Category Archives: Open Access Successes

Q&A With Cynthia Willett and Julie Willett: Open Access and Engaging in Global Conversations

Posted February 4, 2020
Cynthia Willett, Uproarious book cover, and Julie Willett

As a part of our series of open access success stories that spotlight noteworthy openly accessible books and their authors, we’re featuring Cynthia Willett, Professor of Philosophy at Emory University and Julie Willett, Associate Professor at Texas Tech University.

In their new book Uproarious: How Feminists and Other Subversive Comics Speak Truth, Willett and Willett address theories of humor through the lens of feminist and game-changing comics. They take a radical and holistic approach to the understanding of humor, particularly of humor deployed by those from groups long relegated to the margins, and propose a powerful new understanding of humor as a force that can engender politically progressive social movements.

Uproarious is available under a CC BY-NC-ND license, supported by Emory University as part of the TOME initiative and can also be purchased in print form.

Authors Alliance: Can you tell us why you opted to make Uproarious openly available?

Cynthia Willett & Julie Willett: Our reconceptualization of humor draws from feminist stand-ups and other post-9/11-era comics. Just as our claims are driven by popular culture, we think open access too helps us engage in global conversations. In an era with the fortunes of academics and educational institutions caught up in growing social inequality, we also hope that open access allows our research to be more accessible not only to students at elite institutions but also to those who lack resources yet often drive the conversations on trending fields like humor.

AuAll: Did your audience and/or the subject matter of your research influence your decision to publish openly?

CW & JW: As a philosopher and a historian, we began this project hoping to reach out to a larger audience across academic disciplines and to general interest readers. The book addresses a topic of heightened relevance at a time when a twitter joke can shift the political climate overnight. At a time when so much of our political culture is driven by comedy and comedy both as an art form and a tool of politics is driven by the internet and social media, open access couldn’t seem more relevant.

AuAll: Before this book project what was your impression of open access publishing?

CW & JW: We tended to associate open access with cutting edge work in the sciences and we are excited to be part of this expansion into the humanities.

AuAll: What results have you seen from publishing your book openly?

CW & JW: Perhaps the most unexpected result has been the contacts and conversations we are having with stand-up comedians who help us think about the new directions for this field of study. We have also enjoyed wider interest for our work from the media, including an interview on Free Speech TV.

AuAll: Could you share some lessons learned and/or other suggestions for authors?

CW & JW: Co-authorship made the entire process more creative and joyful. Coupled with the added benefit of working across disciplines we strive to communicate our ideas free of jargon. Moreover, the topic of our book arises from beyond the academic context and we attempted to frame the book in terms of that wider political concern.

Rights Reversion: Opening Classic Works to New Global Audiences

Posted November 12, 2019

We are grateful to Anita Walz, Assistant Director of Open Education and Scholarly Communication Librarian at Virginia Tech, for sharing the following rights reversion and open access success story. Anita worked with the authors of an out-of-print textbook to make a digitized version available online under a Creative Commons license for a new generation of students—not only at Virginia Tech but around the world. This guest post is published under a CC BY-NC-4.0 license.

“I want to assign this book as required reading for my graduate class. However, there are 125 students and I can’t find enough copies for students to access, borrow, or purchase. You’re a librarian. Can you help?”  Librarians often field such inquiries. Depending on the situation, such inquiries may lead to nuances of copyright, ebook acquisition, a search for substitute titles, assertion of fair use and exploration of more ideal scenarios: open access works and open educational resources. Sometimes such inquiries lead us outside of libraries to fact-find with authors and publishers on behalf of library users. The example of Veterinary Epidemiology: Principles and Methods is one such case.

In 2015 and 2016 I worked on my first rights reversion digitization project, inspired in part by the Authors Alliance’s publication Understanding Rights Reversion: When, Why & How to Regain Copyright and Make Your Book More Available. Of course, I didn’t know that it was a rights reversion scenario when I first started. A new faculty member had approached me with a copyright quandary: She wanted to use an out-of-print seminal work from 1987 for her class of 125 students. The six copies owned by the library and the several used copies available for sale would not be nearly enough. A thorough check indicated that a digital version was not available for purchase. We also explored working with the Copyright Clearance Center, but the cost was exorbitant. Wanting to honor the professor’s selection of this particular text, my colleagues and I aided her in conducting an informed fair-use analysis and the library displayed selected chapters one-chapter-at-a-time via the library’s secure eReserve system. With the book obviously out of print, and wondering who owned the rights, I contacted the book’s authors in September 2015.

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Q&A With Barbara Kline-Pope on Open Access Publishing Initiatives at Johns Hopkins University Press

Posted October 23, 2019
photo by Paul Kennedy

Open Access Week 2019 takes place from October 21-27. To mark the occasion, we’re featuring a series of Open Access Success Stories that shine the spotlight on noteworthy OA books, authors, and publishing models. In today’s post, Barbara Kline-Pope, Director of the Johns Hopkins University Press, provides updates about the Press’ open publishing initiatives for scholarly books.

Authors Alliance: We were interested to hear about the new HOP 100 and Encore Editions projects that JHU Press is working on with Project MUSE. Can you tell us more about these two projects?

Barbara Kline-Pope: HOP stands for Hopkins Open Publishing and is the overarching name for all of our open book projects.  The HOP 100 represents a low-risk experiment to determine the effect on audience engagement and on sales when opening up books published by Johns Hopkins University Press on MUSE Open.  We chose 100 books from our list that were near the end of their sales lives, having sold 10 or fewer copies a year for the past couple of years. 

What happened when we opened up those books?  Let’s first explore engagement.  Of the 100 titles, 54 lived on Project MUSE as gated books prior to being opened.  They were available to read for people whose libraries had purchased them either individually or in a collection.  Once opened and available on MUSE Open, these books experienced an average of three times more engagement per month as compared with the time period in which they were gated on Project MUSE. 

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Q&A with Calvin Warren: Open Access and Democratizing the Accessibility of Knowledge

Posted October 21, 2019
Calvin L. Warren (used with permission)

Open Access Week 2019 takes place from October 21-27. To mark the occasion, we’re featuring a series of Open Access Success Stories that shine the spotlight on noteworthy OA books, authors, and publishing models. Today’s post features Calvin L. Warren, Assistant Professor in the Department of Women’s Gender, and Sexuality Studies at Emory University. His book Ontological Terror: Blackness, Nihilism, and Emancipation (Duke University Press, 2018) examines how all humanism is based on investing blackness with nonbeing—a logic which reproduces antiblack violence and precludes any realization of equality, justice, and recognition for blacks. Ontological Terror is available under a CC BY-NC-ND license, supported by Emory University as part of the TOME initiative. We recently sat down with Professor Warren to discuss his decision to make Ontological Terror openly available.

Authors Alliance: Given that many (if not most) humanities monographs are still published via traditional channels, why did you choose open access publishing for Ontological Terror?

Calvin Warren: Unfortunately, academic knowledge is becoming increasingly inaccessible, and this “epistemological exclusivity” is resulting in disturbing patterns of asymmetry. Journals require membership to read current scholarship, and this financial barrier prevents students and scholars from resource poor institutions from acquiring information. The cost of academic books is equally exorbitant, reinforcing the dynamic that knowledge acquisition requires money. I’ve grown uncomfortable with this dynamic and had been searching for a mechanism to make my work more accessible to high school students, lay readers, community colleges, and institutions with limited resources. Open access provided such a mechanism and addressed the inequity of knowledge acquisition. Accessing my book for free has increased my readership and made it possible for black nihilism, as an idea, to expand its horizon.

AuAll: Did the subject matter of your research and/or your audience influence your decision to publish openly? If so, how?

CW: I’ve developed a philosophical perspective “black nihilism” that presents contemporary problems of black existence, anti black violence, and black suffering as deep philosophical issues. Because my work is in constant dialogue with the unceasing, ubiquitous, and regenerating problem of anti blackness, I wanted my work to reach as many people as possible—especially young people who live under the press of anti black terror. My subject matter required a platform widely accessible because people within and outside the academy were searching for answers to difficult questions.

AuAll: Before this book project, what was your impression of open access publishing?

CW: Open access was unfamiliar to me when I began my academic career, and I wish I’d known about it in graduate school. I do hope the [TOME] program recruits early career scholars, who are often producing the most provocative and groundbreaking work. I’m very grateful that Emory University invested time and resources for me to publish with open access.

AuAll: What results have you seen from publishing your book openly?

CW: Open access has widened my readership, exposing my work to artists, scientists, ministers, politicians, people I hadn’t expected to read my work. When access is open, more democratic, ideas can travel without restriction. And this has been my experience.

AuAll: What advice do you have for scholarly authors who want to make their ideas widely available?

CW: My advice to any authors with important ideas, especially those that speak to contemporary concerns, is to consider open access. Make an appointment with open access staff and discuss the possibility of this platform. It will create unexpected opportunities. Also, publishers often consider the open access funds “book sales” so it reduces some pressure from young scholars who need book sales for career stability. In short, open access is a gift to the academy and will lead the way in democratizing knowledge accessibility.

Q&A With Jeanne Fromer and Christopher Sprigman on “Copyright Law: Cases and Materials”

Posted August 20, 2019

Jeanne Fromer and Christopher Sprigman of NYU Law School recently published their new casebook Copyright Law: Cases and Materials as an open access work. A PDF of the book is freely available to everyone to read and download under a Creative Commons license, and may also be purchased as a low-cost print-on-demand book. Instructors who register on the site can also access model syllabi and participate in a discussion forum.

In this Q&A, we asked them about publishing the casebook openly instead of as a traditional textbook, and the benefits of that decision.


Authors Alliance: Given the many incentives to publish textbooks via traditional channels, why did you choose open access for Copyright Law?

Jeanne Fromer and Christopher Sprigman: As law professors, we are concerned about the high price of law school textbooks. Many of our students are already taking on significant debt to fund their law school education. The high cost of commercially-published textbooks makes a tough situation worse. We wanted to see if we could provide a high-quality textbook, in both digital and print formats, that would provide professors and students with a free or low-cost option.

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

JF & CS: We chose a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives (CC-BY-NC-ND) license. We selected a non-commercial license because we didn’t want people charging money for a book that we meant to be available for free (or, in printed form, at cost). And we selected a license that restricted derivatives because we did not want people altering our book to express views on copyright law that we would not endorse, while attributing those views (misleadingly) to us. Just to be clear, we are willing to approve most derivative works. For example, we are willing to approve derivatives that re-arrange our materials in ways that particular professors find helpful. All people have to do is email us, tell us what they want to do, and so long as we feel that it fairly represents our views, we’ll approve.

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

JF & CS: Since we released the book a few weeks ago, we’ve learned of adoptions by professors at Cardozo School of Law, Case Western Reserve University School of Law, Harvard Law School, National Law University Delhi, New York University School of Law, Northwestern Pritzker School of Law, Notre Dame Law School, Saint Louis University School of Law, University of California, Berkeley School of Law, University of New Hampshire Franklin Pierce School of Law, and William & Mary Law School. We are very grateful to the professors who have adopted it thus far.

The pros of publishing the book under a CC license are pretty obvious: we get the book out there at no cost for those who download it from our website and at very low cost for those who order a printed copy from Amazon. There another important benefit: we can update our book more frequently than is typical for commercially-published textbooks.

As for cons … it’s difficult to think of any. We don’t think that commercial textbook publishers do much editorial work to make their casebooks better. They are mostly marketing organizations … and, frankly, between us we know most of the people who teach copyright in the U.S. and many who teach it internationally, and we find it easy to reach them. For those reasons, a commercial publisher’s marketing capacity isn’t very useful to us, as it likely would not be to most legal academics.

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?

JF & CS: One lesson is that it’s fun to write a textbook with a friend! We both enjoyed working on this together. Another lesson is that writing a textbook isn’t quite the slog that people may think it is. We spent a lot of time structuring the book and selecting and editing cases, and doing so gave us a nice opportunity to think anew about which cases – and which parts of cases – were most important and most helpful to students. And then we spent a good bit of time writing the parts of the book that frame the important questions in copyright law. There is a good deal of creativity involved in how you do this … you have to be clear, and thought-provoking, and engaging, and fair. At the end of this process, we’ve produced a casebook that we feel proud of.

AuAll: We are pleased to count both of you among the members of Authors Alliance. Could you say a few words about the value you find as a member?

JF & CS: We both appreciate the work of Authors Alliance, an organization that works on behalf of authors who write to be read. We are both very much in that camp: we’ve written our textbook because we value our role as teachers and scholars, and we want to lower the barriers to students who are interested in learning about copyright law. There are a lot of authors whose motivations are similar to ours, and Authors Alliance speaks for them.


Jeanne Fromer is Professor of Law at NYU, specializing in intellectual property including copyright, patent, trademark, trade secret, and design protection laws. She is a faculty co-director of the Engelberg Center on Innovation Law & Policy.

Christopher Jon Sprigman is Professor of Law at NYU, where he teaches intellectual property law, antitrust law, torts, and comparative constitutional law. His research focuses on how legal rules affect innovation and the deployment of new technologies.

Rights Reversion Success Story: James O’Donnell

Posted February 12, 2019

Head shot of James O'Donnell

James J. O’Donnell is the University Librarian at Arizona State University Libraries and has published widely on the history and culture of the late antique Mediterranean world. He successfully reverted rights to his 1992 edition of Augustine’s Confessions and made the book available in an open access digital version. Continued interest in the online book led to a subsequent reprint and later an additional paperback print run. Professor O’Donnell shared his rights reversion experience with us in the following Q&A.

Authors Alliance: How did you first learn of rights reversion?

James O’Donnell: In the course of becoming involved in digital publishing in 1990 and after (and founding the oldest open access online journal in the humanities, Bryn Mawr Classical Review), I had been around conversations about rights and about signing away as little as you need to [in a contract]. The book in question, Augustine: Confessions (Oxford University Press 1992, 3 volumes) was in my mind at the time, so I familiarized myself [with rights reversion].

My book was expensive and specialized, with a first print run of 1,000 copies and a provision that I would get royalties if it sold more than 600 copies. The book sold for $300, or about $550 in 2018 dollars. I figured this meant that OUP expected to sell 600 copies, or a few more. In fact it had a reprinting of 250 copies and sold out all of those. In 1995, my editor at Oxford told me with regret that she had been unsuccessful in getting a paperback edition, so the book was going out of print. I was remarkably cheerful about this prospect [because it made the book eligible for reversion].

AuAll: What motivated you to request your rights back?

JJO: I had been speaking of digital “postprints” for some time and had in fact posted an earlier book of mine from 1979 (long out of print) in that way. The Oxford volumes of Augustine’s Confessions were meant to be of high value for scholarly users, from student to researcher, and I was well aware that use was naturally limited to library copies, often non-circulating. I wanted better.

AuAll: Were you eligible to exercise a clause in your contract granting reversion rights?

JJO: Yes, I wrote a simple letter to Oxford University Press. There was a clear clause in the contract.

AuAll: How has the reversion helped you? What have you been able to do with your book since reversion?

JJO: First, I worked with a consortium of scholars doing Internet publishing in classics to create a digital online version of my edition of Augustine’s Confessions, now hosted at the Stoa Consortium and at Georgetown University (my former institution) on mirror sites. This resource has been available for about twenty years and is regularly praised as a teaching and research tool of considerable value.

Then, in about 2000, OUP decided to have another publisher, Sandpiper Books, do limited run reprints (not yet print-on-demand) of some of their “greatest hits” of scholarly publishing in classics, and chose to include Confessions in the series. When they told me they intended to do this, I reminded them that the rights were now mine, and we proceeded to agree on terms for licensing this specific use for a modest stipend.

Around 2012, OUP decided that the book indeed had legs and made it available in paperback. It has been in print in that format since 2013 for $179, or about one-third the original hardcover price. It was surely the case that the digital presence with open access on the web kept my book in mind and created the market for those who decided they needed a print copy. It is highly unlikely that the book would have had better sales without the e-version (and quite likely that it would not have done as well).

AuAll: What advice do you have for other authors who might want to pursue a reversion of rights?

JJO: Authors should know what they want out of their books, other than the traditional thin stream of royalties that academic books receive. They should inform themselves about their rights, sign rights away carefully at the outset, and then keep an eye on just what outcome they are looking for. My sense is that with the ease of print-on-demand technology, many books may effectively never go “out of print,” requiring a different kind of strategy and vigilance for authors.

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We couldn’t agree more! Authors should be informed about their rights, and have strategies in mind for using them wisely—not only at the time a book deal is signed, but in future years, as well. To that end, we recommend two of our educational resources to help authors understand what exactly rights reversion is, how reversion fits into a book publication contract, and how to successfully secure a reversion of rights.

If, like Professor O’Donnell, you have previously published books and wish to learn more about regaining your rights, visit our Rights Reversion resource page, where you’ll find our complete guide to Understanding Rights Reversion, letter templates for use in contacting your publisher, and a collection of reversion success stories from other authors who successfully regained their rights and made their works more widely available.

If you currently have a book in progress and have not yet placed it with a publisher, we also recommend visiting our Publication Contracts resource page, which features our new guide to Understanding and Negotiating Book Publication Contracts. Knowing about rights reversion and reversion clauses before you sign your publication contract can help to clarify the conditions for reversion and pave the way for a successful reversion of rights in the future.

Making In-Copyright Works Open Access:
A Report From Iceland

Posted November 15, 2017

Typewriter with Icelandic keyboard

Photo by Rob McKaughan | CC BY-NC-SA

The island nation of Iceland—about the size of Virginia, and with a population of around 300,000—might be one of the smallest in the world, but it enjoys a robust influence on literature and culture that’s out of all proportion with its size. Thanks to a long tradition of universal literacy, a booming publishing industry, and an enthusiastic reading public, Iceland is home to a great many authors, some of whom are eager to make their books available online.

To help address this need, Professor Ian Watson of the Norwegian University of Science and Technology undertook a project to help some of these authors release their out-of-print books online under Creative Commons licenses. His article, “Assisting Living Authors in Opening Access to Their In-Copyright Works: A Report From Iceland,” details his experience with author-by-author rights clearance. Watson worked with authors to digitize their books (if they were not already part of Google Books) and ensure that their permissions status in HathiTrust was fully open. Watson’s results were successful overall, with 31 of 36 authors responding favorably to the idea of opening their works. Ultimately, 28  works were made newly available online. (The difficulties that did arise were most often bureaucratic or technological, rather than the result of unwillingness by authors or publishers to cooperate.)

Head shot of Ian Watson

Authors Alliance: You are a longtime advocate for open access, as well as the former editor of an OA journal [Bifröst Journal of Social Science]. How did you first become interested in OA?  What do you see as its main benefits?

Ian Watson: I got interested in open access in 2008, originally because I saw that it was the best way to publish written work by scholars at the university in Iceland where I was working. The university wanted to start a journal to help its employees get their research published. If we had held their work back and given it out only to those willing to pay for a paper copy, very few people would have ever read what they wrote, and administering payments and subscriptions would have taken hours of work. I offered to set up an open-access website for the journal using OJS, in addition to printing a few paper copies. This appealed to our open-minded rector. Later on, I also realized that open access was the right approach for many books and monographs in Iceland.

AuAll: How do you view the current state of OA? What changes have you observed over the years? What would you like to see in the future of OA publishing?

IW: Open access is well accepted and supported these days, and that’s wonderful. Still, too much new scholarship is being published behind toll barriers. Too many books and papers are still published in the old guard of high-prestige, toll-access presses and journals.

The rise of sites like SciHub that circumvent the existing legal framework signal that the market for scholarly journal articles is not yet in equilibrium; in the long run, I think it will just be very hard to sustain charging high prices for things that have a zero marginal cost. Just as users have long used public and university libraries for free, I think it’s inevitable that digital libraries will tend towards being free too.

It’s tremendously important to get the word out to authors that they can change the rights status of their work. At the same time, open-access advocates should be comfortable with the fact that there are many books that are still written to be sold and to make money, and that’s OK.

AuAll: You found that the majority of the authors that you contacted wanted to open up access to their works.  Why do you think these authors were enthusiastic about making their works newly available online?

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Spotlight on Open Access & Innovative Academic Publishing Models

Posted October 25, 2017

Just in time for the start of the new academic year, Authors Alliance featured a series of Q&As with our members on the topic of open access and innovative academic publishing models. In celebration of Open Access Week, we’ve collected what these authors had to say about the benefits of making their works openly accessible.

 

Eric von Hippel (MIT) on the benefits of making his books, Free Innovation, The Sources of Innovation, and Democratizing Innovation, openly accessible:

“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.”

 

Read the full interview with Professor von Hippel here.

 

James Boyle and Jennifer Jenkins (Duke) on the benefits of openly publishing their law school casebook, Intellectual Property: Law & the Information Society – Cases & Materials:

“…[T]he 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.

“[I]t is striking how much tangible benefit in terms of citation, influence, and so on that [making our book openly accessible] has yielded. When it comes to open access to scholarship, doing good can be very compatible with doing well.”

 

Read the full interview with Professors Boyle and Jenkins here.

 

Barton Beebe (NYU) on the benefits of publishing Trademark Law: An Open Source Casebook as an open access work:

“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.”

“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.”

 

Read the full interview with Professor Beebe here.

 

For more information about open access, including our guidebook and more success stories, check out our Open Access resource page.

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.