Category Archives: Open Access Successes

Spotlight on Open Access and Academic Publishing:
Barton Beebe

Posted September 12, 2017

Head shot of Barton Beebe

In the third part of our series on innovative academic publishing models—which has also featured Q&As with Eric von Hippel and James Boyle and Jennifer Jenkins—we asked Professor Barton Beebe of NYU Law School to tell us a bit about his decision to publish Trademark Law: An Open Source Casebook as an open access work. Now in version 4.0, this Creative Commons-licensed work for intellectual property law students was updated in July 2017 with updates and new statutory examples. The book is freely available for download, and is being used in over 30 law schools nationwide, with additional professors adopting it each year.

Authors Alliance: Given the many incentives to publish textbooks via traditional channels, why did you choose open access for Trademark Law: An Open Source Casebook (TLOSC)?

Barton Beebe: I chose online open access for a bunch of reasons. First, it’s just much easier to reach readers through open access. Even micropayments can be an insurmountable barrier for students without credit cards (which describes most students around the world). Instructors are also predisposed to assign the book if they know that students can easily access it and at no cost. This helps with adoptions.

Second, my experience has been that traditional for-profit textbook publishers in law offer almost no value added. They provide no editorial advice and often rely on authors to format and proofread the book. Meanwhile, they set ridiculously high prices, typically very little of which flows through to their authors.

Third, I really like the idea of giving the book away, especially since it’s a book for students, and it seems like classroom materials are what I already get paid to produce. TLOSC is already being used in something like thirty law schools around the world, with three or four added each year (which I think is not bad for a book about a little topic like trademark law). I sort of love that so many students are using my book and that they didn’t have to pay for it. That’s worth more to me than whatever royalties I would get through the for-profit model.

AuAll: How did you select which Creative Commons license to apply?

BB: Though TLOSC is available without charge, I do care about attribution, so insisted on that in the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International license. I also like the viral nature of the ShareAlike provision, which means that anyone may adapt my book, but their adaptation must also be made available under the same CC license. For purposes of this book, I also see the noncommercial provision as basically viral in nature. It encourages others to use the book only in noncommercial ways.

AuAll: What results do you see from publishing your books openly? What do you see as the pros and cons of embracing this model?

BB: I think the main result of using the open access model is that a lot more people have used the book and so maybe it has had more influence than it otherwise might have. Another result is that the open access model seems to create a different relationship between authors and their readers. The book is offered as a kind of gift (it’s not exactly a birthday present!—but still it’s something human-made, meaningful, and useful that is happily given away). Readers are maybe a little more gentle in their attitude to the book, and maybe a little more prone to write me with corrections, suggestions, and kind words of thanks.

More generally, I hope that publishing the book openly is part of a broader trend in academics towards open access. I very much support the adoption of the principle that if a book or other work of scholarship is not made available through open access, it should not be considered a “publication” for purposes of things like academic tenure or promotion. If royalties were a significant part of how academics support themselves, I’d think differently, but they’re not. It’s especially weird (and disheartening) to see so many academic books in the humanities that advance strongly progressive views but that the author publishes under a traditional closed-access (and even for-profit) model—with the result that at best 1% of the world will have any real access to the book. There are definitely institutional pressures to distribute one’s work in this way, but already we’re seeing academic institutions shifting towards emphasizing open access.

AuAll: Could you share some lessons learned and/or other suggestions for authors on how they can make their works available in the ways that they want?

Even if a book author goes with a traditional closed-access publisher, it might be worthwhile to try to bargain for a contract provision in which the author can make the book available in a digital open access format at some point after the book goes out of print. This seems particularly important for scholarly works. For journal articles, try to bargain for a provision allowing the author to post a manuscript version of the article to their personal website or some equivalent repository.


Barton Beebe is the John M. Desmarais Professor of Intellectual Property Law at NYU. He specializes in the doctrinal, empirical, and cultural analysis of intellectual property law.

Spotlight on Open Access and Academic Publishing:
James Boyle & Jennifer Jenkins’ Open IP Casebook

Posted August 29, 2017
“The 1950’s distribution mechanism for the casebook…
needs to go the way of the whale oil merchant,
the typing pool and the travel agent.”
— James Boyle and Jennifer Jenkins

Cover of IP textbookThis summer, Authors Alliance founding members James Boyle and Jennifer Jenkins released the latest legal supplement to the third edition of their law school casebook, Intellectual Property: Law & the Information Society – Cases & Materials. As part of our series on innovative publishing models, we are featuring their insightful examination of the pros and cons of their model, and why they ultimately chose to forgo traditional textbook publishing.

Boyle and Jenkins have written extensively about their experience with writing a casebook and distributing it freely online under a Creative Commons license, and in 2015, when the book was first released, they co-authored a law review article of FAQs on open legal educational materials:

“Why do we do this? Partly, we do it because we think the price of legal casebooks and materials is obscene. Law students, who are already facing large debt burdens, are required to buy casebooks that cost $150–$200, and “statutory supplements” that consist mainly of unedited, public domain, Federal statutes for $40 or $50. The total textbook bill for a year can be over $1500. This is not a criticism of casebook authors, but rather of the casebook publishing system. […] Legal education is already expensive; we want to play a small part in diminishing the costs of the materials involved.”

“This is a broken market and one that reflects troubling pedagogical and, to be quite frank, moral choices on the part of both authors and publishers.”

We highly recommend the entire FAQ article for its thoughtful approach to an alternative publishing model, and—thanks to open access—it is available to read in full. We recently caught up with Boyle and Jenkins to ask specifically about their experiences from the authors’ perspective; here’s what they had to tell us:

Authors Alliance: What kind of feedback have you received from your students?

Boyle & Jenkins: They have generally been very positive. Obviously the price is nicer, particularly if it is free, but the benefits of openness come out in other surprising ways.  For example, visually impaired students have told us they really appreciate an open electronic text that can be customized using their favorite programs—to produce a machine-generated audiobook, for example, in whatever format they choose.  Other students like the ability to grab chunks of the textbook and paste directly into their notes.  For law students who often can’t get electronic versions of their—very heavy—casebooks, being able to take the casebook home for Thanksgiving is a plus.

AuAll: Do you have a key piece of advice or encouragement for other authors looking to follow your example? Anything you wish you’d known before you started?

Boyle: Just do it! As far as things we learned—I’d been doing open publishing since I was part of the founding of Creative Commons, so I probably had a head start—but we were surprised and delighted by the way in which openness changes the adoption of a textbook from a 0/1 decision—you do or you don’t—to something in which someone can grab our chapter on the history of copyright, or the economics of intellectual property, and pop it into their class without disrupting anything else.  As we say in the article, it is the shift from the “album” version of textbooks, in which you must by all or none, to the iTunes version where you can take a single track.

AuAll: Are there any other comments/insights that you would like to share with your fellow Authors Alliance members?

B&J: Both of us would say that we believe in Authors Alliance because we think open access to scholarly work is a moral imperative wherever it is reasonably possible.  But in our own lives, it is striking how much tangible benefit in terms of citation, influence, and so on that strategy has yielded.  When it comes to open access to scholarship, doing good can be very compatible with doing well.

James Boyle is William Neal Reynolds Professor of Law and co-founder of the Center for the Study of the Public Domain at Duke Law School. Jennifer Jenkins is a Clinical Professor of Law and Director of Duke’s Center for the Study of the Public Domain.

 

 

Spotlight on Open Access and Academic Publishing:
A Q&A With Eric von Hippel

Posted August 15, 2017

headshot of Eric von Hippel

Just in time for the 2017 back-to-school season, we’re featuring a series of posts on alternatives to traditional publishing models. Earlier this year, Authors Alliance advisory board member and MIT professor Eric von Hippel released his book Free Innovation under a Creative Commons license—the newest addition to his online collection of freely available works. We asked him about his experiences with rights reversion, open access, and how academic authors and publishers can help to make books openly available.

Authors Alliance: You successfully regained the rights to your 1988 book The Sources of Innovation from Oxford University Press (OUP). How did you secure a reversion of rights? What have you been able to do with your book since reversion?

Eric von Hippel: When I contracted with OUP for my first book in the 1980s, I was not aware of open access as a possibility, so I simply signed a standard contract giving all rights to OUP. About 20 years later, I had become very interested in open access. I therefore asked OUP to allow me to conduct an experiment. OUP would allow me to post a free electronic version on my MIT website. If hard copy sales declined in the next period, I would pay OUP $1,000 as compensation for lost sales. If they went up, OUP would keep the profits and allow me to keep posting the free version. OUP agreed to these terms. Happily, sales of printed copies went up, so I was able to keep posting the free version from then on.

With respect to actually getting back the copyright for Sources of Innovation so I could go fully open access: About 5 years ago, my excellent activist OA colleagues (thanks especially to Ellen Finnie Duranceau of MIT) told me that I had a window of time in which I could get the copyright returned to me. That window was fast-approaching in the case of my 1988 book, so I simply wrote to my editor at OUP, asking him to give me back the copyright without my having to go through the formal process as dictated by the law. Sales were low at that point, so he simply said “fine,” and wrote me a letter transferring all rights back to me.

AuAll: We’ve written previously about MIT Press’ pioneering approach to open access. To date, you’ve published two books with MIT: Democratizing Innovation and Free Innovation. Your publication contract with MIT gave you the right to post free ebooks from the very beginning, ensuring that both books were “born open access.” Based on your experience, can you offer some advice to other authors—and publishers—who want to embrace this model?

EvH: In response to your question, I talked to my editor at MIT Press to see if they had by now evolved a standard set of OA practices. Turns out they have not. They are still experimenting. Sometimes, depending on specifics of a book—for example, is it a textbook?—their experiments result in negative financial consequences for the Press relative to their sales projections. Sometimes the consequences are financially quite acceptable. Things are also changing quite rapidly in terms of book-reading behaviors. Specifically with respect to my own books with MIT Press, the 2005 book had very acceptable print sales despite the availability of a free eBook version. The jury is still out on my new 2017 book.

Frankly, these days authors have to insist on an open access eBook option if they are to have a hope of getting a publisher to agree. And, they very well might be turned down even if they do insist. As we know, academic presses are not hugely profitable, and they cannot afford to take big risks. I have a feeling that a standard OA option that may emerge in the end will be something like the model now increasingly offered by publishers of academic articles: If authors want open access, they may increasingly have to agree to pay a fee to compensate publishers for (possibly) lower print copy sales.

AuAll: How did you select which Creative Commons license to apply to these books?

EvH: I really did not know which one to use—I just sort of chose the license others seemed to be using without really understanding the pros and cons. I will be able to make a more informed choice using information supplied by Authors Alliance by the time decision-making for my next book comes around. [Chapter Four of Authors Alliance’s guide to Understanding Open Access has additional information about selecting an open access license.]

AuAll: What results do you see from publishing your books openly? What do you see as the pros and cons of embracing this model?

Like most academic authors, I write books to have them read, not to earn royalties. The increase in readership I have experienced by going OA is really worth it to me—it makes me very happy. Evidence to date is that about 10 times more eBooks are downloaded than print copies are sold, so I guesstimate that I am reaching about 10 times more people with the ideas I find exciting than I could have done in the pre-OA era. It especially makes me happy that now teachers can assign even a single chapter of one of my books in a class in a developing country if they wish, without worrying about burdening students with any purchase costs.

Personally, I don’t see any negatives with respect to going OA—only positives. I actually feel very proud that I can contribute to my colleagues and to scholarship in this enhanced way. I am very grateful to the Authors Alliance for making it easier for me and many others to accomplish an Open Access outcome.

AuAll: Do you have any other suggestions for authors on how they can make their works available in the ways that they want?

EvH: Open Access is a wonderful goal—but as a young academic, please don’t feel guilt or failure if you cannot negotiate open access agreements right from the start. At the beginning of an academic career, very few of us have much leverage with publishers to negotiate for open access. Certainly, in the case of my first book I was at the start of my academic work and had zero leverage. In fact I was just very happy to get published by a good academic press like OUP, and would have signed pretty much any “standard terms” they asked for.

If this is your case too, I would urge you not to feel badly if you have to sign a traditional contract assigning all rights to your publisher. Better to survive the academic rites of passage. You will have a long academic career, and will have increasing abilities to demand and negotiate open access for your work as your reputation grows.

AuAll: We are honored to count you among the advisory board members of Authors Alliance. Thank you for sharing your experiences with our readers!

EvH: I am totally proud to serve on the Advisory Board. Pam Samuelson, as we all know, was a crucial founding member of Authors Alliance. She was the one who asked me to join. In my experience, Pam has wonderful instincts about what will help scholars and scholarship with respect to openness, and I signed on to support both her and this wonderful idea.

(As a side story in closing—I should mention that I tend to regard Pam Samuelson as akin to an unstoppable force of nature when she gets behind something she believes in. I still remember hearing about and worrying about the (ultimately defeated) proposed settlement between Google and commercial publishers a few years back. At a certain point, Google felt the agreement was in the bag. They then began sending lawyers around around the country to inform academic authors and others about how we could expect to function in the new world they envisioned. Indeed, they said, they were sure we would learn to love that new world over time. In fact, many academics were strongly against that proposed settlement for very good reasons, but things looked very bleak for the resistance at that time.

Then one day I heard that Pam had taken up the cause and was working hard against it with a few others. To the inexperienced eye, Pam and her colleagues were a small and lonely academic crew against mighty Google legal phalanxes that extended to the horizon like an endless sea of Orcs. However, as soon as I heard Pam was in the fight I immediately relaxed. Indeed, I remember thinking as I listened to a talk at the Boston Public Library by the very confident Google lawyers: Can’t they see what is coming next? Don’t they know they are now the walking (actually, limousine-riding) dead—about to experience the equivalent of the Lord of the Rings Ghost Army?)

So, in sum: Right on Pam, and right on, Authors Alliance! Keep it up! We are proud to be in this battle for Open Access with you!

Eric von Hippel is T. Wilson Professor of Innovation Management at the MIT Sloan School of Management, and is also Professor of Engineering Systems at MIT.  von Hippel graduated from Harvard College (BA), MIT (MS), and Carnegie Mellon University.  He is the recipient of three honorary doctorates, and numerous honors and academic prizes, such as the Humboldt Foundation Research Prize (2013), and the EU “Innovation Luminary” Award in 2015. 

von Hippel is known for his research into the sources of and economics of innovation. He has written three books on these topics, and also has published many articles in innovation management, ranging from the theoretical to the very practical.  Digital copies of all his books can be downloaded for free online from his MIT website at https://evhippel.mit.edu/books/

Editors of Lingua take a stand for open access

Posted November 10, 2015

Not long ago, the editorial board of the journal Lingua decided that it was time to end business as usual–and they resigned in protest in order to cut ties with Elsevier and establish Glossa, a new open access journal. Lingua, a respected linguistics journal with a distinguished 60-year history, was acquired by Elsevier in the 1980s. Even as publication costs were reduced by technology, Elsevier followed a publishing model that served owners rather than readers, which has driven up the price of access to the journal for individuals and for institutions. Faced with falling budgets and skyrocketing fees, a university library may find itself in the position of losing access to content provided by its own faculty, or forced into a “bundle” subscription that includes unwanted titles—not unlike a cable TV package that imposes a dozen unwatched channels for every one that a viewer actually wants.

Just as so-called “cord cutters” are moving away from cable packages thanks to shifts in technology, access, and public opinion, so too are researchers and scholars taking a stand against long-dominant business models that are falling out of favor as open access publishing gains ground in the academic community. Authors in many scholarly fields are pressing for open access options so that scholarly works in their fields can be more broadly accessible. We at Authors Alliance believe that empowered authors can contribute to innovative and sustainable publishing models that expand our opportunities to share knowledge with readers. We applaud the courageous decision of the Lingua editors to do just that by striking out on their own to to create Glossa. We wish them great success in this new venture, which could well point the way for other academic journals to follow suit.

Our new handbook, Understanding Open Access, will be released this month. In the meantime, if you have questions or comments, or wish to share your own experiences with open access publishing, get in touch and let us know!

Understanding Open Access:
The Human Side of Machine Readability

Posted October 22, 2015

OA Guide Cover

In celebration of Open Access Week, we are offering sneak previews of our forthcoming guide, Understanding Open Access: When, Why, & How To Make Your Work Openly Accessible. This guide is the second volume in our series of educational handbooks, following on the success of Understanding Rights Reversion. Our goal is to encourage our members to consider open access publishing by addressing common questions and concerns and by providing real-life strategies and tools that authors can use to work with publishers, institutions, and funders to make their works more widely accessible to all. We will officially launch the guide on November 3 during our workshop on “Writing To Be Read” at the New York Public Library. In the meantime, here’s a short excerpt from Chapter 4 about the benefits of technical openness and machine readability.


Removing legal restrictions on use is a key component of making your work openly accessible. Authors may also want to consider additional factors that shape how available their works are for readers to fully access, share, and reuse. Making a work available in a machine-readable format can increase readers’ ability to access and use your work and maximize its reuse.

Cory Doctorow is a fiction writer, activist, blogger, and journalist and a member of Authors Alliance. After making his novel Little Brother openly accessible, Mr. Doctorow received a braille copy of the book from Patricia Smith, a Detroit public school teacher of visually impaired students. Although braille versions may be permissible under one or more copyright exceptions, creating a braille version often first requires painstakingly entering text into a digital format. This obstacle prevents many works from being translated into braille. However, because the text of Little Brother is openly available without technical limitations to prevent its copying, printing, and sharing, Ms. Smith was able to directly run the book’s digital file through a braille embosser and make the book available to her visually impaired students.

Ms. Smith also included a note, which stated: “What I could not enclose is the gratitude from my braille reading students. For various reasons, most books in braille are aimed at younger children. My students are all between the ages of 12 and 15 and have no real interest in reading a Kindergarten level book. I was finally able to give them something interesting, compelling, and, most importantly at their grade level.”

Machine-readable formats enable search engines to index the entire text of a work, in turn making it easier for readers to search for and find works. Making metadata about your work available in standardized formats also enhances your work’s machine-readability and helps readers find it. Metadata includes information such as the author’s name, institutional affiliation, the title of the work, an abstract, and open access license terms. Open access repositories commonly include this metadata when a work is uploaded to the repository.


We will post excerpts from Understanding Open Access throughout the week. If you have questions or comments, or wish to share your own experiences with open access publishing, get in touch and let us know!

Authors Alliance Members Lead Push toward Open and Accessible Legal Education

Posted September 2, 2014

Textbooks are essential instructional tools but they’re not without problems. Most familiar to students is the problem of cost: textbook prices have been significantly outstripping inflation for some time, rising 82% between 2003 and 2013 and giving rise to charts like the one below. But there’s also the issue of tailoring. There might not be a textbook that’s a perfect match for a given instructor’s needs, but the traditional model requires students to purchase material their instructors may have no interest in teaching.

Authors from a variety of fields are making strides to bring accessible and open educational resources that provide educators with choice regarding the price and contents of course materials. Legal education, which relies in large part on public domain texts like cases and statutes, is particularly poised for change. Authors Alliance members, committed to authorship in the public interest, are leading the charge.