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Agata Morka on Open Access Book publishing and Emerging Scholar Monograph Competition

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Today I would like to present an interview with Dr. Agata Morka, Product Manager of Open Access Books at De Gruyter Open, Art Historian and the creator of the O & A comics series.

WK: The De Gruyter Open Access Books program was announced in 2011 (then, under the name of Versita). What are the results almost 3 years later?

Agata Morka: The program was announced in autumn 2011, but it was in fact launched at the beginning of 2012 when we completed the recruitment of editors. Since then we have received a great number of high quality manuscripts that our Editors have worked hard to expedite to the publishing stage. To this day, we have managed to release 30 new, Open Access books, which is quite a good output in comparison to other publishers. I hope that we will manage to publish 55 books this year, thus almost tripling our result.

There are still not many Open Access book publishers, and not many Open Access books on the market. Is publishing an Open Access book very different to publishing an Open Access journal?

Yes, the Open Access model is much less common and less known with regard to book publishing. The main differences between book and paper publishing are:

1) Books are much longer than papers, thus they require more editorial work, more knowledge and a broader view of editors.

2) Publishing a book takes more time.

3) Authors usually like to see their books printed. Very often the first question asked by the author is: “Do you offer print on demand and will I get printed copies?” Of course, we do it, but it makes the whole process more expensive than in case of journals, since printing hard copies is no longer a requirement in Open Access journal publishing.

All of these factors make book publishing much more expensive and time consuming for a publisher.

4) Finally, book publishing is more attractive for authors working in the field of humanities and social science, who are less familiar with Open Access than STM researchers.

5) The problem is also with readership. It is not very common to read an entire book in a digital form and pdf format. It is quite tiring for the reader. This is why De Gruyter is introducing ebooks in ePub file format, which is designed for portable e-readers and makes reading a book much more comfortable. All books published by De Gruyter Open will be available for free both in pdf and ePub, which is not so common. Some publishers who offer ePub publishing charge readers for them, even if the author previously paid for Open Access to his or her work.

For the first two years authors who were publishing Open Access books at De Gruyter Open were not charged any kind of fees. Starting from January 2014, De Gruyter Open introduced Book Processing Charges of 10 000 euro per book. BPC are to be paid for by authors or their institutions. Do you think that authors are ready to pay for publishing Open Access books?

As I mentioned before, book publishing is expensive, even very expensive. And we know that, at this moment, the majority of researchers are not ready to cover the costs of publishing their books.

However, I think that this will change and funding for Open Access Books will grow in the near future. It is actually growing as we speak. Big and well known Open Access funders, such as the Wellcome Trust, have introduced funding for Book Processing Charges. On the other hand our fees are moderate in comparison to other publishers’ offers and we also have a discount policy in place.

Lack of knowledge about existing and emerging funding among authors is the most serious problem. That is why De Gruyter Open created some educational material about where to find funds, how to apply for them, etc. We keep up to date with all funding opportunities for Authors and make sure that authors get guidance when it comes to looking for relevant funds. There is information on our website, there are blog entries about funding on the Open Science dot com blog and we are planning to create even more educational material in the future.

When an author receives two positive reviews but cannot pay for publication we ask him or her to read our material on funding possibilities and to talk with Dr. Katarzyna Kozińska who is our Academic Relations Manager and a specialist in the field of Open Access funding. She is the person who can instruct an author on how to get money for BPC in his or her particular case.

DG Open introduced an institutional membership program, which apples both to book and paper authors. Do you think this program will be successful?

We offer 15% discount to every author working at our institutional member institution, regardless of how many books or articles the institution plans to publish with us. I think this is a very attractive program (you can read more on Open Science dot com entry about institutional membership and De Gruyter Open website). I am really excited about this program and I hope it will help to develop Open Access books publishing. Institutional memberships are helpful for all parties – for us, the publisher, for research institutions and for authors. I am pretty sure that it will be successful.

What are the benefits for authors of publishing in Open Access?

The main benefit of Open Access is the Open Access. And that’s it. Open Access is a benefit. For those not familiar with this model I encourage you to consult any of the fine resources available, but in brief the advantages are: greater visibility, likelihood of higher citations, easier participation in the global scholarship community and being a part of a movement that will make Academia fair, more open and accessible for everyone.

What is the difference between publishing a book with a professional Open Access publisher (so-called Gold Open Access) and DIY Open Access?

I am a great supporter of DIY culture! I love embroidering and knitting, this is awesome! Although I think that there is big difference between a DIY book and a book published by a professional publisher. A book is more like a suit than a scarf. Publishers add value.

1) Editorial process. When you are about to publish a DIY book you may send it to reviewers and even improve your text following their advice. Although you will not get a professional editor, who is an expert in your field and who will work with you and with your reviewers in order to publish as good a text as possible. Usually there is a significant difference between the text we received as a manuscript and the text we publish. And when you work on your book for 3 years, very often you are not able to spot errors and it is usually very helpful to discuss it with a good editor.

2) Technical editing. We do it better than amateurs.

3) Distribution and marketing. It is totally impossible to promote and distribute a book as efficiently as a big publisher does. De Gruyter is cooperating with virtually all significant book distributors in the world. Marketing also adds some value. We write book announcements for every book we publish, and these are sent to scientific news websites like EurekAlert and all of our books are listed in De Gruyter’s catalogs, which are available in many libraries worldwide.

Some scientists believe that Open Access is a low-value science. They accuse the ‘Author pays model’ for corrupting peer review because they claim publishers have a conflict of interests. That it is better for the company to publish low quality work than to miss out on an occasion to gain profit.

I disagree on the conflict of interest, a publisher who repeatedly publishes low quality work will soon go out of business. It is in every publishers’ long term interest to maintain the highest standards and curate a good reputation among scholars. We have already had situations where authors received bad reviews and were not published, despite having known that they would cover BPC. We are following the ethical code for publishers and if some publishers do it in a different way, it means that they are bad publishers. It depends on the company’s values.

From which field does DG Open receive the largest number of book proposals from authors?

The largest number of book proposals are from authors working in the fields of humanities and social sciences. Especially in linguistics and history, then in arts, music and architecture, psychology and sociology. The problem is that at the same time, these fields have relatively low funding and now, as we have started to charge BPCs we will certainly publish a little bit less in these disciplines. On the other hand, STM authors rarely write books, thus I think that the De Gruyter Open Access Books program will be developing much faster in humanities anyway.

There should be more funding for Open Access in the humanities, but I am an optimist, and I think that there will be more funding. There is still a lot of work to do to make it happen, but I think that authors themselves can make a difference by talking to their colleagues or superiors about establishing Open Access funds within their institutions and generating pressure on governmental funders.

Which licenses are used by default by De Gruyter Open? What are its advantages and disadvantages?

We use a Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial No Derivatives license. This kind of license is preferred by authors, as is shown by both authors’ surveys and our everyday work. Funders (such as the Wellcome Trust and RCUK) want researchers to publish under a more liberal Creative Commons Attribution license and in this case we do not hesitate and we always use the license required by a funder. But we have never cooperated with an author who wanted to change the CC-BY-NC-ND license to another on his own will. Everyone is pleased then that commercial re-use and creating derivatives is not allowed (read more about authors preferences here and here).

Although there are some orthodox Open Access advocates, who do not consider CC-BY-NC-ND as Open Access at all, we are cooperating with authors who want their works to be publicly available, but they do not want their work to be commercially re-used or modified. I think that the scientific community recognizes that CC-BY-NC-ND works as Open Access.

De Gruyter Open organizes an Emerging Scholar Monograph Competition, a contest for young academics. What is the goal of this competition?

The aim of these competitions is to offer budding researchers the possibility to publish their first books, which is a big step for anyone starting his or her academic career. The author of the best book proposal gets his or her book published in the Open Access model with no charges, so he or she may enjoy broad access to their own work, published in a professional way.

The first edition of this contest was announced in 2012. Now the second edition is going on and the winners will be announced on 15 November 2014. During both competitions we received most proposals from the field of linguistics, although there were submissions from various other fields.

What are the most important plans for De Gruyter Open Access Books?

We are launching Open Access book series in 8 disciplines: History, Language and Literature, Theology and Religious Studies, Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry, Life Sciences and Medicine. You can find more information about them on our website.

– In History we have already launched two series: OA History of Political Ideas and OA Scandinavian Archaeology, which are waiting for the first submissions.

– In Language and Literature: OA Historical Linguistics, OA Language Policy & Planning, OA Writing Systems.

– In Theology and Religious Studies: OA Hinduism, OA Philosophy of Religion, OA New Religious Movements.

– In Mathematics: OA Environmental Mathematics, OA Measure Theory, OA Optimization.

– In Medicine we will launch very soon series on the following subjects: Hematology, Alternative Medicine and Dentistry.

– In Chemistry we are going to start series in three topics: Chemical Biology, Sustainable Chemistry and Bioorganic and Medicinal Chemistry, and we are currently looking for series editors for all of them.

– Also in Physics we are looking for series editors for two topics: Quantum Information, and Thermodynamics. The series in Solid State Physics will soon be ready for submissions.

– Finally, in Life Sciences we will launch series on Marine Biology, Sociobiology and Genetics, and at this moment we are also looking for series editors.

The good news for authors is that the first books published in these series will be free of any charges, so authors will have the opportunity to enjoy Open Access publishing at no cost.

Thank you very much!

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