"Open-access (OA) literature is digital, online, free of charge, and free of most copyright and licensing restrictions. What makes it possible is the internet and the consent of the author or copyright-holder."
-Peter Suber, from A Very Brief Introduction to Open Access
The Roots of Open Access
Open Access is also one solution to a serious problem for university libraries – a problem that affects all of us in academia, whether we are aware of it or not. That problem is the rising price of the work published in academic journals.
Traditionally, university libraries pay for peer-reviewed journal subscriptions so that students and faculty can get easy and free access to the scholarship they need. But in the past twenty years, as a more limited number of commercial publishers have taken over the publication of top-tier journals, the prices of subscriptions have skyrocketed, going up far faster than the rate of inflation. At the same time, the overall number of journals has mushroomed, as journals pop up to cover ever-more specialized subject matter.
The average cost of journals in many disciplines (especially in the areas of science, technology and medicine) is in the thousands, sometimes working out to hundreds of dollars per issue. Some journals cost upwards of $20,000 annually. Faced with high prices and sharp increases, libraries find themselves in a no-win situation. Researchers in every discipline and specialty need access to particular journals, and there is usually no option of finding a less-expensive competitor. Many libraries’ budgets for periodicals have been stretched thin, and eventually most will be forced to make substantial cuts in journal subscriptions or other library resources. Everyone agrees that the current model of academic publishing is not going to last.
You can read more about this crisis in scholarly communications here.
Approaches to Open Access
Open Access Repositories - Repositories may include pre-prints of articles, or the final published version after a period of time has passed since it appeared in a traditional subscription-based journal. Subject repositories provide access to authors' work--PubMed Central is an example of a subject repository. Institutional repositories provide access to the intellectual output of institutions. Emory is now building an Open Access Repository to showcase the scholarship produced by Emory faculty.
Open Access Journals - Journals freely available on the internet which frequently do not require the transfer of copyright to the journal by authors. Emory journals Southern Spaces, Practical Matters, Journal of Family Life, Methodist Review and Molecular Vision are examples (although Molecular Vision does ask for a transfer of copyright).
Open Access Books - Some publishers, such as Cornell University Press, offer open access versions of books with the option to purchase a copy to be printed on demand.
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