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Martin Paul Eve

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

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I have to admit, today, that I was wrong about the risk of others reprinting open-access monographs produced under a Creative Commons license. An outfit called “Saint Philip Street Press” has reprinted (on demand) the entire catalogues of Open Book Publishers, Ubiquity Press, UCL Press, and others. Here’s my Literature Against Criticism for sale, for instance. In any case, this poses some threat to OA publishers who rely on a revenue stream from selling the print copies of their books.

A few mitigating points/remedies:

  1. Perhaps the -NC license should be considered, after all. Again, I admit that I may have been overly naive/trusting/hopeful in previously spurning such a license. The world is such a disappointment.
  2. That said, it’s much cheaper to buy the book from Open Book Publishers. Even a cursory search would reveal this, say, on Amazon.
  3. It is possible for authors to contact the publisher – I am just working on getting their contact details – and insist that attribution is removed. This would be a lot of work for them and would also mean that they will have to reformat the book; take down its metadata etc. We could formulate a systematic approach to such troublesome takedowns to make it not worth their while.
  4. I am not sure that I, personally, care that much as an author (although I know that others certainly will). It’s more the potential for undermining, say, OBP that worries me here.
  5. There are those who will argue that this is a feature of OA books, not a bug. I understand this argument. It could be good for keeping old titles in print if abandoned by the press, for instance. However, I worry about the reputational damage this may do in the eyes of humanities authors who were just coming around to OA books. The copies are not high-quality reprints. They have third-party images etc. removed.

I suppose that the real author decision here, now, is: if you go for the most liberal licenses, you have to accept that this may happen. If you are not OK with this, then this license appears too liberal. I will probably still opt for CC BY-SA where I can, but others will be dissuaded.