Open Access (the book)

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  • On this page I'll post updates, supplements, and other notes on my book, Open Access, MIT Press, 2012.   — Peter Suber.


About the book

  • The paperback and several digital editions are now available.
  • I hope the book is available at your favorite academic bookstore. But at least it's available from MIT Press, Amazon (paperback and Kindle editions), Barnes and Noble (paperback and Nook editions), Google Play (mobile ePub, PDF, Adobe eBook, and other formats), and the sources listed here and here.
  • The whole book will become OA in June 2013, one year from the date of publication. If you can't wait that long, everything I've said in the book I've said in some form or another in an OA article, probably more than once.
  • For a review copy, send your request directly to MIT Press, and indicate the publication or site for which the review is intended.
  • I plan to launch some kind of site, other than this page, where I can gather and respond to reader comments. I welcome suggestions about the best way to do that.


  • Rob Harle, Open Access by Peter Suber (MIT Press 2012), Leonardo Reviews, August 2, 2012. "This is a very important book, which, I suggest, is a must read for all scholars and researchers who publish their own work or consult the peer-reviewed published work of others ––in other words, virtually all academics...."

Updates and supplements

  • Some of these notes were too late to put in the book. The publications or developments they describe hadn't occurred by the time my text was final in the spring of 2011. Some just didn't fit into the book. The book is deliberately short and I was already over my wordcount.
  • I have many supplements to add and will add them as I find time. If you want to nudge me on a certain point, please do.
  • For now, I'm taking advantage of the digital medium by linking from words and phrases, not imitating the format of printed endnotes by spelling out URLs.

Copyright page

  • The first print edition uses an "all rights reserved" statement and a CC-BY license icon. The digital editions clarify the book's copyright status, and the clarification will appear in future print editions. Basically, the book incorporates some material I previously published in the SPARC Open Access Newsletter under a CC-BY license and a copyright owned by SPARC. That material remains CC-BY. The all-rights-reserved copyright owned by MIT applies only to new parts of the book, and even those parts will shift to a CC-BY-NC license on June 15, 2013, one year from the date of publication.


  • Note that MIT Press already provides OA to the Preface.

Chapter 1: What is Open Access?

  • Note that MIT Press already provides OA to Chapter 1.
  • At p. 21, I say, "OA would benefit from the right kinds of copyright reforms...." Add this note.
    • See my article, Open access and copyright, SPARC Open Access Newsletter, July 2, 2011. "For example, here are some copyright reforms that would help the cause: [1] Shorten the term of copyright, or at least prevent it from becoming even longer every time Mickey Mouse is about to fall into the public domain. [2] Ban the retroactive extension of copyright to works in the public domain. [3] Allow OA for orphan works, with a takedown requirement if the rightsholder steps forward and complains. [4] Permit the circumvention of DRM in pursuit of non-infringing uses. [5] Recognize that some creative works generate revenue for creators, and some don't, and that creators of the former type are harmed by unauthorized copying while creators of the latter type are harmed by the default prohibition of copying. That is, stop making royalty-free literature collateral damage in the war against revenue leaks. [6] Allow green OA, at least for royalty-free literature, within a certain time after publication, regardless of the publishing contract the author signed with a publisher. [7] Allow digitization and search indexing without permission when they result in no dissemination, or when the dissemination consists of nothing more than fair-use snippets. [8] Make the penalties for copyfraud (false claim of copyright) at least as severe as the penalties for infringement; that is, take the wrongful decrease in the circulation of ideas at least as seriously as the wrongful increase in the circulation of ideas."

Chapter 2: Motivation

  • Note 5 (note call at p. 30, note text at p. 182). Here I'm documenting the assertion that "cumulative price increases...forced the Harvard Library to undertake 'serious cancellation efforts' for budgetary reasons." In the current note, I cite two sources. Here are seven, including the original two, in chronological order.
    • Robin Peek, "Harvard Faculty Mandates OA," Information Today, April 1, 2008. This is an interview with Stuart Shieber after the Harvard Faculty of Arts and Sciences voted unanimously for a green OA policy on February 12, 2008. Quoting Shieber: "At Harvard, serials duplication has been all but eliminated and serious cancellation efforts have been initiated. Monograph collecting has been substantially affected as well. In total, our faculty have seen qualitative reductions in access to the literature." (I link to a copy of the original article because the original URL is now dead.)
    • The Report of the Task Force on University Libraries, Harvard University, November 2009. "Even during the recent years of endowment growth, the libraries struggled to collect the books, journals, and other research materials desired by current faculty and students....The reasons for these difficulties are multiple, but include the steadily rising prices of monographs and journal subscriptions....The economic downturn has made this issue even more critical than in years prior. Because library budgets have been cut, journals will need to be cancelled, with attendant cancellation fees feeding a downward spiral....Harvard must become a more forceful participant in this negotiation, leverage its combined rather than distributed weight, and not be beholden to the prices and packages determined by the major publishing houses."
    • "Libraries on the Edge," The Harvard Gazette, January 2010. "Through centuries, Harvard's libraries have amassed rich collections and unique holdings. But now budgetary pressures that have been building during the past decade, and intensified in the past year, threaten the ability of the world's largest private library to collect works as broadly as it has in the past. In an interview, University Library director and Pforzheimer University Professor Robert Darnton called the situation 'a crisis in acquisitions.' "
    • Harvard's response to the first White House RFI on OA, January 22, 2010. "Harvard not immune to the access crisis that motivates much of the campaign for public-access policies. In fact, the Harvard library system has gone through a series of serials reviews with substantial cancellations, and further cancellations will undoubtedly occur in the future."
    • Harvard's response to the second White House RFI on OA, January 14, 2012. "Even Harvard University, whose library is the largest academic library in the world, is not immune to the access crisis motivating much of the campaign for public-access policies. In fact, the Harvard library system has had to make a painful series of budget-driven journal cancellations, and we are deciding on a set of further cancellations at this very moment."
    • Testimony of Stuart Shieber, Professor of Computer Science and Director of Harvard's Office for Scholarly Communication, before the Subcommittee on Investigations and Oversight of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology, March 29, 2012. "The Harvard library system is the largest academic library in the world, and the fifth largest library of any sort. In attempting to provide access to research results to our faculty and students, the university subscribes to tens of thousands of serials at a cost of about 9 million dollars per year. Nonetheless, we too have been buffeted by the tremendous growth in journal costs over the last decades, with Harvard's serials expenditures growing by a factor of 3 between 1986 and 2004. Such geometric increases in expenditures could not be sustained indefinitely. Over the years since 2004 our journal expenditure increases have been curtailed through an aggressive effort at deduplication, elimination of print subscriptions, and a painful series of journal cancellations. As a researcher, I know that Harvard does not subscribe to all of the journals that I would like access to for my own research, and if Harvard, with its scale, cannot provide optimal subscription access, other universities without our resources are in an even more restricted position."
    • Faculty Advisory Council Memorandum on Journal Pricing, Harvard University, April 17, 2012. "Many large journal publishers have made the scholarly communication environment fiscally unsustainable and academically restrictive....Prices for online content from two providers have increased by about 145% over the past six years, which far exceeds not only the consumer price index, but also the higher education and the library price indices. These journals therefore claim an ever-increasing share of our overall collection budget. Even though scholarly output continues to grow and publishing can be expensive, profit margins of 35% and more suggest that the prices we must pay do not solely result from an increasing supply of new articles....The Faculty Advisory Council to the Library, representing university faculty in all schools and in consultation with the Harvard Library leadership, reached this conclusion: major periodical subscriptions, especially to electronic journals published by historically key providers, cannot be sustained: continuing these subscriptions on their current footing is financially untenable. Doing so would seriously erode collection efforts in many other areas, already compromised....Costs are now prohibitive...."
  • At p. 40, I say, "[L]arge commercial publishers charge higher prices and raise their prices faster than small, nonprofit [TA] publishers. Yet, the scholarly consensus is that quality, impact, and prestige are generally higher at the nonprofit society journals." Endnote 15 (note text at pp. 184-185) documents the claims about quality, impact, and prestige. Here I want to elaborate in a slightly different direction.
    • Most society publishers don't have the revenues or surpluses of the commercial giants. In 2010 Elsevier reported profit margins (36%) larger than those at ExxonMobil (28%); see p. 183n8. But most society journals are not in that league, and not even close. Many are in the red. Insofar as publisher profiteering is part of the argument for OA (and it needn't be), it only applies to the commercial giants, not to small, nonprofit society publishers.
    • Some societies join the commercial giants in lobbying against OA policies, and argue that OA is intrinsically harmful to society publishers, or that OA harms small nonprofit publishers as such. I make many concessions to society publishers, but I cannot make this one. Since 2007, Caroline Sutton and I have maintained a list of society publishers of OA journals. In 2007 we found 425 societies publishing 450 full (non-hybrid) OA journals. In 2011 we published a second edition of our list showing 530 societies publishing 616 full OA journals. After publishing our 2011 results, we posted our list to a Google spreadsheet open to community editing. As of August 3, 2012, it showed 609 societies publishing 702 full OA journals.

Chapter 3: Varieties

  • At p. 50, I say, "Like conventional publishers, there are a few large OA publishers and a long tail of small ones...." Add these notes.
    • See Salvatore Mele, First Results of the SOAP Project, a presentation at the Conference of the Open Access Scholarly Publishers Association, Prague, August 23, 2010. The few large OA publishers are better about providing libre OA than the long tail of small ones. See esp. slides #7 and #10. Half of the 14 "large" OA publishers use CC licenses, most of them (82%) using CC-BY licenses and the rest (18%) using CC-BY-NC. Of the smaller OA publishers, only about one-fifth used CC licenses.
    • See Jan Erik Frantsvåg, The size distribution of open access publishers: A problem for open access? First Monday, December 2010. The long-tail of small publishers limits the ability of OA publishing to take advantage of economies of scale. "All these elements suggest that small–scale operation of OA publishing is economically inefficient, and that OA publishing best be organized in larger publishing institutions."
    • See William H. Walters and Anne Linvill, Characteristics of Open Access Journals in Six Subject Areas, College and Research Libraries, May 2011. "[T]he largest [OA journal] publishes more than 2,700 articles per year, but half publish 25 or fewer....Overall, the OA journal landscape is greatly influenced by a few key publishers and journals."
  • At p. 52-53: For clarity, read the terminology box on p. 53 before starting Section 3.1 on p. 52.
  • At p. 58, I refer to the fear that self-archiving is time-consuming. But there is evidence to answer these fears. Add these notes.
    • See Leslie Carr and Stevan Harnad, Keystroke Economy: A Study of the Time and Effort Involved in Self-Archiving, Working Paper, University of Southampton, March 15, 2005 (Last Modified, March 2, 2012). Two months of log activity at an active institutional repository showed that "The median time for metadata entry is 5 minutes and 37 seconds per paper. The average is 10 minutes 40 seconds owing to the long tail of the distribution....A researcher who writes one paper per month would accordingly find themselves (or their designees) spending an average of...about 39 minutes per year in metadata entry tasks related to self-archiving." For a later version of the same study, see Leslie Carr, Stevan Harnad, and Alma Swan, A Longitudinal Study of the Practice of Self-Archiving, Working Paper, University of Southampton, April 20, 2007 (Last Modified, March 2, 2012).
    • See Alma Swan and Sheridan Brown, Open access self-archiving: An author study, Technical Report, University of Southampton, June 6, 2005. "Authors have frequently expressed reluctance to self-archive because of the perceived time required and possible technical difficulties in carrying out this activity, yet findings here show that only 20% of authors found some degree of difficulty with the first act of depositing an article in a repository, and that this dropped to 9% for subsequent deposits."
    • Also see the Survey on open access in FP7, European Commission, 2012. At p. 5: "The majority of respondents find it easy or very easy to have time or manpower to self-archive peer-reviewed articles...."
  • At p. 65, I conclude my argument that we should pursue green and gold OA simultaneously. Add this note.
    • For recent research on the relative proportions of green and gold OA in the natural sciences, broken down by field, see Bo-Christer Björk et al., "Open Access to the Scientific Journal Literature: Situation 2009," PLoS ONE, June 2010, especially Figure 4. Gold exceeds green in medicine, biology, and biochemistry, and green exceeds gold in every other field covered.

Chapter 4: Policies

  • At p. 78, I say that about one-quarter of peer-reviewed journals are OA. Here add an update and a note.
    • Update: By the time the book came out, the fraction was closer to one-third. In the book, I used the common industry estimate that there are about 25,000 peer-reviewed scholarly journals in all fields and languages. As of July 28, 2012, the Directory of Open Access Journals listed 8,000 peer-reviewed OA journals. Using the original estimate for the total number of peer-reviewed OA journals, this means that 32% of the total were OA in July 2012.
    • Note: It's very difficult to get an accurate number for the total number of peer-reviewed journals in all fields and languages. 25k is still the most commonly used industry estimate. However, even limiting the count to titles indexed in Ulrich's, the number is now closer to 28k. See the discussion thread on this question at LibLicense in August 2012. (If we use 28k as the total number of peer-reviewed journals, then in July 2012, 28% were OA.) Moreover, there are reasons to think the Ulrich list is itself incomplete. See for example Jack Meadows, "The Growth of Journal Literature: A Historical perspective," in Blaise Cronin and Helen Barsky Atkins (eds.), The Web of Science. A Festschrift in Honor of Eugene Garfield, ASIS&T Monograph Series, 2000, pp. 87-107. In 1987, Meadows estimated that there were 71k peer-reviewed journals worldwide. (Thanks to Jean-Claude Guédon for the reference to Meadows.)
  • At p. 79, I say that there are no gold OA mandates. But several have been proposed.
    • In May 2006, Academy of Science of South Africa proposed a policy that would pay for gold OA, build the infrastructure for green OA, but stop short of mandating green OA. The original report is now offline, but I quoted relevant excerpts in my blog post at the time. "[T]he Department of Science and Technology [should take] responsibility for ensuring that Open Access initiatives are promoted to enhance the visibility of all South African research articles and to make them accessible to the entire international research community. Specifically: online, open access (“Gold route”) versions of South African research journals should be funded...." (My post praises the willingness to fund gold, but criticizes the unwillingness to mandate green.)
    • In March 2007, Australia's Productivity Commission proposed a gold OA mandate. The press release, report, and overview have been taken offline, but I quoted the relevant language in my blog post at the time. "A concern with mandating open access is that it would reduce the incentives for subscribers to pay for conventional journal access and, in turn, the incentives for publishers to supply journals. Mandated access would, therefore, be likely to require a new payment mechanism to elicit sufficient publishing services such as through the direct subsidisation of providers or of authors. Among the possible payment mechanisms, the Commission prefers an 'author pays' approach...." (My post includes criticism of the proposal.)
    • In a November 2009 interview, Henk Schmidt, Rector of Erasmus University Rotterdam, described his plans to require OA, with a preference for gold over green. "I intend obliging our researchers to circulate their articles publicly, for example no more than six months after publication. I’m aiming for 2011, if possible in collaboration with publishers via the 'Golden Road' and otherwise without the publishers via the 'Green Road'." In September 2010, he announced the school's new OA policy, which is green.
    • In January 2011 talk, J.J. Engelen, Chairman of the Governing Board of the primary public research funder in the Netherlands (Nederlandse Organisatie voor Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek, or NWO), described his preference for a future gold OA policy. "These goals of scientic publishing are best reached by means of an open access publishing business model....Open access publishing should become a requirement for publicly funded research. In order to make open access publishing a success, the enthusiastic cooperation of the professional publishing companies active on the scientific market is highly desirable." (The talk was later published.)
    • In July 2012, the Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID) published AusAID Research Strategy 2012–16, containing a new OA policy which could be construed as a gold OA mandate. From p. 1: "In support of the transparency agenda in the Government's aid policy we will: ...require researchers to publish in open access journals, or make pre-publication versions of their work available." The word "or" in the final clause might mean that if grantees provide (green) OA to their preprints, then they needn't publish in OA journals. So far I have not been able to determine how AusAID interprets that sentence. Also see my blog post on the policy.
    • In July 2012, the Research Councils UK announced a new OA mandate favoring gold over green, and the UK government accepted the recommendations of the Finch Group to the same effect. For analysis and critique, including some discussion of the sense in which they are and are not gold OA mandates, see my article, Tectonic movements toward OA in the UK and Europe, SPARC Open Access Newsletter, September 2, 2012.
  • At p. 84, line 13. Correction. "...journal are..." should be "...journals are...."
  • Note 12 (note call at p. 86, note text at pp. 195-196).
    • Correction. At the top of p. 196, "...on deposit in the institutional review..." should be "...on deposit in the institutional repository...."
    • In July 2012, the Catholic University of Louvain strengthened its OA mandate from July 2008 to follow the promotion, tenure, and internal funding incentives used at the University of Liege. When the new Louvain policy takes effect on January 1, 2013, "the Academic Council will only consider duly deposited publications in its internal research performance evaluations and that deposit will also be one of the criteria in the allocation of institutional research funds."
  • Note 16 (note call at p. 89, note text at pp. 196-197). Here I'm documenting the claim that "Alma Swan's empirical studies of researcher attitudes show that an overwhelming majority of researchers would 'willingly' comply with a mandatory OA policy from their funder or employer." Add a note.
    • A May 2011 survey from the European Commission shows similar researcher attitudes toward open data mandates. See Survey on open access in FP7, European Commission, 2012, p. 7. "Three quarters of those respondents with an opinion would agree or strongly agree with an open access mandate for data in their research area, providing that all relevant aspects (e.g. ethics, confidentiality, intellectual property) have been considered and addressed....Only a small number of respondents, 13 %, have no opinion on the question."
  • Note 20 (note call at p. 93, note text at pp. 197-199). Here I list some examples of libre green OA. I list and discuss many more in "The rise of libre open access," SPARC Open Access Newsletter, June 2, 2012.

Chapter 5: Scope

Chapter 6: Copyright

  • At p. 128, I argue that the OA policy at the NIH does not violate copyright. Add this note.
    • See the video of my April 9, 2012, debate at Harvard Law School with Mark Seeley, Senior Vice President and General Counsel at Elsevier. At roughly minute 8, Seeley concedes that the NIH policy, and similar OA policies, do not infringe copyrights. At minutes 16 and 18 when we pick up that question again for clarification and more explicit discussion. Also see my blog post on the debate, which includes comments from Seeley and my replies.
  • At p. 128, line 22. Correction. "One of practical..." should be "One of the practical...."

Chapter 7: Economics

  • Note 2 (note call at p. 133, note text at pp. 207-208). Here I'm citing research showing that the economic benefits of OA far exceed the costs. Add this note.
    • See the May 2011 report, Economic Impact of the Human Genome Project, from the Battelle Technology Partnership Practice. Quoting the press summary (May 11, 2011): "The $3.8 billion the U.S. government invested in the Human Genome Project (HGP) from 1988 to 2003 helped drive $796 billion in economic impact and the generation of $244 billion in total personal income, according to a study released today by Battelle. In 2010 alone, the human genome sequencing projects and associated genomics research and industry activity directly and indirectly generated $67 billion in U.S. economic output and supported 310,000 jobs that produced $20 billion in personal income. The genomics-enabled industry also provided $3.7 billion in federal taxes during 2010."
  • At p. 143, line 11. Correction. "...alone is has..." should be "...alone has...."

Chapter 8: Casualties

  • Note 2 (note call at p. 151, note text at p. 215). For "Alma Swan's interview with the APS and IOP in which 'both societies said they could not identify any losses of subscriptions' due to OA archiving", please replace, which is no longer valid, with
  • Note 4 (note call at p. 152, note text at pp. 215-216). Here I'm documenting the assertion that, "At Congressional hearings in 2008 and 2010, legislators asked publishers directly whether green OA was triggering cancellations. In both cases publishers pointed to decreased downloads but not to increased cancellations."
    • The pattern continued in a third Congressional hearing on OA on March 29, 2012. The hearing was titled, "Federally Funded Research: Examining Public Access and Scholarly Publication Interests," and held by the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, Subcommittee on Investigations and Oversight. From the SPARC summary of one part of the Q&A: "Rep. Zoe Lofgren, (D-CA), noting that the NIH Public Access has now been in place for nearly four years, challenged the publishers assertions that they would be financially harmed by FPRAA, and asked if any data demonstrating financial harm to publishers could be presented by any of the panelists. None was provided."
  • At p. 157, I start a subsection called "Some studies bear on the question of whether increased OA archiving [green OA] will increase journal cancellations." Here's a new study for that section.
    • The large-scale PEER study released its final report on June 18, 2012. The study was coordinated by the International Association of Science, Technical and Medical Publishers. From the final report: "PEER (Publishing and the Ecology of European Research), supported by the EC eContentplus programme, has been investigating the potential effects of the large-scale, systematic depositing of authors' final peer-reviewed manuscripts (so called Green Open Access or stage-two research output) on reader access, author visibility, and journal viability, as well as on the broader ecology of European research. The project ran from 1 September 2008 – 31 May 2012...." As summarized by Norbert Lossau, Scientific Coordinator of OpenAIRE and member of the PEER Executive Committee, "the economic research of the PEER project could not find any evidence for the hypothesis that self-archiving affects journal viability."
  • At pp. 160-161, I say, "If publishers acknowledge that gold OA can be sustainable, and even profitable, and merely wish to avoid making lower margins than they make today, then their objection takes on a very different color. They're not at risk of insolvency, just reduced profits, and they're not asserting a need for self-protection, just an entitlement to current levels of profit. There's no reason for public funding agencies acting in the public interest, or private funders acting for charitable purposes, to compromise their missions in order to satisfy this sense of publisher entitlement." Add this note:
    • See Robert Heinlein, "Life-Line," 1939: "There has grown up in the minds of certain groups in this country the notion that because a man or corporation has made a profit out of the public for a number of years, the government and the courts are charged with the duty of guaranteeing such profit in the future, even in the face of changing circumstances and contrary to public interest. This strange doctrine is not supported by statute or common law. Neither individuals nor corporations have any right to come into court and ask that the clock of history be stopped, or turned back."

Chapter 9: Future

Chapter 10: Self-Help

  • At p. 170, I say, "[A]bout 30 percent of OA journals charge author-side fees and about half the articles published in OA journals appear in those fee-based journals." Add this note.


  • Note that MIT Press already provides OA to the Index.
  • Add new entry: Students, 73, 174. See also Theses and dissertations.
  • Toll-access (or conventional) journals and publishers.
    • Add new sub-entry: Right to refuse to publish any work for any reason, 126-128.
  • Add new entry: Translation, 27, 74