Saturday, 21 June 2014

tree peony, aclaiir agm and seminar, cambridge university library, open access monograph publishing, invisible on ora, allotment

The tree peony is in flower again - always a highpoint of the year. Not so many flowers this time, though, after the saturated winter, which the plant didn't seem to like. The stems are frailer too.

Went to the ACLAIIR AGM and seminar at Cambridge University Library on Tuesday (see also one or two recent updates and pictures on Twitter). I don't know Cambridge well at all and had never visited the library before, so there was a certain sense of adventure. This was accentuated by the epic bus journey, which took four hours...each way! Lots of work to do while travelling but even so I did feel I had been to a far-flung place when I got home. The Bedfordshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire countryside in the gradually fading evening lights was beautiful, though. The landscapes are so soft at this time of year with their puffs of trees and copses and the pliant fur of the grasses and crops.

The theme of the seminar - and of another set of presentations in Oxford the following day - was Open Access (OA) monograph publishing. This relatively new development in scholarly communications and publishing is a hot topic in academic circles and you can find out more by reading this overview written by Peter Suber, Director of the Harvard Office for Scholarly Communication, and by visiting the Oxford OA website.

Other sites that might be of interest are those of OAPEN-UK, which gives details of a research project into scholarly monograph publishing and Open Book Publishers, a sophisticated recent independent OA publisher. There were speakers at the ACLAIIR event representing both these initiatives.

Open Book's slogan 'Knowledge is for sharing' sums up what OA is all about. The company's About page adds more detail about both it and the thinking that's motivating such ventures:

'Open Book Publishers was founded in 2008 by a small group of academics at the University of Cambridge. Since then, we have grown into an international network of scholars who believe that it is time for academic publishing to become fairer, faster and more accessible...'

The Cambridge event was rounded off by a trip by ACLAIIR members, seminar delegates and guest speakers to All Bar One for a glass or two of wine.

At the Oxford event I particularly enjoyed the talk given by Professor Geoffrey Crossick, who is writing a report for the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) on OA monograph publishing. I was especially interested in some of his passing comments about such things as the way new publishing practices might affect written forms. An example of this in creative writing might be a move away from novels to novellas as more people read fiction online.

Interesting questions are raised by OA, such as how anyone is going to make money in an OA publishing environment and whether making books simultaneously available as Open Access online and in print has any impact on print sales.

I first became intrigued by the possibilities of OA a couple of years back and took the decision to make an uncut version of my second novel Invisible available via ORA, the Oxford University Research Archive (novels, musical scores etc count as part of the University's research output). I felt that by making an alternative Open Access version of the novel available, I was extending the readership of the work without unduly compromising print and 'conventional' ebook sales. The ORA version of the novel is easily accessed via the Oxford University digital library catalogue, SOLO.

Away to the allotment in a minute. Beautiful, beautiful weather - sunny but with such clear air.

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