A Different Flavor of Open Access at UC Berkeley: Opening Books For the World

Photograph of a book on its side with sitckies protruding from the pagesBook by Dean Hochman, CC BY 2.0

The UC Berkeley community creates a vast array of knowledge and educational content, including thousands of journal articles, books, data sets, and other scholarly projects each year. UC Berkeley authors, like those throughout the University of California campuses, take to heart the university’s public research mission, and aim to make these materials broadly available, not just to researchers and students here, but to anyone around the world. The push for improved access to the research record is what led to the adoption of UC’s two open access policies, which help ensure that journal articles authored by UC Berkeley scholars can be made available to the public for free, without any financial, legal, or technical barriers to readership other than gaining access to the Internet, itself.

Headway with open access journal articles

Within the publishing enterprise, the creation of journal articles is a foundational activity for many faculty, as the UC conducts nearly ten percent of the academic research and development activity in the United States. So, it is not surprising that for authors writing journal articles, there are a variety of ways to make their research open access. For instance, UC’s open access policies guarantee that UC authors can deposit their final, peer-reviewed manuscripts into eScholarship, our institutional repository, where the articles may be read by anyone for free. 

Another way the UC has been furthering open access is by negotiating transformative agreements with scholarly journal publishers (like the one with Cambridge University Press). These new arrangements repurpose the funds the library typically spends on subscriptions to instead subsidize publication costs—over timing shifting the bulk of payments to cover publishing rather than access to content, as more and more of that content becomes free to read.

Other local programs, such as the Berkeley Research Impact Initiative (BRII), provide funding to help UC Berkeley authors pay for article processing charges that are sometimes required to publish in fully open access journals. (These up-front fees serve to replace revenue the publisher would have generated through library subscriptions.) In 2018-2019 the Library was able to defray the article processing charges for more than fifty UC Berkeley authors looking to publish in fully open access journals.

Ensuring books don’t get left behind

But for some disciplines, the scientific journal takes a back seat to other types of outputs such as scholarly monographs (a fancy term for books). In areas such as the arts, humanities, and social sciences, communicating knowledge through book form is just as common, and just as relevant, to scholarship. 

Significantly, the audience for monographs is not just other faculty: Monographs form a key component of what gets assigned for student reading in university classrooms. Assigning open textbooks instead of commercial offerings can be a big help to students’ bank accounts. Some college textbooks cost over $200, and prices have risen 88% in the last decade. Rice University’s OpenStax has produced dozens of open textbooks, and recently reported that in 2019 alone, nearly 3 million students will save an estimated $233 million by using its open textbooks. The benefits of open access textbooks extend beyond just cost savings for students, though. When books are made available under open licenses that permit broad reuse, instructors may continually build upon, improve, and re-share these educational materials. And authors can communicate with diverse audiences and begin to address inequities in access to knowledge, as translations or localized and contextualized versions can be developed and used. 

There’s no discrepancy in the overall quality or effectiveness of open textbooks versus traditional ones. A recent study confirmed previous research showing that students learn just as well from open textbooks as with commercial texts. Likewise, university presses follow the same peer review and editorial processes for the online versions of monographs as they do for the print versions. The only change, and benefit, is that the final text is available for free to read. 

So, it is clear that we have an imperative when it comes to open access books: How can we work to open up long-form scholarship to the world to mirror the strides we are making with journal articles?

Publishing books under open access terms is increasingly common, but still somewhat slow to tip the balance relative to book publishing overall. A recent report on the state of open access monographs found that there are around 19,000 open access books in total, even though approximately 86,000 scholarly monographs are published internationally every year. Part of the impediment for publishers  is navigating how to recover their investment for the production of open access books, and the concern for libraries rests in how to sustain the publishers that take on these projects. This is because monographs are typically more complex and costly to produce than a journal article. A journal publisher might ask for an article processing charge of between a few hundred to a few thousand dollars to make up for what it would have received in subscription sales. But publishers estimate that producing monographs costs them anywhere between $28,000 and $40,000 in production and marketing costs that they believe they can’t recoup without print sales. 

The good news is that some emerging funding models are helping to bridge the cost recovery gap— including work by groups such as the Open Humanities Press, Knowledge Unlatched, and TOME. The University of California Press also supports the creation of open access books, too, through its Luminos initiative. In these and other models, production costs can be outsourced, and there are multiple funding streams (including fairly large subsidies from universities and libraries) that can offset some of the publisher investment. Some university presses are also finding that offering online versions of books actually drive up sales for print-on-demand copies. So, it shows we still have a lot to learn about actual costs and cost recovery with open access books.

UC Berkeley has got your open access book covered

For all of these reasons, the UC Berkeley Library is committed to supporting the creation of open access monographs. In 2017 the Library expanded the BRII program so that Berkeley authors could publish scholarly books open access at zero or substantially reduced costs—making these books free and accessible to readers here at Berkeley, and everywhere.  

In just two years, we have now supported more than a dozen authors in the creation of open access books, with everything from copyright guidance to publishing platforms to funding. (You can read more about some of these efforts here.)  And through BRII, we have already funded the publication of three UC Berkeley authored or edited open access monographs hitting the digital shelves now (or soon). These books are available for free online under a Creative Commons license (which allows a variety of reuses), and typically offer multiple formats for reading on various mobile devices. Readers that still wish to enjoy the book on paper can do that as usually there’s also a print copy available for purchase, or more affordable print-on-demand options.

Image of book cover of "#identity: Hashtagging Race, Gender, Sexuality, and Nation"

We are thrilled to be able to support such cutting-edge and important UC Berkeley scholarship. For instance, #identity: Hashtagging Race, Gender, Sexuality, and Nation, recently published by the University of Michigan Press, was edited by UC Berkeley’s Abigail De Kosnik (Associate Professor in the Department of Theater, Dance, and Performance, and Director of the Berkeley Center for New Media) and Keith Feldman (Associate Professor in the Department of Ethnic Studies). #identity is made available for free in EPUB and PDF formats under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial (CC BY-NC) license, or for purchase on the University of Michigan Press website

The book contains essays from scholars affiliated with UC Berkeley’s Color of New Media collective, and explores social media through the lens of social justice movement organizing, the adoption of hashtags in online communications, and the “ways in which Twitter has been used by, for, and against women, people of color, LGBTQ, and Global South communities.” Feldman describes the book as attempting to address foundational questions such as: “Is the field of new media studies presumptively white? What do scholars of color and communities of color think about the field, and what kinds of interventions can be made along the way?” 

Even though the idea to publish #identity as an open access book came midway through the publication process, all the authors thought that opening the book for free access and download was a positive move. Keith mentioned that as most of the essay contributors were graduate students or postdocs, it gave them an opportunity to share their work quickly and effectively, and start building their scholarly reputation. 

What Is a Family? Answers from Early Modern Japan was published just this week on the UC Press’ Luminos platform. It was authored by Mary Elizabeth Berry (Class of 1944 Professor of History Emerita at UC Berkeley) and Marcia Yonemoto (Professor of History at the University of Colorado Boulder).  What Is a Family is made available for free in EPUB, MOBI, and PDF formats under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives (CC BY-NC-ND) license, or for purchase on the Luminos website

Finally, Archive Feelings: A Theory of Greek Tragedy will be published in 2020 by Ohio State University Press. It was written by Mario Telò, Professor of Classics at UC Berkeley, and will be open access upon publication.

Creating open textbooks with Pressbooks

Another way we’re supporting open access textbooks is through the UC Berkeley Open Book Publishing Platform. The platform runs on PressbooksEDU, an easy-to-use web publishing tool that lets authors design and publish books and open educational resources (OERs) online. Anyone with an active @berkeley.edu email can use this digital publishing software for free. Our office worked with UC Berkeley faculty during the 2017-2018 affordable course content pilot program to explore how instructors could shift from using traditional textbooks to using (or creating) open textbooks. We estimated that switching to open educational resources could save students more than $100 per course.

Image of the book cover of "Interpreting Love Narratives in East Asian Literature and Film"

With grant funding, copyright, and publishing support from our office as part of our OER program, John Wallace, lecturer in the Japanese Department at UC Berkeley, was able to write and recently publish his new book, Interpreting Love Narratives in East Asian Literature and Film. It’s available as a PDF, EPUB, and MOBI formats, and licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial (CC BY-NC) license

Interpreting Love Narratives was, for John, an exercise in writing a book in a new way. He noted that many small traditional presses in the language fields are quite narrow in the form, length, and substance of monographs they will consider taking on. However, with the PressbooksEDU publishing format, John was able to find the freedom to write and organize a book to meet his own needs. One benefit to digital production and editing is that since contemporary fields like neuroscience are changing so fast, his book can be easily updated. “It’s liberated me to make statements based on scientific developments that at least I could do something about if the ship turned in a different direction,” said Wallace. 

Improving affordability to student textbooks is a major reason John took on writing an open access book. In his Japanese grammar class, the books typically assigned to students cost anywhere from $50 to even $100. “I can’t do it. These students don’t have a lot of money,” he said. “So instead, I’m going to put together my own materials.” 

Wallace sees a bright future for open access books. He thinks that open and online is going to be the primary format for how people are publishing things. “I can’t imagine given the costs and the process of the traditional system against the alacrity and agility and distribution power of open…I don’t see how it can’t be the winner in the long run.” 

If you’re considering publishing an open access book and are seeking funding and guidance, or are an instructor looking to get involved in creating or adopting an open educational resource, please get in touch! Also, if you’re interested in learning how to use Pressbooks, check out the workshop on October 15. We are here to help bring your work to the widest possible audiences.


Off the to races with the Office of Scholarly Communication Services

Chinese students sprintingPhoto by Goh Rhy Yan on Unsplash

It’s that time of year again. Students are back on campus, classes are in session, and the Library’s Office of Scholarly Communication Services is here to help everyone hit the ground running with resources and workshops on digital publishing, copyright, and open access to research. 

As usual, there’s a lot going on!

On September 25 we’re hosting a workshop on Copyright and Fair Use in Digital Projects. With pretty much everyone being a digital creator these days, the training will help you navigate copyright, fair use, and other rights related to including third-party content in your digital project. We’ll also provide an overview of what your intellectual property rights are as a creator and ways to license and share your own work too. 

We’re happy to again present a series of publishing workshops to guide graduate students and postdocs on a variety of copyright, publishing, and scholarly impact issues. On October 22 we’ll be talking about copyright questions and legal considerations for your dissertation or thesis. October 23 we’re hosting a panel discussion on how to navigate the publication process from dissertation to first book. The event will include discussion from a university press acquisitions editor, a first-time book author, and an author rights expert. And October 25 we’re wrapping up the week with a workshop that will provide participants with practical strategies and tips for promoting your scholarship, increasing citations, and understanding scholarly reach and metrics

There are lots of ways the Office of Scholarly Communication Services is here to help faculty, students, and staff. A quick rundown:

Want help or more information? Send us an email. We can provide individualized support and personal consultations, in-class and online instruction, presentations and workshops for small or large groups & classes, and customized support and training for departments and disciplines.