“In my post about the value of Open Access for books, I suggested that usage statistics (circulation, downloads, etc.) are a useful proxy for the value that books generate for their readers. The logical conclusion is that the largest amount of value that can be generated from opening of the backlist comes from the books that are most used, the “all-stars” of the library, not the discount rack or the discards. If libraries are to provide funding for Open Access backlist books, shouldn’t they focus their resources on the books that create the most value?
The question of course, is how the library community would ever convince publishers, who have monopolies on these books as a consequence of international copyright laws, to convert these books to Open Access. Although some sort of statutory licensing or fair-use carve-outs could eventually do the trick, I believe that Open Access for a significant number of “backlist All-Stars” can be achieved today by pushing ALL the buttons available to supporters of Open Access. Here’s where the Open Access can learn from the game (and business) of baseball….
Open Access should be an All-Star game for backlist books. We need to create community-based award programs that recognize and reward backlist conversions to OA. If the world’s libraries want to spend $50,000 on backlist physics books, for example, isn’t it better to spend it on the the Mike Trout of physics books than on a team full of discount-rack replacement-level players? …
If you doubt that “All-Star Open Access” could work, don’t discount the fact that it’s also the right thing to do. Authors of All-Star backlist books want their books to be used, cherished and remembered. Libraries want books that measurably benefit the communities they serve. Foundations and governmental agencies want to make a difference. Even publishers who look only at their bottom lines can structure a rights conversion as a charitable donation to reduce their tax bills.
And did I mention that there could be Gala Award Celebrations? We need more celebrations, don’t you think? ”