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Open Access Leads to the Reorganization of Traditional Publishing Rather than its Decline

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Open textbooks fill digital shelves, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, September 11, 2013 | © Courtesy of the Province of British Columbia.

While Open Access has been considered a threat to traditional publishing models, the market for both printed and electronic content remains robust.

A Blog Article by Pablo Markin.


Though as recently as several years ago Open Access has been listed among the challenges that the traditional publishing industry has been dealing with, in a recent publishing market overview content access flexibility that digitization has introduced has only led to the adjustment in the education-related publishing sector, rather than to its consistent decline. In other words, the negative impact of digitization on scholarly and education publishers has been repeatedly exaggerated, even though in recent years Open Access policies and innovative subscription services have had a marked influence on scholarly publishers.

Furthermore, as recent developments in the field of Open Access textbooks demonstrate, such as the Canadian BC Open Textbook Project, open access solutions have demonstrated the ability to maintain a quality control of their offerings, while turning them into viable contenders in the publishing market. In Canada, provincial governments have made significant investments into the development of high-quality peer-reviewed online content in the Open Access format for the education sector. The British Columbia’s Open Access initiative has been emulated by the Open Textbook Library for Ontario project aimed at the creation of professionally composed textbooks in numerous academic areas, while attracting multi-million provincial-level investments. In other words, rather than decreasing the inflow of financial resources into the educational publishing market, these Open Access initiatives have acted as catalysts for further support for their business models, as developing these initiatives obviate the necessity of end-users and academic institutions to pay copyright-related fees for their educational materials in perpetuity.

This is, in many countries, seconded by national policies mandating Open Access for scientific publications aimed at making the majority of all publications freely accessible. In some countries and sub-fields this is already the case, according to Science-Metrix based in Montreal. Yet, academic institutions and research libraries have not ceased purchasing licensed content, such as books and journal subscriptions. Thus, Open Access content has led to the rise of new forms of licensing and the revision of existing content access agreements, rather than a sharp drop in content acquisitions. Furthermore, the eventual effect of Open Access on scholarly publishers and the revenue streams that their agreements with universities generate is likely to be dependent on national-level legal and policy-making environments.

In other words, as in recent decades academic publishing has continued to grow apace both in the amount of works and articles published and the paid and unpaid editorial labor input into their production, the balance of national policy-making and public opinion starts to tip in favor of Open Access, while incentivizing increasing the accessibility of research results, acceleration of publication policies and deploying experimental access solution for both scientific books and articles.

By Pablo Markin


Featured Image Credits: Open textbooks fill digital shelves, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, September 11, 2013 | © Courtesy of the Province of British Columbia.

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