Authors : Lucy Barnes, Rupert Gatti
Academic publishing is changing. The drive towards open access publishing, which is being powered in the UK by funding bodies (SHERPA Juliet), the requirements of REFs 2021 (UKRI) and 2027 (Hill 2018), and Europe-wide movements such as the recently-announced Plan S (‘About Plan S’), has the potential to shake up established ways of publishing academic research.
Within book publishing, the traditional print formats and the conventional ways of disseminating research, which are protected and promoted by a small number of powerful incumbents, are being challenged.
Academic publishing, and academic book publishing, is at a crossroads: will it find ways to accommodate open access distribution within its existing structures?
Or will new systems of research dissemination be developed? And what might those new systems look like?In this article we look at the main features of the existing monograph publication and distribution ecosystem, and question the suitability of this for open access monographs.
We look specifically at some of the key economic characteristics of the monograph publishing market and consider their implications for new infrastructures designed specifically to support open access titles.
The key observations are that the production of monographs displays constant returns to scale, and so can (and does) support large numbers of publishing initiatives; at the same time the distribution and discovery systems for monographs display increasing returns to scale and so naturally leads to the emergence of a few large providers.
We argue that in order to protect the diversity of players and outputs within the monograph publishing industry in the transition to open access it is important to create open and community-managed infrastructures and revenue flows that both cater for different business models and production workflows and are resistant to take over or control by a single (or small number) of players.