The issue of Open Access (OA) has been an important and sometimes contentious subject in academic publishing for at least the past 10 years. Arising from a desire to see research (often publicly funded) made accessible to the widest possible audience, it has very worthy ideals. Although the main concentration of Open Access publications has been in the journals field, where the prices charged for subscriptions by larger publishers has been taking an ever greater part of the library budget, books are increasingly coming under pressure to be Open Access. In light of this, I thought it would be useful to clarify our position on OA and to discuss what I see as the possibilities and constraints of Open Access monograph publication.
Channel View Publications Ltd / Multilingual Matters is an academic book publisher, and we believe that, traditionally, it is our job to do the full work of the publisher. This includes full copyediting and typesetting of all the manuscripts that come our way, running all of the administrative processes involved in the editorial creation (and where necessary playing a part in the creation of the book), paying our authors and series editors a fair royalty on every dollar that their book earns, and financing a full and proactive global sales and marketing campaign. We also pay reviewers of proposals and manuscripts. We invest somewhere between 5,000 and 15,000 dollars in every book that we publish, the exact amount depending on the size and complexity of the book. In some cases the investment is even higher than this. We recoup that investment by selling copies of the book, and in the majority of cases we will not make a profit for at least the first 3 years of the book’s life, when staff and overhead costs are taken into consideration. Many of our books never make a profit, and when they do, those profits are overwhelmingly re-invested in future publications. We also believe in providing a healthy and happy workplace for our staff and paying them a living wage, a cost that is often hidden by some cheaper OA publishers, who rely on volunteers and academics working for free.
Channel View Publications Ltd / Multilingual Matters has always been committed to publishing important research in often under-researched and under-funded fields. We do our very best to publish books at a price that is accessible, whether that is by producing a paperback immediately on publication, or where that is not possible, producing a lower price ebook so that individuals might buy it. We will gladly collaborate with any author or appropriate funding body (and have done so in the past) to either produce and distribute subsidised versions, or to make books entirely Open Access, where we can reach an agreement on how to cover the costs of publication.
What we will never do is compromise our editorial integrity. Even where we publish a book Open Access with an agreed publication fee, we will still commit to running the editorial process of peer review and manuscript revision with exactly the same rigour as if we were taking the financial risk of publication ourselves.
The main advantage of publishing Open Access, so long as it is done with a reputable and responsible publisher, is that you immediately remove all barriers of access to that publication, so long as the reader has access to a computer and a reliable internet connection.
The main disadvantage of publishing Open Access is that the author or funding body is taking on the financial cost of that publication which would traditionally be borne by the publisher. If the publication is done properly, this is not (and should not be) an insignificant sum of money.
Open Access publication, when done properly and adequately funded, can be a very positive step for research. We do not believe it is the right answer for all books or all fields of study. I have a fear that there will be babies thrown out with the bathwater, and that if all publications are moved to an Open Access funding model, it will only be a matter of time before university funding bodies faced with the next cash crisis are forced to make a decision between whether they fund the law school publications or the minority language revitalisation publications, and I don’t think any of us need a crystal ball to know which way that decision would go.
That said, we remain committed to working with our community to make all of our publications as accessible as possible, whether that is through Open Access or traditional models of publication where the customer pays. Our ultimate intention is that publication by Channel View Publications Ltd / Multilingual Matters continues to be a mark of quality, no matter how the publication is funded.
If you would like to discuss the possibility of making your next publication with Channel View Publications Ltd / Multilingual Matters Open Access, please send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will come back to you with an indication of how much this would cost and what we would offer.