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Martin Paul Eve

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

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One of the challenges for the open access movement has been to work out how to transition from a model in which libraries build their own local collections to one in which they fund open access. The model of article and book processing charges has led us to believe that these are different activities. Buying access to articles and books is “collection building” for access while paying for outputs of your own authors to be OA is “scholarly communications”.

This cognitive and economic model impedes our ability to think differently. For one thing, it places different merits on the expenditure. Collection building is seen as delivering local relevance and access for student and staff groups, while scholarly communications expenditure delivers research reach. The model also makes it harder for us to move budgets across from subscription expenditure to OA expenditure because the two types of expenditure are seen as delivering different goals (access vs. dissemination/reach). Models such as Opening the Future and the Open Library of Humanities (both of which I run), as well as Subscribe To Open (which I don’t), attempt to work around this by decoupling author-side output from payment.

Really, though, a better way of understanding what we’re trying to do with open access is that we want to build a global collection, once, for everyone. This is why high-quality, easy-to-ingest metadata for open-access materials is important for libraries; it means that the OA content contributes to a local collection. It’s also why I consider models that get away from “paying for your own authors” so important. Instead of building small fiefdoms with relative levels of access, we should re-conceive of the mission of OA as building a shared pool of knowledge, into which any of us can dip.