The Open Library of Humanities (OLH) is a non-profit organisation and publishing platform, dedicated to making scholarly publishing fair and accessible. The TIB supports the OLH and has joined the OLH LPS model. Read on and find out why.
An everyday episode
The other day a colleague told me about a journal. Specialised subject, highly respected in its community, dedicated editors. Small but perfectly formed, you could say.
Anyone publishing there is in good hands. Because the journal is also Open Access and neither readers nor authors have to pay for it. The journal is blissfully ignorant of the unwieldy term “Article Processing Charges” (APC). The sponsor, a research institution, picks up the bill. No author has to worry about open access funding and the piggy bank is safe.
But there is a catch: The journal is hosted by a large publishing house. For this service, the publisher receives an annual fee, nothing to speak of. This is called “sponsored” Open Access. The publisher, however, is increasingly dissatisfied with the journal. The publisher has a business-plan, the publisher looks at things in terms of sales and returns. From this point of view the journal appears small but far from perfectly formed. The journal and its editors, on the other hand, think in terms of cutting edge research and sound submissions.
Now the publisher has made the editors an offer. That’s what it’s called in a business letter, because putting a gun to someone’s head seems somewhat inappropriate in this context. Anyway, the journal is to double the number of its articles. For a start. And it should introduce APC. The APC are high, absolutely no comparison to the current annual fee.
More articles, high APC. That’s no problem, the publisher is certain – thinking of the big deals recently signed with libraries and research institutes. They will pay for all the articles their researchers want to publish.
This is a problem, the editors are certain – thinking of the difficulties of finding more authors and maintaining quality. They do not believe that an increase makes sense from an academic point of view. So, what to do? The publisher has a good name and a well-known web-address. Everyone consulting the journal is familiar with this name and this address. The journal does not want to kiss goodbye to all this.
Quite frankly, this story frustrates me. It is a good example of the mechanics scholarly publishing is subject to. Even, and this is particularly discouraging, if it’s an Open Access journal controlled by an academic editorial board.
A viable alternative
Initiatives from within the academic community – such as the Open Library of Humanities (OLH) – show that things can work differently. The OLH is a non-profit publication platform based in London and designed to meet the needs of the Humanities and Social Sciences.
The OLH works as a not-for-profit publishing partner for select journals that have been transformed to Open Access and are financed without APC. The journals’ continued existence is secured by payments from the international OLH consortium, which includes libraries, universities, and research funding organizations.
With this model, the OLH has been able to demonstrate convincingly that there are viable alternatives to APC, to big deals, and to the concept of sales and returns. Since its launch in 2015, it has received recognition and awards for its work and has grown significantly: counting 7 journals and 99 funding institutions in the beginning it now numbers 27 journals and nearly 300 funding institutions. You can definitely say: The OLH has a good name and a well-known web-address.
In October 2020 the OLH celebrated its fifth anniversary. The TIB says Happy Birthday OLH! We support your work and have joined the party (aka OLH Library Partnership Subsidy Program).
As to the journal from our little story: We hope that you can dodge the bullet and that you will find a publishing partner such as the OLH, maintaining your scientific integrity.
Open Access Transition
The publishing industry could undoubtedly use more initiatives like the Open Library of Humanities. The TIB’s mission is to provide optimal access to scientific literature and information, this same principle governs our Open Access strategy. Diversity, sustainability, and the establishment of non-profit publishing platforms are key to the Open Access transition, which the TIB helps to shape with financial support and action.