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Martin Paul Eve

Professor of Literature, Technology and Publishing at Birkbeck, University of London

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An interesting conceptual dilemma arose today. At OLH we don’t believe that print is incompatible with OA/the digital. (This is usually the part of the Skype call where I hold up my print copy of Literature Against Criticism from Open Book Publishers.) Some of our titles sell print copies at, say, the $40 mark for an issue. This covers the print costs and postage and very little else.

Today we had a challenge with this. When a journal migrates across to OLH, we ask libraries who used to subscribe if they would consider supporting OLH. One reply we had to this was that the customer had “already bought the print version”, as though this covered our costs. There was a fundamental conceptual misunderstanding of what is being paid for when buying print as opposed to supporting a consortial membership model for OA, like OLH. When we sell a print copy, we are covering the costs to us of producing and shipping the object. An OLH membership, on the other hand, lets us create the OA and print editions. The media objects – digital or print – would not exist without this support.

Ways around this that I can think of:

  1. Make the only way to obtain print to be to have an OLH membership and then subtract the print cost from our revenue for institutions that want it (this has VAT implications);
  2. Make the only way to obtain print to be to have an OLH membership but make the membership (slightly) more expensive for everyone so anyone can request print, but not at a loss to us (this has VAT implications);
  3. Make the only way to obtain print to be to have an OLH membership and to purchase the print copy (this has more minor VAT implications);
  4. Continue to explain the difference between the fees and remain in a non-coercive relationship where we do not ask for libraries to pay in order to obtain their own benefit, but rather to fund the underlying labour of running a press. This is much more in the spirit of what we are trying to do.