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

Tour de Bibliothèque: The OAPEN Library SCOAP³ for Books collection

The OAPEN Library is a growing virtual library of open access books. Researchers and curious readers find their way to the OAPEN Library via a number of entrances. As they browse, land upon or virtually stroll through the OAPEN Library, what unique books may one discover on its bookshelves? Today we’ll take a tour through the high energy physics section, where we’ll find the latest collection added to the OAPEN Library: the SCOAP³ for Books collection.

Open access books in high energy physics

The SCOAP³ for Books collection currently includes over 20 open access books in high energy physics and will, as part of this pilot initiative, grow to include a set of over 100 important texts within the discipline. 

This collection includes titles such as “The Standard Model and Beyond’’ written by Paul Langacker, part of the High Energy Physics, Cosmology, and Gravitation series published by Taylor and Francis (2017). This open access book provides an advanced introduction to the physics and formalism of the standard model and other non-abelian gauge theories. It provides a solid background for understanding supersymmetry, string theory, extra dimensions, dynamical symmetry breaking, and cosmology.

Next to this readers may encounter the open access book Challenges And Goals For Accelerators In The XXI Century’’, edited by Stephen Myers & Oliver Brüning and published by World Scientific Publishing Company (2016). This book describes the past 100 years of accelerator development with a special focus on the technological advancements in the field, the connection of the various accelerator projects to key developments and discoveries in the Standard Model, how accelerator technologies open the door to other applications in medicine and industry, and finally presents an outlook of future accelerator projects for the coming decades.

The role of books for SCOAP³ 

These open access books are made available thanks to the work of SCOAP³ – the Sponsoring Consortium for Open Access Publishing in Particle Physics. SCOAP³ enables open dissemination of global research outputs in high energy physics and was first introduced in 2012, with the support of the European Organization of Nuclear Research (CERN).

So what is the role of the academic book for SCOAP³ and within high energy physics more generally?

The overall objective for SCOAP3 is to enable global, equitable open access for research in the discipline of high energy physics. Having successfully converted the majority of the journal literature in the discipline to open, the Consortium decided to expand the scope of the initiative to include academic books in high energy physics and related disciplines (such as accelerator physics and instrumentation).

“Through the support of members of the consortium and partnerships with key publishers, we are making important texts in our domain completely free for students, faculty and researchers around the world. The COVID19 pandemic demonstrated how important it is for content to be widely and seamlessly accessible, and we are committed to a future where research and academic texts are available openly to anyone who might need them.”  – Dr. Kamran Naim, Head of Open Science, CERN

OAPEN Library collection services 

Thanks to the partnership between SCOAP³ for Books and the OAPEN Library, the SCOAP³ for Books collection benefits from the various OAPEN Library collection services. These include hosting, digital preservation, dissemination and usage reporting.

The OAPEN Library includes these books as part of its metadata feeds, API schema and OAI-PMH harvesting protocol. This enables a wide range of organisations such as academic libraries, library intermediaries, research institutions, and discovery services (including Google Scholar) to provide visibility for these open access books around the world.

In the course of the next few months, more titles can be expected to be added to this unique collection of open access books.

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’: https://katalog.ub.uni-leipzig.de/. 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 “west-sydney-primo.hosted.exlibrisgroup.com” – pointing to the library of the Western Sydney University – or “sfx.unibo.it”– 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 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

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), https://doi.org/10.1629/uksg.539.
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…

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 https://langsci-press.org, https://www.knowledgeunlatched.org/language-science-press or contact Dr. Sebastian Nordhoff at sebastian.nordhoff@langsci-press.org

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

Think.Check.Submit – books

New resource for books added to Think. Check. Submit.

Further to their announcement in October, the Steering Committee of Think. Check. Submit. is delighted to announce a new addition to its resources: a checklist for authors wishing to verify the reliability and trustworthiness of a book or monograph publisher.

Drawing on existing expertise from within the group and from experiences of their newest partner, OAPEN, the checklist for books offers sound advice along the lines of the recommendations already offered by the journal checklist.

The rest of the Think. Check. Submit. website has also been updated to make it more relevant for both books and journals.

Eelco Ferwerda, Director of OAPEN, said: “It is clear that the same issues confronted by authors looking to publish in journals, also confront authors seeking to publish a book or a chapter. What should an author look for when considering the submission of a manuscript of a book or chapter? It is very common for a journal to have its own homepage whereas, for chapter publishing, more careful scrutiny is needed of the publishing entity producing the books. I am sure that the addition of this new checklist will provide a much needed and welcome resource to authors publishing this way.”

Sofie Wennström of LIBER said: “Librarians are often asked for advice about trustworthy publishing outlets. This extension of the Think. Check. Submit. checklist includes solid recommendations for how to choose a publisher for books. It is a welcome addition to the resources a librarian can use when giving advice as it is evident that the book publishing market may offer as many, if not more, pitfalls as journal publishing. We are happy that Think. Check. Submit. offers an opportunity to avoid some of those obstacles.”

About Think. Check. Submit.

Think. Check. Submit. helps researchers identify trusted journals and publishers for their research. Through a range of tools and practical resources, this international, cross-sector initiative aims to educate researchers, promote integrity, and build trust in credible research and publications.

Think. Check. Submit. provides a checklist that guides researchers through the process of deciding which journals and now books are best for their research. The process is intended to go beyond individual journal decisions to help researchers build up their journal evaluation skills. The checklist is now available in nearly 40 languages.

Think. Check. Submit. is run, and funded, by a coalition from across scholarly communications in response to discussions about deceptive publishing. Details of the organizations contributing can be found at https://thinkchecksubmit.org/about/. The current Think. Check. Submit. committee can be found at http://thinkchecksubmit.org/faq/committee/

Search OpenEdition Search

You will be redirected to OpenEdition Search