Open access is now: Good news or bad news?

open signAt the TAA Conference in Philadelphia this past month, I heard many comments about open access. They varied widely from support, to derision, to misunderstanding, to apathy.

First, what is open access? In its purest form, open access is offering or publishing material online, free of cost or barriers with an open license that removes most restrictions on use and reuse. The open access or OA movement has been around twenty plus years with its roots going back much farther than that.

Many people associate OA with peer review scholarly journals. The OA option has transformed the subscription publishing model. Before authors would have their work published in a journal that had barriers to accessing the content, but the publishing cost them nothing (and they made nothing) from the effort.

Now many authors that choose to publish via OA have to pay an APC or article processing charge. This fee may be a few hundred dollars, or a few thousand. But the published article has no restrictions and can be read by anyone, anywhere in the world. Some of the largest OA journals are also the most prestigious and most sought after. It is no longer looked down upon, but is a legitimate option for authors, like it or not.

Or course there are organizations that take advantage of this system. They are predatory publishers. They accept all papers and add no value to content. They are just in it for the money. There are ways to spot these companies and lists that call out journals for these practices.

This aside, OA journal publishing is here to stay. And it is legit.

Open access moved over to other materials such course materials and books years ago. Less mature systems exist in book publishing than in the journal publishing, but they are coming.

At TAA, I heard people disparage OA book publishing. Some OA book programs deserve it, but many do not and certainly they all don’t need to painted with the same brush.

I am neutral regarding the push and pull between OA and the model that requires the readers to pay/buy the content. Both will continue to exist and serve their purpose.

But OA books is real and will continue to grow. Authors and readers will need to understand and adapt to these models.

Like or not, the world is moving toward free and open. Encyclopedia Britannicawas a monolith and now, due to Wikipedia, it is virtually unknown by today’s students.

Look at YouTube. Free content. Countless other examples exist. Search the web for any educational topic and you will find wheat and chaff. An important new skill will be to educate students, readers, consumers, and authors on how to tell the high-quality free content sites from the low quality, ad-ridden, scam sites. It can be done.

All TAA members will be affected one way or another by open access, either as authors, readers, or instructors. Adjusting with the changing landscape is all it takes.

Let me know about your experience and perspective on open access. I am all ears.


John BondJohn Bond is a publishing consultant at Riverwinds Consulting. He works with individuals on publishing and writing projects. Schedule an initial complimentary phone call at Publishing Fundamentals. In his career, he has directed the publishing of over 500 book titles and 20,000 journal articles. He is the host of the YouTube channel “Publishing Defined.”Contact him at jbond@riverwindsconsulting.com.