August 2007
The Coming Revolution in Scholarly Communications & Cyberinfrastructure
Peter Suber, Earlham College

  1. Evidence is mounting that OA editions increase the net sales of print editions for some kinds of books, including scholarly monographs. This not only enlarges the corpus of OA literature, but chips away at the simplistic, reflexive fear that OA is incompatible with revenue and profit. Every month another university press explores this space by creating an imprint or division dedicated to dual-edition monographs (OA editions and priced/printed editions), OA-plus-POD monographs, or OA-only monographs.

    On the other hand, OA books may only stimulate sales of print editions as long as most people dislike reading whole books on screen. This trend may be reversed by a counter-trend to improve ebook readers.

  2. A textbook pricing crisis is stimulating OA solutions just as the journal pricing crisis before it stimulated OA solutions. There are now major projects to produce OA textbooks from the following:

    • Amedeo
    • Atomic Dog
    • BookPower
    • the California Open Source Textbook Project
    • CommonText
    • the Free Curricula Center
    • Free High School Science Texts
    • Freeload Press
    • FreeTechBooks
    • Global Text Project
    • Libertas Academica
    • Liberty Textbooks
    • Medical Approaches
    • MedRounds Publications
    • nexttext
    • the Open Textbook Project
    • the Potto Project, Science Classics
    • Textbook Revolution
    • Wikibooks

  3. More universities and independent non-profits are creating open courseware, OA teaching and learning materials, and other open educational resources (OERs). These help all teachers and students, even those at affluent schools. Like the kindred movement for OA to research literature, this one is demonstrating to a growing audience that useful content is more useful when OA. It also helps generalize a fact highlighted by researchers: that content creators who depend on salaries rather than royalties, or who write for impact and not for money, have everything to gain and nothing to lose by consenting to OA.
  4. There is a rising awareness of copyright issues in the general public, rising frustration with unbalanced copyright laws, and rising support for remedies by governments (legislation) and individuals (Creative Commons licenses and their equivalents). Copyright laws are still grotesquely unbalanced, and powerful corporations who benefit from the imbalance are fighting to ensure that they are not revised in the right direction any time soon. But in more and more countries, an aroused public is ready to fight to ensure that they are not revised in the wrong direction either, something we haven't seen in the entire history of copyright law.

    However, this only guarantees that the content industry will have a fight, not that users and consumers will win. Nearly every week the content industry scores another victory, either in court or in arm-twisting another developing country into harmonizing its copyright laws with the unbalanced North. There are victories for balance as well, but less often in courts and legislatures than in think tanks, conference declarations, government commissions, and newspaper editorials. The trend is only for awareness and opposition, but it's sharply up.

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Reference this article
Suber, P. "Trends Favoring Open Access," CTWatch Quarterly, Volume 3, Number 3, August 2007. http://www.ctwatch.org/quarterly/articles/2007/08/trends-favoring-open-access/

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