If you never got around to buying Peter Suber’s book about Open Access (OA) publishing  “for busy people”, you might be pleased to learn that it’s now freely available under an open-access license.
One year after being published in dead-tree format, you can now get the whole digital book for free. There’s not much point writing yet another review of it , see Peter’s extensive collection of reviews at cyber.law.harvard.edu. The book succinctly covers:
- What Is Open Access? (and what it is not)
- Motivation: OA as solving problems and seizing opportunities
- Varieties: Green and Gold, Gratis versus libre
- Policies: Funding mandates (NIH, Wellcome Trust etc)
- Scope: Pre-prints and post-prints
- Copyright: … or Copyfight?
- Economics: Who pays the bills? Publication fees, toll-access paywalls and “author pays”
- Casualties: “OA doesn’t threaten publishing; it only threatens existing publishers who do not adapt”
- Future: Where next?
- Self-Help: DIY publishing
Open Access for MACHINES!
A lot of the (often heated) debate about Open Access misses an important point about open access being for machines as well as humans, or as Suber puts in Chapter 5 on Scope:
We also want access for machines. I don’t mean the futuristic altruism in which kindly humans want to help curious machines answer their own questions. I mean something more selfish. We’re well into the era in which serious research is mediated by sophisticated software. If our machines don’t have access, then we don’t have access. Moreover, if we can’t get access for our machines, then we lose a momentous opportunity to enhance access with processing.
Think about the size of the body of literature to which you have access, online and off. Now think realistically about the subset to which you’d have practical access if you couldn’t use search engines, or if search engines couldn’t index the literature you needed.
Information overload didn’t start with the internet. The internet does vastly increase the volume of work to which we have access, but at the same time it vastly increases our ability to find what we need. We zero in on the pieces that deserve our limited time with the aid of powerful software, or more precisely, powerful software with access. Software helps us learn what exists, what’s new, what’s relevant, what others find relevant, and what others are saying about it. Without these tools, we couldn’t cope with information overload. Or we’d have to redefine “coping” as artificially reducing the range of work we are allowed to consider, investigate, read, or retrieve.
It’s refreshing to see someone making these points that are often ignored, forgotten or missed out of the public debate about Open Access. The book is available in various digital flavours including: