“However the element of the report that most caught my attention had to do with the issue of discovery. How are readers and others who need to make use of monographs supposed to identify and engage with the open access content they need? Current gaps in support for those activities impact on the future of digital monographs. As the Digital Science report notes, citation activity of scholarship appearing in monograph form may take two to four years to be noticed in blogs, news outlets, or even in Wikipedia citations. There is a time lag for such titles to be captured in subsequent scholarly works. Those citations — in an environment where every data point may be examined — are critical to proper valuation of a particular monograph. Today’s monographs need hosting environments that properly enable discovery and evidence of use, particularly with regard to open access titles.
This is where the Open Research Library (ORL) from Knowledge Unlatched makes sense. From the perspective of the researcher in our present environment, there is no mechanism for identifying open access monographs that may be relevant to their studies. One can, as I did, run a Google query searching for open access literary criticism on Jane Austen. It’s very easy to uncover journal articles in that situation as the Jane Austen Society of North America has long made articles from its journal, Persuasions, freely accessible. It is not as easy to uncover open access monographs about the works of Jane Austen. (JSTOR gets a thumbs up here for enabling me to find one such book title in the first 10 results on Google and multiple gold stars for making it immediately obvious that the title was open access.)…”
“Open access is a movement constituted by conflict and disagreement rather than consensus and harmony. Given just how much disagreement there is about strategies, definitions, goals, etc., it is incredible that open access has successfully transformed the publishing landscape (and looks set to continue to do so). As OA increases in popularity and inevitability, more conflict arises between those from a range of disciplines and positions, and especially those encountering OA for the first time (often through coercive mandates)….”
We share the concerns of our fellow ScholarLed consortium member Open Book Publishers (OBP) regarding KU’s under-publicized acquisition by fullstopp, and also question KU’s moves since 2016 into what increasingly looks like OA platform capitalism and rent-seeking, whereby those businesses, such as Facebook and Google, that are claiming to be “neutral arbiters and spaces of informational exchange” are, in fact, “siphoning value from socio-cultural activity,” and “rather than producing new value,” they “simply coordinate virtual properties and charge for their use.” Most worryingly, these platforms confuse “capital-flow and social form, rearranging the relationship of profit to community (and therefore class), and of intelligence to organization.” We are witnessing an important moment in history where platforms are emerging as a “third institutional form, along with states and markets.”ScholarLed was formed by a collective of OA books presses (Mattering Press, meson press, Open Book Publishers, Open Humanities Press, and punctum books), who share a commitment to opening up scholarly research to diverse readerships, to resisting the marketization of academic knowledge production, and to working col
Knowledge Unlatched (KU) is back in the news. Founded as a not-for-profit open access (OA) book publisher by Dr. Frances Pinter, the organization has gone through a couple iterations until re-emerging as a for-profit company headed by Dr. Sven Fund. (Despite its for-profit status, KU continues to use its old URL, with a .org domain.) KU is now hard at work on developing its program, including its business model. A major piece of this, recently announced in an interview by Fund, is the Open Research Library (ORL), which aims to be a comprehensive collection of all OA books, of which there are now (according to KU) about 15,000-20,000, with approximately 4,000 more being added every year. KU can aggregate all these books, which have many publishers, because of the terms of their Creative Commons (CC) licenses, which encourage reuse and sharing. And that is what has set off a seismic disturbance.
“Resolving the question of how to provide an infrastructure for open access books and monographs has remained a persistent problem for researchers, librarians and funders. Knowledge Unlatched’s recent announcement of the open book platform – The Open Research Library – a project aimed at bringing together all available open book content onto one platform has been met with mixed responses. In this post Marcel Knöchelmanndiscusses the implications of Knowledge Unlatched business strategy and raises the question: Who really benefits from centralising access to open book content?…”
“Over recent years, Knowledge Unlatched has harnessed the effectiveness of its consortial funding model to become the largest gatekeeper to open access for scholarly books. But as Marcel Knöchelmann describes, the changing of its status from that of a community interest company to a German GmbH or public limited company, and that it is now fully owned by the consultancy fullstopp, has gone largely uncommunicated. This information has assumed greater pertinence and urgency following the decision to appoint fullstopp to collect and analyse data that will be used to inform future policy decisions on open access. The researchers, publishers, and librarians inevitably impacted by the outcomes of this consultation should be afforded the transparency to know that the parent company of the commercial entity which stands to profit from a future of open access book publishing is advising on what the future of open access book publishing in the UK should be….”
” “What researchers really want right now, says Sven Fund, “is one platform where you can search within one environment and where you don’t hit a paywall.”
That platform and that environment is being announced today (May 16) by Fund’sKnowledge Unlatched.Open Research Libraryis, a program of free access to open access content. The beta edition of the Open Research Library is available now, with a full launch expected in October.
Created with the assistance of a platoon of partners, the Open Research Library is meant to bring together all open access book content in the coming months, providing a one-stop hub with broad organizational categories to aid in searches….”
“Free access to scientific content is often limited due to the fragile technical infrastructure around it: content is stored in a variety of versions at various locations and without any uniform search functionalities. The Open Access initiative Knowledge Unlatched has addressed this growing problem and is now launching the Open Research Library together with several international partners. Its goal is to unite all Open Access (OA) book content over the coming months. To this end the Open Research Library is working with publishers and libraries worldwide and is open to all providers and users of quality-assured research content.
Around 15,000 to 20,000 books have been published Open Access worldwide to date, freely available to users all over the world, and about 4,000 more are added every year. Currently these titles are offered for use by scientists on numerous different publishing and distribution websites. The aim of this new initiative is to combine all available book content under one search and hosting interface and to ensure that the provision of corresponding catalogue data is made available to library systems. The hosting of all book content is free of charge. In order to finance the ongoing technical costs Knowledge Unlatched will initiate a partner project to secure the necessary funding….”
OpenEdition Books Select is the first crowdfunding programme for scientific publishing in French. Launched in 2018 in partnership with Knowledge Unlatched and the Couperin consortium, this unprecedented project aims to publish in open access a bundle of books by major publishers in the humanities and social sciences. The crowdfunding campaign is aimed at libraries around the world, enabling them to offer any reader access to French-language content of the highest quality. This ethical and transparent model is based on a collaboration between publishers and libraries committed to open science….”
“In 2012 serial entrepreneur Frances Pinter founded a new company called Knowledge Unlatched (KU). The goal, she explained in 2013, was to “change the way we fund the publishing of quality content” for book-length publications, and in a way that would allow them to be made open access.
With that end in mind, Pinter launched a pilot project in which research libraries were invited to pool money to fund the “fixed costs” of publishing monographs. By doing so, Pinter reasoned, PDF and HTML versions of these “unlatched” books could be made freely available on the Web, but print and other premium versions would continue to be sold in the traditional manner. And those libraries that contributed to the pool would earn the right to buy the premium versions at a discounted price.
In a spirit of civic-mindedness Pinter created Knowledge Unlatched as a UK non-profit Community Interest Company (CIC). And with Pinter’s formidable reputation as a publisher, KU quickly acquired mindshare and influence, and went on to play an important role in the thinking about the scope and opportunities for OA monographs, as well as in policy development – both in the UK and globally.
Above all, says Pinter below, KU went on to provide proof of concept for a new way of funding OA monographs, and perhaps of funding OA more generally….”
“So – why is OBP not going to participate in this KU offering?
To begin with, we have had growing misgivings about the objectives and actions of KU since it transitioned from being a “non-profit” community interest company (registered in the UK) to a “for profit” commercial entity (registered in Germany), and in their own lack of openness about their business model and operations, echoing the concerns articulated by Marcel Knöchelmann his LSE Impact blog post.
More specific concerns with this particular programme emerged when OBP was invited to participate as a publisher and we were provided with a template publisher’s contract. The contract has a number of concerning restrictions, but the most concerning is the very first one: …
These types of exclusivity contracts can be used by digital “platforms” as a strategy to monopolise and dominate an industry….
We also hope that funders will recognise the importance of developing open and collectively-controlled, community-driven infrastructures to sit alongside, and so place a competitive check on, profit-oriented alternatives….”
“Over recent years, Knowledge Unlatched has harnessed the effectiveness of its consortial funding model to become the largest gatekeeper to open access for scholarly books. But as Marcel Knöchelmann describes, the changing of its status from that of a community interest company to a German GmbH or public limited company, and that it is now fully owned by the consultancy fullstopp, has gone largely uncommunicated. This information has assumed greater pertinence and urgency following the decision to appoint fullstopp to collect and analyse data that will be used to inform future policy decisions on open access. The researchers, publishers, and librarians inevitably impacted by the outcomes of this consultation should be afforded the transparency to know that the parent company of the commercial entity which stands to profit from a future of open access book publishing is advising on what the future of open access book publishing in the UK should be.”
Eelco Ferwerda (OAPEN), Lucy Montgomery (Knowledge Unlatched Research), and Christina Emery (Springer Nature) recently joined OASPA and Knowledge Exchange for a webinar to discuss new developments in Open Access monographs in the humanities and social sciences. Jeroen Sondervan (Knowledge Exchange) chaired the discussion. The Copyright Clearance Center hosted the webinar. Leyla Williams, Events and Communications Coordinator at OASPA, reflects on the discussion.
“Berlin, 5th October 2017 Knowledge Unlatched (KU) is pleased to announce its transformation into a central Open Access (OA) platform. Through this platform, KU will support publishers and OA initiatives by managing the funding processes for their OA models. It will also provide libraries and funders all over the world with one central place where they can support OA programmes. Knowledge Unlatched’s core product, KU Select, will remain an important part of the platform, and will be including STEM alongside HSS titles in 2018.”
Abstract: While open access publishing for journals is well established, open access monograph publishing is taking longer to gain momentum. This is in large part due to the financial challenges involved in publishing monographs. Publishers are concerned that the availability of a free open access edition will cannibalise print sales and therefore the publisher’s ability to recoup the costs involved in producing a book i.e. peer review, editing, typesetting, technological infrastructure, sales, marketing and staff. But is that really the case? Or does the availability of the open access version mean wider access to the book, all round the world and to new audiences, and in some cases increased print sales as a result of the greater visibility? This article will look at some statistics from the OAPEN-UK / Jisc project that has been investigating open access monograph publishing during the last five years. As part of its research, the project ran a pilot comparing open access monograph download figures with print sales of comparable books to assess what the effect on print sales actually is. It will also review the Knowledge Unlatched pilot, which made 28 books by a range of publishers available as open access, with some interesting results. The outcome of these pilots will be compared with UCL Press’s own experience since launching as the UK’s first fully open access university press in June 2015, along with some examples from other open access publishers.