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Academic Libraries as Emergent Players in the Scholarly Journal Publishing Industry

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Featured Image Credits: The Parliamentary Library, Northern Ireland, May 20, 2010 | © Courtesy of Northern Ireland Assembly.

As Open Access (OA) journal publishing strives for sustainability, university libraries may become increasingly important for meeting OA mandates of scientific societies and institutions.

A Blog Article by Pablo Markin.


In recent years, academic libraries have become important advocates of Open Access (OA), as OA journals are being launched, institutional repositories are being introduced and open educational resources are being hosted. These developments amount to library publishing as an emergent trend in OA publishing, as digital technologies increasingly allow academic institutions to expand their role from academic information dissemination and purchasing to the management of scholarly communication formats.

As scientific foundations and granting agencies around the world have been planning a gradual transition to either Green OA or Gold OA as default options for scientific publications, libraries seek to join the fray of OA academic publishing, since they can complement their publication repository platform with peer-review procedures, which can make them into competitors to OA and subscription-based journal publishers, as Faye Chardwell and Shan Sutton suggest. Likewise, at some North American and European universities OA policies are being passed that encourage the establishment of OA repositories on an opt-in basis for pre-publication journal manuscripts.

Academic associations, such as the Modern Language Associoation, are also following suit, as they plan to make OA the preferred dissemination model for their publications in the coming decades, while making it possible to their members to deposit their publication manuscripts into repositories based on OA models. These initiatives have created an environment in which more than 800 OA journals are published by over 600 scholarly societies that demand article processing charges (APCs) in some cases and do not in others. In this respect, libraries might become important providers of publishing and infrastructure services for academic journals based on OA journals, since many of them are likely to be seeking to minimize their costs, especially when APCs are not being charged.

According to the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ), in recent years a growing amount of OA journals are being added to its catalog, so that while in 2013 1,072 journals were added, in 2014 only 494 have joined the directory, in 2015 this sector has returned to steady growth with 1,463 journals added, and in 2016 this ascending trajectory has been continued with 1724 new OA journals. In 2017, it can be expected that the number of new OA journals listed in the DOAJ will cross the 2,000 titles mark. Based on July, 2017, data, the absolute majority (6,344) of OA journals catalogued at the DOAJ do not require APCs, whereas a minority only (2,720) of these journals levy APCs, whereas for a marginal amount (443) of these OA titles no information on their author-facing charges is provided. This indicates that OA models need to take recourse to a variety of support models, in order to maintain their academic market presence.

This is reflected in the wide range of licensing models under which these journals provide access to their contents to scholarly communities and the general public, which comprise both different Creative Commons licenses (CC BY, CC BY-NC-ND, CC BY-NC, CC BY-NC-SA, CC BY-SA, CC BY-ND and CC) and publisher’s own license agreements. However, OA journals are not only added to the DOAJ, but also removed from it, since the directory has contained 9,804 OA journals in 2013 and only 9,507 in 2017.

This shows that the OA journal industry is still in the process of setting its own standards and developing sustainability models, despite its relatively rapid growth. It also follows that libraries are likely to find a niche in the developing OA publishing ecosystem.

By Pablo Markin


Featured Image Credits: The Parliamentary Library, Northern Ireland, May 20, 2010  | © Courtesy of Northern Ireland Assembly.

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