Why is the definition of Open Access so complicated? Because each actor in the game has a different goal. The most talks about Open Access were initiated by the academic libraries. They are introducing to the audience a wonderful future in which information is free, and the libraries and the customer are not forced to pay money to get access to content protected information. The funny point is that this point of view was not discussed with the other actors before. Instead the libraries are the only one who think that information should be free.
What they have to offer is not the answer but the libraries are asking for Open Access. They have a demand for Creative commons licenced paper and they have a need for Open Access gold. What the libraries are not explaining to the public is, that the details of this transformation are not invented yet. If major publishers are talking about the future of information distribution, Open Access is only one subject among other. That means, Elsevier/Wiley and Springer are not informed about the vision of the libraries. And if we are asking the authors who have to create all the content, they have a complete different vision which is far away from open Access.
If we want to know, what Open Access means, the libraries are the first choice. They have made lots of talks about the subject and know the details about the wonderful future. The libraries can also explain well why the public profits from the transformation and how Open Access helps to bring education forward. It is important to know, that the libraries are speaking not for all players in the game, but they are only provide the need of the customers. The libraries are not able and not interested in answering how the Open Access movement should be financed or what the individual author has to do. The libraries are playing basicly the role of a customer who is visiting the supermarket and has a long list with wishes. The customer is interested into fresh fruits, a great service, tasty cake and other products. And he doesn’t want to pay to much money for it. What the customer doesn’t answer is, how the supermarket should provide all the products.
It is important to understand that the customer of supermarket isn’t speaking for the supermarket. He is playing the social role of somebody who is interested in the products. The supermarket itself has different kind of needs. Sure, he interacts with the customer but the supermarket is playing his own game in which the customer is only a part of it.
Let us describe where the border is between libraries and publishers. The libraries can’t manage the employees of the publishers and the libraries can’t tell to the author which papers they have to create. These systems are located outside of the libraries. The library is only able to formulate a request to these systems. The reason why is simple: because the library doesn’t know what publishing is nor what authoring is. They have no idea about the costs in a publishing house, and they have no idea how long it takes to create new content. And most libraries are not interested in the details, because it is not their game. They are calling themself libraries and book archives, but they are not publishers or authors.
To understand the overall workflow it makes sense to put the actors into basket. In the first basket, the users of a library, the university and the library is located. They are summarized as content customers. What they have in common is, that they are searching for existing information and they are interested in customer friendly licenses like Creative Commons. In the second basket the publishers and printing houses are located. Names like Elsevier and Wiley are part of this group. And in the third basket the content authors are within.
What all these actors are doing is to interact with each other. They have different needs and services which are offering to each other. And each of the actors has a different understand what the future is. The good news is, that the demand of libraries was clearly formulated. The libraries are interested in not paying anything, they want creative commons licences and they are asking for a higher quality. It’s important to know, that the current publishing system is not able to fulfill these wishes. Because in the current system copyright protected papers behind a subscription paywall, low quality content and powerful publishers are the reality.
So the library customer asks basicly for a system transformation. New players in the market can anticipate what will get important in the future. They will become successful if they deliver what the libraries need. That means, newly academic publishers has to aware from day 1 on the needs of Open Access. They are forced to reduce their costs to a minimum. A market transformation is the chance to overcome existing problems and make the system attractive for something which works better.
The only option which is available for publishers is, if they are improving their workflow with all available technology and if they are using the author pays model for creating new content. This results automatically into predatory publishing. Because the publisher is under pressure and is trying to compete in the market. Let us describe the typical predatory publishers. In most cases, he is using an all-digital workflow, the process is outsourced to a different country and the author has to pay the APC charge to the company to get published. No peer review, no proofreading and no formatting is done by the predatory publisher to safe costs.
What i want to explain is, that if the library as a customer asks for Open Access the only allowed answer to this request is predatory publishing. It is not possible to fulfill the Open Access needs with a classical publishing house which is using obsolete mechanical typewriters and who are paying the authors for creating content. Open Access is the request of the customer and predatory publishing is the answer of the market. If the libraries are asking for more open access they will get more predatory publishing as answer.
One question wasn’t answered yet: why are the libraries so powerful that they are able to transform the existing market? Because they represent a large amount of customers. Most demand for worldwide academic literature is initiated by the libraries. Each student in the world goes to the library house if he needs literature. And these students who don’t a logging in from their home computer to the library network for doing online research. Apart from academic library there is only a small demand for literature. And in most cases, the libraries are speaking for these customers as well. Today, around 200 million students are available in the world at the same time. The libraries are representing their demand for literature. If the library have a wish, the market has no choice than to fulfill the need. Let me give an example. Suppose a meeting is there between the library delegation and the press speaker of Elsevier. The press speaker comes in blue colored suit. Unfortunately, the library delegation doesn’t like blue very much. They want to talk only with the other side, if they are wearing a green suit. What will happen? it is easy to answer. The Elsevier press speaker has to change it’s wardrobe as fast as he can to make the customer happy. And if doesn’t do so the talks are stopped and the press speaker will loose it’s job.
That’s sounds a bit weired, but that’s the rule of the market. The customer is always right and everybody how thinks different will go bankrupt.