Open Access Monographs: Building Better Infrastructure – The Scholarly Kitchen

However the element of the report that most caught my attention had to do with the issue of discovery. How are readers and others who need to make use of monographs supposed to identify and engage with the open access content they need? Current gaps in support for those activities impact on the future of digital monographs. As the Digital Science report notes, citation activity of scholarship appearing in monograph form may take two to four years to be noticed in blogs, news outlets, or even in Wikipedia citations. There is a time lag for such titles to be captured in subsequent scholarly works. Those citations — in an environment where every data point may be examined — are critical to proper valuation of a particular monograph. Today’s monographs need hosting environments that properly enable discovery and evidence of use, particularly with regard to open access titles.

This is where the Open Research Library (ORL) from Knowledge Unlatched makes sense. From the perspective of the researcher in our present environment, there is no mechanism for identifying open access monographs that may be relevant to their studies. One can, as I did, run a Google query searching for open access literary criticism on Jane Austen. It’s very easy to uncover journal articles in that situation as the Jane Austen Society of North America has long made articles from its journal, Persuasions, freely accessible. It is not as easy to uncover open access monographs about the works of Jane Austen. (JSTOR gets a thumbs up here for enabling me to find one such book title in the first 10 results on Google and multiple gold stars for making it immediately obvious that the title was open access.)…”

The politics of open access in action – Samuel Moore

“Open access is a movement constituted by conflict and disagreement rather than consensus and harmony. Given just how much disagreement there is about strategies, definitions, goals, etc., it is incredible that open access has successfully transformed the publishing landscape (and looks set to continue to do so). As OA increases in popularity and inevitability, more conflict arises between those from a range of disciplines and positions, and especially those encountering OA for the first time (often through coercive mandates)….”

A Statement from ScholarLed on Knowledge Unlatched’s “Open Research Library”

“On May 16th, Knowledge Unlatched (KU) announced a new initiative to develop and launch the Open Research Library (ORL), which they envision as a “a one-stop hub” for “all available [OA] book content under one search and hosting interface” that will also provide “corresponding catalogue data…to library systems.” It is KU’s claim that they are responding to the wishes of researchers and librarians who have expressed to them a desire for “all” Open Access (OA) book content to be accessible “in one place, for easy discovery and user-friendly navigation as well as further dissemination into third party systems.” KU further claims that the ORL is a collaboration “with publishers and libraries worldwide.” Claiming to be working in partnership with publishing and library communities, they are asking libraries to help fund the ORL at a rate of $1,200/year (at a 3-year lock-in), for which they will receive “a set of [value-added] exclusive services,”such as micro-branded library sites, COUNTER statistics, catalog records, and the like. This raises the worrisome question of whether or not the ORL engages in the business practices of “openwrapping” and “openwashing” (monetizing services, engagement, and infrastructural support around openly licensed content). KU has long positioned itself as a values-driven, community-minded initiative that shares a mission with research libraries to make knowledge accessible to the world, without barriers, although it has not been forthcoming, nor publicly transparent, about its transition in 2016 from a Community Interest Corporation (CIC) registered in the UK under Frances Pinter’s leadership, to a for-profit (GmbH) company registered in Germany under Sven Fund’s managing directorship. In a news update issued in March 2016, KU presented this transition as an “expansion” into a “new branch,” when in fact Fund, under the auspices of his for-profit, “strategic investments” firm fullstopp, was acquiring and transferring the majority of KU’s “assets” to his own for-profit portfolio of publishing services, leaving behind in the UK a completely separate research and analysis group focused on ecosystems for OA monographs, KU Research, which operates independently of KU.[1]

We share the concerns of our fellow ScholarLed consortium member Open Book Publishers (OBP) regarding KU’s under-publicized acquisition by fullstopp, and also question KU’s moves since 2016 into what increasingly looks like OA platform capitalism and rent-seeking, whereby those businesses, such as Facebook and Google, that are claiming to be “neutral arbiters and spaces of informational exchange” are, in fact, “siphoning value from socio-cultural activity,” and “rather than producing new value,” they “simply coordinate virtual properties and charge for their use.” Most worryingly, these platforms confuse “capital-flow and social form, rearranging the relationship of profit to community (and therefore class), and of intelligence to organization.”[2] We are witnessing an important moment in history where platforms are emerging as a “third institutional form, along with states and markets.”[3] ScholarLed was formed by a collective of OA books presses (Mattering Pressmeson pressOpen Book PublishersOpen Humanities Press, and punctum books), who share a commitment to opening up scholarly research to diverse readerships, to resisting the marketization of academic knowledge production, and to working col

Internal Contradictions with Open Access Books – The Scholarly Kitchen

Knowledge Unlatched (KU) is back in the news. Founded as a not-for-profit open access (OA) book publisher by Dr. Frances Pinter, the organization has gone through a couple iterations until re-emerging as a for-profit company headed by Dr. Sven Fund. (Despite its for-profit status, KU continues to use its old URL, with a .org domain.) KU is now hard at work on developing its program, including its business model. A major piece of this, recently announced in an interview by Fund, is the Open Research Library (ORL), which aims to be a comprehensive collection of all OA books, of which there are now (according to KU) about 15,000-20,000, with approximately 4,000 more being added every year. KU can aggregate all these books, which have many publishers, because of the terms of their Creative Commons (CC) licenses, which encourage reuse and sharing. And that is what has set off a seismic disturbance.

 

The Open Research Library: Centralisation without Openness | Impact of Social Sciences

“Resolving the question of how to provide an infrastructure for open access books and monographs has remained a persistent problem for researchers, librarians and funders. Knowledge Unlatched’s recent announcement of the open book platform – The Open Research Library – a project aimed at bringing together all available open book content onto one platform has been met with mixed responses. In this post Marcel Knöchelmanndiscusses the implications of Knowledge Unlatched business strategy and raises the question: Who really benefits from centralising access to open book content?…”

Knowledge Unlatched, failed transparency, and the commercialisation of open access book publishing | Impact of Social Sciences

“Over recent years, Knowledge Unlatched has harnessed the effectiveness of its consortial funding model to become the largest gatekeeper to open access for scholarly books. But as Marcel Knöchelmann describes, the changing of its status from that of a community interest company to a German GmbH or public limited company, and that it is now fully owned by the consultancy fullstopp, has gone largely uncommunicated. This information has assumed greater pertinence and urgency following the decision to appoint fullstopp to collect and analyse data that will be used to inform future policy decisions on open access. The researchers, publishers, and librarians inevitably impacted by the outcomes of this consultation should be afforded the transparency to know that the parent company of the commercial entity which stands to profit from a future of open access book publishing is advising on what the future of open access book publishing in the UK should be….”

Sven Fund on Knowledge Unlatched’s New Open Research Library

” “What researchers really want right now, says Sven Fund, “is one platform where you can search within one environment and where you don’t hit a paywall.” 

That platform and that environment is being announced today (May 16) by Fund’s Knowledge Unlatched. Open Research Libraryis, a program of free access to open access content. The beta edition of the Open Research Library is available now, with a full launch expected in October.

Created with the assistance of a platoon of partners, the Open Research Library is meant to bring together all open access book content in the coming months, providing a one-stop hub with broad organizational categories to aid in searches….”

Knowledge Unlatched and partners launch Open Research Library – Knowledge Unlatched

Free access to scientific content is often limited due to the fragile technical infrastructure around it: content is stored in a variety of versions at various locations and without any uniform search functionalities. The Open Access initiative Knowledge Unlatched has addressed this growing problem and is now launching the Open Research Library together with several international partners. Its goal is to unite all Open Access (OA) book content over the coming months. To this end the Open Research Library is working with publishers and libraries worldwide and is open to all providers and users of quality-assured research content.

Around 15,000 to 20,000 books have been published Open Access worldwide to date, freely available to users all over the world, and about 4,000 more are added every year. Currently these titles are offered for use by scientists on numerous different publishing and distribution websites. The aim of this new initiative is to combine all available book content under one search and hosting interface and to ensure that the provision of corresponding catalogue data is made available to library systems. The hosting of all book content is free of charge. In order to finance the ongoing technical costs Knowledge Unlatched will initiate a partner project to secure the necessary funding….”

First results of the crowdfunding OpenEdition Books Select experiment: Six titles published in open access – Open Electronic Publishing

“Six titles from the OpenEdition Books Select package have now been published in open access on OpenEdition Books and will soon be published on OAPEN….

OpenEdition Books Select is the first crowdfunding programme for scientific publishing in French. Launched in 2018 in partnership with Knowledge Unlatched and the Couperin consortium, this unprecedented project aims to publish in open access a bundle of books by major publishers in the humanities and social sciences. The crowdfunding campaign is aimed at libraries around the world, enabling them to offer any reader access to French-language content of the highest quality. This ethical and transparent model is based on a collaboration between publishers and libraries committed to open science….”

Open and Shut?: The OA Interviews: Frances Pinter

“In 2012 serial entrepreneur Frances Pinter founded a new company called Knowledge Unlatched (KU). The goal, she explained in 2013, was to “change the way we fund the publishing of quality content” for book-length publications, and in a way that would allow them to be made open access.

With that end in mind, Pinter launched a pilot project in which research libraries were invited to pool money to fund the “fixed costs” of publishing monographs. By doing so, Pinter reasoned, PDF and HTML versions of these “unlatched” books could be made freely available on the Web, but print and other premium versions would continue to be sold in the traditional manner. And those libraries that contributed to the pool would earn the right to buy the premium versions at a discounted price.

In a spirit of civic-mindedness Pinter created Knowledge Unlatched as a UK non-profit Community Interest Company (CIC). And with Pinter’s formidable reputation as a publisher, KU quickly acquired mindshare and influence, and went on to play an important role in the thinking about the scope and opportunities for OA monographs, as well as in policy development – both in the UK and globally.

Above all, says Pinter below, KU went on to provide proof of concept for a new way of funding OA monographs, and perhaps of funding OA more generally….”