OpenEdition at Berlin 11

This week, Elena Giglia, head of the open access programme at Torino University, is our guest editor. OpenEdition team invited her to give an account of the Berlin 11 conference. Here’s her summary of Marin Dacos’ presentation.

During the session The global perspective: OA at work, Marin Dacos gave an overview of OpenEdition.

The starting point was the idea of bibliodiversity – biodiversity applied to the scientific communication environment in the humanities and the social sciences, in which each “piece” of knowledge is a seed that is worth being cultivated, freely, and not in closed silos as happens with knowledge in the restricted access framework. As in the ecosystem, diversity is the key for innovation, evolution and adaptability. Against the idea of a sort of “monocultural agriculture”, English- and article-driven, the notion of diversity is the key, and can be seen in terms of diversity of languages, disciplines,  publication types and players.

As for languages, national languages still play a central role mainly in the humanities. Thomson Reuters’ Web of Knowledge database seems not to be aware of this, as it states: “English is the universal language of science. For this reason Thomson Reuters focuses on journals that publish full text in English, or at very least, bibliographic information in English.” The evidence calls this into question though, because in 2010 only 27% of the content on the net was in English (source: Net.Lang: Towards the Multilingual Cyberspace, 2012) and the Latin-American free database SciELO (Open Access, http://www.scielo.br/), with its Spanish and Portuguese content, is now competing with the well-established, English content-driven JSTOR (restricted access, www.jstor.org/) in terms of unique visitors and downloads. If you have a look at the web portals ranking, in the first ten places only one site is US-based; others are from Brazil, Spain, China, France, Sweden, Chile… (Ranking Web of Repositories). So, the web is more and more multilingual and multipolar, even in its academic/scientific reality: if you take OpenEdition, logs show a widely diffused public across the world, and the 35,000,000 annual visits tell us a lot about interest and visibility.

As for disciplines, the same Web of Knowledge claims to cover “the leading scholarly literature”, but, to stick to a distinguished French example, Annales, the worldwide-reputed history journal, founded by Lucien Febvre and Marc Bloch, is not included. As for infrastructures, the humanities and social sciences account for just 1% of ESFRI funds (ESFRI Reports). In Marin Dacos’ words, this means: “Without initial investment, No initiative, Without initiative, No viable proposition, Without viable proposition, No leadership, Without leadership, No investment…and no diversity.”

As for publication types, books are still the main communication channel in the humanities. But very few large-scale projects deal with books (Ebrary, or the cited JSTOR, in restricted access, OAPEN or OpenEdition in Open Access). Moreover, given that open access means toll-free access, it is to be considered that even in the digital world the cost of producing quality digital books is quite the same as in the past (around 6000 euros, source: OAPEN Final report, Oct. 2013).

In other words, new, sustainable business models ought to be found in order to offer Open Access to books. Unsuitable options are giving only one chapter for free, or giving away the consonants and selling the vowels [the floor is still laughing at that!].

OpenEdition adopts the Freemium model (i.e. free+premium), the same model used by Skype and Dropbox and Flickr: whilst basic services are free, if you want advanced features you have to pay for them.

That means that on OpenEdition’s OpenEdition Books platform, people can freely read content in HTML, and print, copy and paste, save, but they have to pay for services (pdf, ePub, eReader). Libraries, too, have to pay for services, which include a wide range of discovery tools services, crosslinking, alerts…

For publishers, OpenEdition Books is profitable because the only constraint is to put at least 50% of their catalogue in Open Access (even though, as of now, the vast majority of the 26 publishers on the platform provide between 56% and 100% of their catalogue in Open Access), and they receive 66% of the revenues.

The aim is to demonstrate that Open Access is not only successful but also sustainable, and that it can assure the bibliodiversity that the humanities and social sciences deserve.

Marin Dacos concluded by promoting the Manifesto for the Digital Humanities and inviting participants to join it, for the sake of diversity, which, as shown before, is the key to innovation and evolution.


Elena Giglia

Responsabile Progetti Open Access
Sistema Bibliotecario di Ateneo
Università degli Studi di Torino

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