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The Continued Relevance of Peter Suber’s (2012) Book on Open Access

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Open Access Buttons, June 3, 2009 | © Courtesy of h_pampel.

As Open Access becomes a mainstream rather than a marginal phenomenon, a book-length argument in its favor Peter Suber (2012) proposes is validated by more recent findings.

A Book Review by Pablo Markin.


Few formats fit better Marshall MacLuhan’s dictum that “the medium is the message” than Open Access does. Peter Suber’s book Open Access published in 2012 by the MIT Press intends to be an authoritative source of reference on the notion of open access, its historical roots, its variegated models, policies proffered in its support, its possible scope, its copyright implications, its economic foundations and consequent limitations. In tune with the phenomenon of digitization that has enabled the emergence of open access in the first place, this publication is available in multiple digital formats, such as PDF, ePub and HTML as well as an online version at the Internet Archive. As this book has been translated into multiple other languages, such as Chinese Polish and French, it has become a standard source for arguments in favor and against Open Access.

Despite the elapsed time from the date of its publication, the digital supplement for this book provides further materials in respect to the effect Open Access is likely to have, such as a 2014 Australian study indicating that, other than its facilitating impact on scientific research, Open Access is also likely to make a positive contribution to policy-making, since it removes barriers to relevant findings that could be used for arguing for or against a particular policy. Recent evidence also supports Suber’s claim that Open Access increases citation impact. Moreover, as a model, Open Access raises the issue of editor remuneration, since it makes it possible to renegotiate the traditional journal publishing model according to which university libraries pay growing subscription fees to publishers, while editorial stuff performing most of the labor journal publication involves has to rely on external employment, such as at universities. Open Access also prompts public discussions on differentiating between the role scholarly articles play in the academic communities and economic models that subtend these.

Furthermore, Green Open Access is increasingly promoted via legislative actions as a preferred option for scientific publications, such as in Germany since 2014 and in the Netherlands since 2015. In response to the phenomenon of Open Access, most scientific publishers presently offer hybrid access options. While the primary impetus behind the Open Access movement has been the rising library subscription fees that have more than tripled in recent decades, developing countries are particularly disadvantaged by the fee-based model that puts scientific articles out of economic reach for the absolute majority of universities in Africa, for instance. By contrast, in recent years major scientific journal publishers have been enjoying double-digit profit margins. Open access can also offer a long term solution for the digital sharing of scientific publications that under existing argeements is limited by interlibrary loan procedures originally formulated in a pre-digital age.

Therefore, in the intervening years this publication has hardly lost any of its relevance as a sustained and up-to-date compendium of thoroughly researched scholarship on Open Access and reasons for its emergence.

By Pablo Markin


Featured Image Credits: Open Access Buttons, June 3, 2009 | © Courtesy of h_pampel.

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