grâce à des partenariats avec des éditeurs et des agrégateurs du monde entier pour étendre le répertoire et le faire connaître à la communauté scientifique ainsi qu’au grand public.  

Le DOAB regroupant surtout des éditeurs d’Europe et d’Amérique du Nord, l’objectif dans les prochaines années est de l’ouvrir davantage au reste du monde afin de favoriser la bibliodiversité. Offrir aux éditeurs et aux auteurs et autrices de livres un accès équitable à la diffusion mondiale, de la même façon que ont déjà fournis des livres en accès ouvert aux bibliothèques et lecteurs et lectrices à travers le monde, est une partie importante de la mission du DOAB. Le DOAB a pour ambition de répondre de la meilleure façon possible aux besoins d’une édition scientifique ouverte et équitable. 

Explorer la collection

The Book Analytics Dashboard project: reflections on coordination, collaboration, and community consultation

This blog post was initially published by Kathryn Napier on the the Curtin Open Knowledge Initiative (COKI) website on May 30, 2023.

The Book Analytics Dashboard (BAD) project (2022-2025) is a 3-year, Mellon Foundation funded project that is creating a sustainable analytics service to support diverse Open Access (OA) book publishers. Affectionately referred to as the BAD project, our goal is to provide publishers with user-friendly tools to navigate complex data about how their books are being used. The project is grounded in the premise that efficient, user-friendly usage analytics services are needed to safeguard and support diversity in the voices, perspectives, geographies, topics, and languages made visible through OA books. 

The BAD project is building on the earlier (2020-2022) Mellon-funded Developing a Pilot Data Trust for Open Access Ebook Usage project, affectionately referred to as the OAeBU project. The BAD project is scaling workflows, infrastructure and customer support processes originally developed during the earlier project. In addition to technical refinement and scaling, BAD is developing a long-term plan for housing, maintenance, and funding of the analytics service as a sustainable community infrastructure.

The team working on BAD is truly international. The Principal Investigator (PI) team comprises: Lucy Montgomery from Curtin University (Australia); Cameron Neylon (Curtin University); Niels Stern and Ronald Snijder (OAPEN Foundation, the Netherlands), as well as community cultivation expert Katherine Skinner (Research Lead at IOI, based in the United States). 

I lead the project’s technical team, which is based at Curtin University and has close links to the Curtin Institute for Computation. The Curtin team is working closely with OAPEN to support the development of the governance and sustainability model needed to ensure the long-term stability of a dashboarding service. The whole project team meets weekly, coordinating a series of teleconference meetings and coworking sessions across hemispheres and timezones.

Cameron Neylon (Curtin University), Rebecca Handcock (Curtin University), Kathryn Napier (Curtin University), Sînziana Păltineanu (OAPEN Foundation), Laura J. Wilkinson (OAPEN Foundation), Ronald Snijder (OAPEN Foundation), Lucy Montgomery (Curtin University), Katherine Skinner (Formerly Educopia Institute, now IOI), Niels Stern (OAPEN Foundation) meeting online in March 2023.

Consult, listen, iterate

Engaging with community feedback productively has demanded willingness, not just to consult stakeholders, but also to listen and iterate technical directions. The decision to move away from Elasticsearch Kibana in favour of Looker Studio during the first year of the project is an example of how this process of consulting, listening, and iterating has worked in practice. 

In 2022, when the BAD project kicked off, an important first priority was community consultation and the development of the first annual Technical Roadmap. A draft technical roadmap was made available for community comment and feedback in June-July 2022. The draft technical roadmap had a dual purpose: making technical systems and plans visible to stakeholders; and inviting those stakeholders into a conversation about where effort and resources should be focussed. 

The original project plan placed a heavy focus on standardising technical workflows developed during the previous OAeBU project, in order to support scaling of a dashboard service. This included the use of ElasticSearch Kibana, a system chosen because of its ability to allow for fine-grained user access roles and permissions, and well suited to keeping the information contained in dashboards private. However, ElasticSearch Kibana is less well-suited to a publisher-focussed dashboard service that engages with the value of dashboards to support advocacy and public communication. Being able to easily make dashboards public, embedding dashboards within publisher websites, and simple, visually appealing user interfaces required a different solution.

An example of pilot dashboards produced using ElasticSearch/Kibana during the OAeBU project.

Community consultation and feedback in the early stages of the BAD project highlighted important differences between the primary use cases imagined during the OAeBU project, which focussed on keeping data private; and the needs of users focussed on external messaging and public sharing of visualisations. Improving user experience needed to become a higher priority. Rather than simply standardising ElasticSearch Kibana workflows, the BAD dashboards needed both a visual and technical revamp. Technical work shifted focus to producing dashboards that can be used both publicly for marketing and communication and internally for reporting by publishers.

An example of the BAD dashboards produced using Looker Studio during the first year of the BAD project (see the template dashboard here, and the University of Michigan Press’ dashboard embedded in their website here).

We therefore shifted our focus on technical priorities in the updated technical roadmap (released in January 2023) to investigating alternative dashboarding solutions, and produced a template dashboard using Looker Studio, a dashboarding solution offered by Google. This template dashboard formed the basis of focus group community consultations that took place in the first quarter of 2023, and the dashboard design will continue to iterate and incorporate feedback through the life of the BAD project.

Virtual, in-person, hybrid: working as a truly global team

The first year of the BAD project presented both challenges and exciting opportunities. Coordinating project management and deliverables across a multinational and multidisciplinary team is not a simple exercise, and we have discovered that a combination of detailed in-person meetings and workshops with regular teleconference meetings has resulted in the best outcomes for the project. The lightbulb moment that occurred in late 2022 where we shifted our technical priorities and dashboarding system would not have occurred without a series of in-person meetings.

Laura J. Wilkinson (OAPEN Foundation), Ronald Snijder (OAPEN Foundation), Lucy Montgomery (Curtin University) and Cameron Neylon (Curtin University) meeting in person for a series of project workshops in The Hague, October 2022.

This shift in technical focus came at an ideal time within the first year of the project. We are now well placed to further refine the dashboard design through the feedback received from the focus groups (detailed in the draft technical roadmap for year 2), which will also inform the continued development of the dashboarding services sustainability, governance and financial models. We will continue to endeavour to build the best service we can with the combined talents from our multidisciplinary team.

Kathryn Napier

Learn more about the BAD project

Open Access Books – Helping small libraries think big

Over the last couple of years, the OAPEN Library and Directory of Open Access Books (DOAB) collections have grown significantly. We have seen more open access (OA) books being added, and welcomed new publishers from around the world. Much of the continued momentum for OA books has been made possible thanks to the support of a growing library community: investing in OA book programmes, infrastructures and services that enable not only the availability of these books in an OA format, but also their discoverability, preservation and integration into everyday workflows. 

Today, we are speaking with David Dusto, Electronic Resources Librarian at the Elizabeth City State University to learn more about their engagement with OA books.

David, thank you for agreeing to share your story with us. Libraries worldwide increasingly include our collections in their library catalog. These range from large academic libraries to specialized libraries attached to research institutes as well as smaller colleges. For those unfamiliar with Elizabeth City State University, could you share a bit more about the University and its library?

Elizabeth City State University (ECSU) is a public university that is part of the University of North Carolina system. With just over 2,000 students, ECSU is one of the smallest universities in the system, and it is also a Historically Black College or University (HBCU) and approximately ⅔ of the enrolled students are minorities. Historically, ECSU started in 1891 as a teaching college, and still has a large education school. Today, ECSU is also known for its innovative aviation program. The largest U.S. Coast Guard base in the United States is also located in Elizabeth City, so we have many military students as well. The G.R. Little Library is the campus library. We have a small staff of 5 full-time librarians and two other permanent staff, and we work to meet the research and information needs of all the student body.

Could you share more about your role in the library and how you first became familiar with open access books?

I am the Electronic Resources Librarian, but my predecessor held the title “Serials Librarian”, which shows how rapidly academic libraries are changing. I first became familiar with open-access books while I was a graduate student at the University of North Carolina School of Library and Information Science over a decade ago, and have been avidly interested in the subject of both open access books and journals since then. I am also involved with the university’s institutional repository (NCDOCKS), which serves as an open-access collection for material published by students and employees at the university.

To what extent are OA books a part of your library’s strategy today?

ECSU is a small university and our budget for collection development is limited, but I have found that I can supplement our existing eBook collections by locating high-quality open-access collections and adding them to the library website and discovery system. This has been enormously helpful – usage statistics indicate that a considerable percentage of eBook views through the library website are from open-access items. Therefore, despite the small size of the library and its resources, I have been able to build a large and useful online collection for our students and faculty.

How can OA books further support your library and the institution’s mission?

It’s important for institutions such as DOAB to exercise quality control in what they add to their collection, in order for it to be as useful and relevant as possible. Ensuring that links are working correctly in OA directories will save librarians like me a lot of time and aggravation in the long run, as we won’t have to deal with authentication issues and access limits that we are often confronted with when working with subscription-based collections.

In recent years open access for books has gained momentum, yet starting from a small base with a long road ahead still. Do you have any particular expectations or wishes for the open access book community and how this may evolve in the coming years?

I hope to see more institutional support for open-access book publishing. The focus for OA materials that I have seen from universities is primarily focused on journals rather than books, and I would be pleased to see increased support from both university presses/publishing houses and also from smaller institutions that may not have their own press. This would give authors from smaller universities the opportunity to publish and raise the prestige of their own institution, rather than going through a central system press. Similarly, I would like to see increased support for open course materials, such as open-access textbooks. As textbook costs continue to rise, having open course materials not only available but also adopted by instructors would go a long way towards easing the financial burden for students while simultaneously increasing access to materials.

 

NWO-funded book author interview: Rens Bod

Since the start of our collaboration with NWO – The Dutch Research Council, the OAPEN Library has seen the NWO collection grow, now containing almost 200 titles. OAPEN asked 3 authors/editors of books arising from NWO-funding to share their experiences and views, the third interview is with Rens Bod:

L.W.M. (Rens) Bod is a professor in digital humanities and history of humanities at the University of Amsterdam.  His research focuses on the exploration of patterns and underlying principles in language, music, art, literature, and history. He is the author of the first historical overview of the humanities from Antiquity to the present: A New History of the Humanities. Bod is a Vici-laureate and he is currently PI in the NWO Gravitation project “Language in Interaction”.

Your recent publication is an English translation of your book that was previously published in Dutch. Published with Johns Hopkins University Press: World of Patterns – A Global History of Knowledge was made freely available under a CC-BY licence, allowing re-use. What was your motivation for publishing the translation of your book openly and under this license, in other words what was your motivation to change your pattern?

I wanted to make the book as widely accessible as possible, and open access is the best strategy to do this. Thus I learned from the publisher (JHU Press) that my book was downloaded already over 40.000 times in the first month only. So for creating impact, open access seems a fantastic way to go. As to the CC-BY licence: this was entirely the publisher’s choice.

In the acknowledgements of World of Patterns, you mention various funding sources. Could you elaborate on your experience in gathering funding for an open access version?

My previous funding sources, such as NWO Vici and NWO Gravitation, did not involve funding for open access. But in the recent past I did ask for funding to make our book series The Making of the Humanities open access(three volumes published together with Jaap Maat and Thijs Weststeijn by Amsterdam University Press, 2010, 2012, 2014). We obtained small amounts of funding from different foundations, including the J.E. Jurriaanse Foundation and the Dr. C. Louise Thijssen-Schoute Foundation. This involved quite some work, as it meant that we had to apply several times for small amounts of funding for each volume.

Did unrestricted access help you to reach new audiences compared to traditional publishing?

Definitely, I noticed that I have several readers from the Global South who might not have been able to read my book if they had to pay for it.

What is your view in general on open access academic book publishing, its benefits, or limitations?

I am generally positive and I believe NWO should use its open access fund also for books that are not the product of one of its funded project (my book was in fact the result of an NWO Open Competition project). It would be fantastic if many more scholars can publish their books open access, as it would increase accessibility which may be especially important for other parts of the world. Sure, there are also some disadvantages: it becomes very easy to re-use just a chapter or even a smaller part of the book without taking into account its context. People can simply copy and paste. But of course these are the consequences of our digital world. So far, I haven’t seen any misuse or abuse of my book, so perhaps the risks are not that high.

In World of Patterns you examined where our knowledge of the world began and how it developed. What is your perspective on the direction of knowledge development in the future?

That’s the hardest question to tackle. It appears that all knowledge will continue to be based on patterns (regularities, laws), principles (deeper generalizations, deterministic or statistical) and the relations between these two (inductive, deductive, abductive). I noticed in my historical research that there can also be patterns in the relations between patterns and principles, and even more: principles underlying these patterns in the relations. Now I realize this gets terribly abstract, but if we look at a variety of disciplines, such as artificial intelligence, digital history, medical information science and forensic science, then we find the re-use of successful derivations between patterns and principles all the time. It seems that this might be a promising way for future knowledge development.

International Open Access Week interview: NWO-funded book editor Karène Sanchez-Summerer

Since the start of our collaboration with NWO – The Dutch Research Council, the OAPEN Library has seen the NWO collection grow, now containing almost 200 titles. To celebrate Open Access Week, OAPEN asked authors/editors of books arising from NWO-funding to share their experiences and views, the second interview is with Karène Sanchez-Summerer:

Karène Sanchez-Summerer, Professor and Chair Middle East Studies, Faculty of Arts at Groningen University. She obtained her PhDs from Leiden University and EPHE (Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes, Paris Sorbonne). Her research considers the interactions between European linguistic and cultural policies and the Arab communities (1860-1948) in Palestine.  Currently, she is the PI of the research project CrossRoads: European cultural diplomacy and Arab Christians in Palestine. A connected history during the formative years of the Middle East (1920-1950) funded by The Netherlands National Research Agency (NWO). Five books by Karène Sanchez-Summerer are included in the OAPEN Library.

Just recently you published a book titled The House of the Priest. An Orthodox Palestinian Life (1885-1954) which is included in the OAPEN Library collection. This book is the result of the CrossRoads project funded by NWO. Could you tell us some more about your motivations for conducting this research project?

This project aims to revisit the relationship between the European cultural agenda and the local identity formation process, and social and religious transformations of Arab Christian communities in Palestine, when the British ruled (1918-1948). When we started, our main questions were: what was the role of culture in European policies regarding the Arabs of Palestine; how did Arab Christians use culture to define their place in the proto-national and religious configuration between 1920 and 1950? Eighteen months after the beginning of the project, we found in Lebanon (Beirut) so far unpublished and untranslated memoirs of Niqula Khoury, a senior member of the Orthodox Church and Arab nationalist in late Ottoman and British Mandate Palestine. This amazing manuscript discusses the complex relationships between language, religion, diplomacy and identity in the Middle East in the interwar period. We wanted to share an annotated translation of this precious and significant manuscript to explain Khoury’s memoirs and their significance for the social, political and religious histories of twentieth-century Palestine and Arab relations with the Greek Orthodox church. Khoury played a major role in these dynamics as a leading member of the fight for Arab presence in the Greek-dominated clergy, and for an independent Palestine, travelling in 1937 to Eastern Europe and the League of Nations on behalf of the national movement.

This is one of two books, available in the OAPEN Library, from the new peer-reviewed series, Christians and Jews in Muslim Societies, published by Brill. Previously you have also published your work with Springer (now SpringerNature). What was your experience with these publishers?

I’ve published several volumes in OA the last years, with Brill, and, though different with Springer (an extended book proposal is evaluated), the process went rather smoothly. The publishers wanted to know whether the book was going to be open access before starting the editing process. In addition, you can apply for NWO’s Open access books fund only after the book has been accepted for publication by the publisher (which was my case for the House of the Priest). As for the NWO Open books grant is concerned, I thought it was a very easy process, so I recommend it to anyone who would like their book to reach out to a bigger audience. Open access might cause some delay in the publication, but the advantages are worth it. 

Your recent books are published under an open license, CC-BY, making it freely available and granting others a certain level of re-use, what was your motivation for publishing the book openly and under this license?

First of all, I believe any academic endeavour should be open to the public. Since this book is the result of an NWO project, which was paid for by public funds, open access is now required.  Furthermore, working as a scholar on Middle Eastern studies, I’ve seen various academic settings and open access is essential in regions where many do not have access to print copies, fewer institutions can afford subscriptions.

How do you think academia and society at large can benefit from your book being available open access?

Scholars working on the Middle East can now easily prescribe parts of the book to their students, it gives them an easy access to a source translated from Arabic, all the more relevant that it is a critical edition. They can also prescribe only some of the chapters, so that students get an idea of certain aspects only (for example the Arabs in Europe and their political representation during the interwar period). The fact that institutions/individuals don’t have to purchase the book makes it easier to prescribe only some parts of it. 

It has been a while since you have published these books. Did unrestricted access in any way help you to reach new audiences? In new, unexpected ways or in any way different compared to traditional publishing? If yes, how do you know this?

The creative commons engage audiences beyond the traditional readers, broadening and diversifying the audiences who get access to the book, anyone can access it. We were contacted by various types of readers, in Europe and from the Middle East – we even received a message with photos of the persons mentioned in the manuscripts (1920’s and 1930’s). The book The House of the Priest has been published just before the summer; we are eager to receive more reactions in the future.

Looking at your own publishing journey, have your views on open access book publishing, its benefits or limitations in any way changed over the years?

I was always convinced by the necessity to share widely publications, to make them available to various audiences, and that all students and scholars, all the more so when they are from/in Middle Eastern countries, in my particular case, should easily and immediately access them. Over the years, this opinion was only reinforced.  

International Open Access Week interview: NWO-funded book editor Janneke van Bergen

Since the start of our collaboration with NWO – The Dutch Research Council, the OAPEN Library has seen the NWO collection grow, now containing almost 200 titles. To celebrate Open Access Week, OAPEN asked authors/editors of books arising from NWO-funding to share their experiences and views, kicking off with Janneke van Bergen.

Janneke van Bergen is a landscape architect and PhD researcher at the TU Delft. Over the past decade she worked in the field of water and infrastructure, including Room for the River, the National Coastal Delta Program and Studio Coastal Quality. She currently works for the ShoreScape research, funded by NWO Top Sector Water Program, to investigate Building with Nature and coastal design.

Building with Nature is a concept where nature is used to cope with climate change risks, such as floods, waves, and sea level rise. You have recently published a book on Building with Nature perspectives which is included in the OAPEN Library collection. Could you tell us some more about this concept and your research project?

Within the ShoreScape project we combine research from coastal engineering and landscape architecture to promote Building with Nature (BwN) along urbanized sandy shores. In this research we develop design principles to stimulate dune formation after nourishment and reduce the negative effects of beach urbanization. The collaboration promoted new joint insights on BwN, and gave incentive to a publication on this topic: Building with Nature perspectives. This publication was funded by NWO and DIMI, a fund focusing on interfaculty research.

You published your work in TU Delft Open Publishing which follows a diamond business model. What was your experience with the publisher?

We collaborated with Research in Urbanism Series (RIUS), a scientific journal, that took well care of the publication process within TU Delft Open Publishing.

Your book is published under an open license, CC-BY, making it freely available and granting others a certain level of re-use, what was your motivation for publishing the book openly and under this license?

I think it is important for emerging fields of science, such as Building with Nature, to share scientific perspectives and work towards an overarching agenda, besides more specialist, mono-disciplinary publications. This will help to build new layers of innovative, joint knowledge.

It has been more than a year since you have published this book. Did unrestricted access in any way help you to reach new audiences? In new, unexpected ways or in any way different compared to traditional publishing? If yes, how do you know this?

It was a good way to reach a hybrid audience of both coastal engineers, spatial designers and even social sciences to cross the bridge to other disciplines working on the concept of Building with Nature. It has increased the interest for our ShoreScape publications from both disciplines (documented by ResearchGate), that otherwise would have been limited to our own disciplines only.

This year’s theme for the International Open Access Week is “open for climate justice’’. How do you think society at large can benefit from climate research being openly available, and your book being OA (Open Access)?

Certainly, I think climate adaptation is urgent, therefore is not just an academic, but public matter where all parties should be involved in. It will help academics to open up their specialisms to the social perspective, and the public to making conscious choices for climate-proof evolution.

Big in Japan, Zimbabwe or Brazil – global reach and national preferences for open access books

To many the internationalisation of academic publishing may mean: a strong focus on global issues, written in English only. However, many academic books are written in other languages than English. We tend to link non-English publications to regional issues, so there is a tension between English as the ‘lingua franca’ enabling a global reach, versus local languages that provide a better cultural ‘fit’.

M. Adiputra, CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Now from theory to practice: if you give a global audience free access to (nearly) 20,000 freely accessible books and chapters in several languages, spanning many subjects, will they all choose books in English?

In a newly published paper, we have systematically researched the preferences of readers originating from one hundred countries. By looking at the ten most downloaded books from each country, we can measure the focus on regional topics by counting the books written in languages other than English.

Books, popular in multiple countries

The outcomes of this study do not fit in a story of English language publications as the only or the main source of scholarly communication. There is a demand for regionally focused titles, countering the narrative of the dominance of English as the language of scholarly communication. Instead, this study supports the value of bibliodiversity.

Read the paper here:

Snijder, Ronald. 2022. “Big in Japan, Zimbabwe or Brazil – Global Reach and National Preferences for Open Access Books”. Insights 35: 11. DOI: http://doi.org/10.1629/uksg.580

Finding relevant books without sacrificing your privacy

Web retailers such as Amazon.com 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). https://liberquarterly.eu/article/view/10938

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