The UCSB Library is strongly committed to supporting Open Access initiatives promoting an open, inclusive, diverse, and sustainable publishing ecosystem in which all knowledge producers are equally empowered to publish and disseminate their research without barriers. Given the importance of the monograph to the creation and dissemination of research in the Humanities and Social Science, a shift to Open Access for academic monographs is not only possible but necessary. The UCSB Library’s participation in the COPIM project—including the Opening the Future initiative based on the principle of ‘Scaling Small’—is an important example of UCSB’s institutional commitment to Open Access transformation.
The COPIM project
Officially launched November 1, 2019, the Community-led Open Publication Infrastructures for Monographs (COPIM) is a three-year project funded by Research England and the Arcadia Fund—a charitable fund of Lisbet Rausing and Peter Baldwin—that intends to transform Open Access monograph publishing by delivering significant improvements to the infrastructures used by publishers, and by developing best practices for transitioning nonprofit, academic, independent and scholar-led publishers to Open Access.
COPIM’s primary goal is to improve and increase the sustainability of Open Access publishing by removing many of the barriers that currently exist with respect to the publication of Open Access monographs by non-profit presses in the Humanities and Social Science. The project has been designed to enable smaller non-profit publishers to publish Open Access books and get them into the existing distribution channels and library systems. Towards that goal and via seven different Work Packages, COPIM is piloting a range of initiatives to support transparent, sustainable, and community-governed infrastructures for the production, dissemination, discovery, and long-term preservation of open content and its data.
As a founding partner, the UCSB Library has been participating in the COPIM project since its inception, focused primarily on Work Package 4 efforts to develop COPIM’s open publication ecosystem’s governance procedures for monographs and create durable organizational structures for the coordination, governance, and administrative support of the project’s community-owned infrastructure.
‘Scaling Small’: COPIM’s strategy for enabling non-profit, academic, independent, and scholar-led presses in the Humanities and Social Science to transition to Open Access
In the context of the COPIM project, ‘Scaling Small’ involves creating an environment in which a large number of nonprofit publishers of whatever size, with a variety of business models, can sustainably transition to Open Access at a manageable cost through a collaborative effort. The concept is deeply rooted in promoting a sustainable collaborative environment, rather than a competitive publishing ecosystem, through the creation of unions of small independent or scholar-led presses that can provide mutual aid and logistical support, shared services, and best practices. One of these best practices is avoiding the use of Book Publishing Charges (BPCs) to finance Open Access monograph publishing. Given that funding for OA publishing projects is not widely available in the Humanities and Social Sciences, it’s often unclear who can or should be responsible for covering any potential BPC-related costs. Furthermore, there are significant ethical challenges, in the sense that BPCs can worsen existing inequities in access to the means of publishing, especially for publishers and authors in the Global South.
COPIM aims to showcase non-BPC-based Open Access business models that incorporate infrastructural innovations and cost reductions through streamlined operating processes, production workflows, and economic efficiencies. This approach will benefit all scales of publishing initiatives, including the Humanities and Social Science monographs originating from the Global North and the Global South. According to Adema & Moore, despite its Anglo-US bias, being predominantly UK/US/EU based, “COPIM represents monograph publishing scaled ‘small’ through its invitation to cooperate on developing an Open Access publishing ecosystem that has global reach but preserves local contexts.”
Opening the Future: a pioneering business model for the Humanities and Social Science monographs
The Opening the Future initiative is a pilot project showcasing alternative non-BPC-based Open Access business models for Humanities and Social Science monographs. As part of two case studies, COPIM located two non-OA publishers — Liverpool University Press and Central European University Press — willing to transition their business models to Open Access. Working with these two selected publishers over two years, COPIM will assist them in sustainably transitioning their economic models to Open Access via a hybrid OA-membership model.
This model will give member libraries access to a selection of the extensive backlists of these pilot presses, DRM-free, with perpetual access after three years of subscription. In return, this membership revenue will then be used to make newly published books openly accessible to anyone. Future membership fee rates will be lowered when the revenue target is met, and the entire monograph front-list will be openly accessible.
COPIM’s business model is designed to be sustainable for pilot presses and affordable to member libraries worldwide. While the overall production cost for individual monographs produced by the two pilot presses is pretty much in line with standard market rates (i.e., approximately $8,500 → $9,500 per title), library membership pricing tiers (based on bandings developed by LYRASIS and JISC) are highly affordable. For example, smaller research libraries in North America are being asked to pay a $425 membership price for each press. The largest will be paying a $1,425 membership price per year, which is half the price of the single Article Processing Charge (APC) at a major for-profit publisher. To put that in perspective, this cost gives libraries access to 50 titles. It represents an overall cost of $13 per book, an excellent rate.
Pilot presses are provided with assistance in implementing this model through Work Package 3 of the COPIM program, including documentation of the proposed ‘working model’ to create a free, open toolkit and roadmap for book publishers considering Open Access. According to Martin Eve, this “case study collaboration will be a keystone in the COPIM project’s future success. We hope that, with the documented success of Opening the Future, we will have a model that could lead to the widespread transition of university presses worldwide to OA.”
One important benefit of ‘Scaling Small’ as applied by COPIM to the Opening the Future initiative has been the capability to experiment, take risks, and try out new things. The larger publishing companies are often hesitant to do this, being generally more risk-averse or brand-aware. COPIM hopes that the development of new business models that are flexible, experimental, affordable, and supported by open-source infrastructure and systems will provide important community-led revenue models for Open Access book publishers in the Humanities and Social Science. In turn, these models will be able to support the establishment of even more community-governed infrastructures, as well as further promote publisher-librarian partnerships around Open Access book publishing.
In July 2021, Opening the Future was shortlisted as a finalist in the prestigious Association of Learned and Professional Society Publishers (ALPSP) Awards for Innovation in Publishing.
COPIM’s work is further evidence that the transition to open access for academic monographs in the Humanities and Social Science is already underway, and practical support is being put in place to enable its expansion in a way that fosters an open, equitable, diverse, community-owned, and community-governed publishing ecosystem. The project is already more than halfway to completing its objectives, and the infrastructures, workflows, and best practices COPIM is developing will be fully operational by the end of 2022.
Lidia Uziel is Associate University Librarian for Research Resources and Scholarly Communication at the University of California, Santa Barbara, where she holds the overall strategy, management, and planning responsibilities for the UCSB Library’s general and special collections, scholarly communication program, and technical services operations. Her current research is in digital knowledge management including the intersection of scholarly communication, libraries, and digital humanities/computational projects.