Is Academic Open Access publishing more advanced than it looks like?

On the first look, the introduction of Open Access publishing is not accepted widely and most classical publishers like Elsevier and Springer doesn’t like the idea very much. So there is a need for libraries to explain the advantage and force all actors to become more open.

But what is, if the story is wrong? Is the plot that the publishers are boycotting open access the reality? What we see instead is , that open access is everywhere. Endless of youtube interviews, and lots of examples in the real world are available in which papers and even complete books were published under a free license. And even a paper doesn’t have the dedicated creative commons license, it is for sure indexed in Google Scholar and available in the local library.

If we are comparing academic publishing with the classical bookmarket, the keyplayer in academia are very open access friendly. That means, Elsevier and Springer are the forerunner of all publication houses. They are more advanced than Amazon and other mainstream publishers who are not talking about creative commons and free to the reader information. It is correct, that Open Access is a new development which was not there before the year 2000. But in the last 10 years lots have changed, and especially the policatical preasure to publish all new paper only under an Open Access license has made the market more open.

Somebody thinks, that Open Access is something which is blocked by the major publishers. But in reality it is blocked by the authors. Let us take a look who advocates the idea the information should be free most. The first institutions who have argued pro Open Access were the university library. In most cases, they have echoed their customers. That means, the students in the library who are searching for literature doesn’t like paywal and costly journals, but they want to read the information for free and want to do a fulltext search in the content. This request was understood by the libraries and they are repeat it loudly. The next actor was the publishing companies. They have talked to the libraries and understood the principle. Major publishers like Elsevier and Springer are not complete confinced that Open Access is a great idea but in general they are with the libraries at the same position. Perhaps they are talking not so loud about the topic and need more time to introduce the details.

And now let us talk about the academic authors. They are the last element in the supply chain. The author has to submit a document to a publisher. From the author community only a little was told about open access, or even nothing. The reason is, that have to create all the content and if they put it under a open access license and are not payed anymore the authors will loose everything. So it is natural that in contrast to the readers in a library the authors are not the biggest fan of the Open Access movement.

Again, here is the supply chain: reader -> library -> publisher -> author.

From left to right the support for Open Access is lower. The reader in the library are Open Access advocates. They believe, that they have a right to read all the content for free. On the other side the authors have exactly the opposte position. They think, that the reader should pay and that the author is king. The library and the publishing houses are somewhere in between and communicating in both directions.

I think the most demanding task is to convince academic authors that they doesn’t need to be paid anymore and they should put their work under a creative commons license. It is hard in doing so, because it will change their social position. The author pays model is equal to not fulfill the needs of the authors but doing the opposite. Which means, to hold the authors outside of the chain and let only subgroup pass the wall who swear, that Open Access is great.

The overall conflict is easy to define. The readers in a library are pro Open Access. And the authors on the other side are contra Open Access. Introducing Open Access into the publishing market means, to give the readers a stronger voice and hold down the authors. Or to formulate it more explicite. The readers in the library are king, and the content producers have to obey. The reason why this total open Access strategy wasn’t realized yet is because the amount of authors in Academia is low and they have a strong social position. If a long term author argues against Open Access he won’t get any problems with his publishing house, because he is a well known author who is able to produce high quality content. An alternative is not available so he can’t ignored. The more efficient answer to the problem is, to increase the number of authors so that the overall system is no longer depended on authors who are asking for money and who are against Open Access. Before a publisher can reject a certain author the publisher needs an alternative who can write the same paper without getting paid. And this transition to Open Access friendly authors is indeed the bottleneck. The time until an untrained student is able to write scholarly paper suited for a journal can take a decade or two. And if the remaining authors are creating some kind of labor union to boycott Open Access at all, it is hard to hold against it.

What the Open Access movement needs is a large amount of Open Access authors who are not proclaiming that they have authors right but who are doing everything the reader wants. This would help to divide the authors into two groups.

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Is Amazon still active?

According to the self-description, Amazon claims to be a book publisher which is especially interested in the ebook segment. But a detailed look at their homepage shows, that the number of Open Access ebooks is very small. I didn’t found a single book under a creative commons license. It seems, that Amazon had resign to publish books anymore and other publisher can take over the existing market. That is sad, because Amazon was looking like a promising publisher for future publishing.

A possible alternative to Amazon is Oreilly, which has a dedicated creative commons section https://www.oreilly.com/openbook/ A well known bestseller is The Cathedral and the Bazaar by Eric S. Raymond Another emerging Open Access publisher is Springer, https://www.springeropen.com/books A topseller title is “Markus Maurer: Autonomous Driving Technical, Legal and Social Aspects” The book has 700 pages and is provided as a pdf file for free download. What makes the book even more interesting is, that it available in a german translation as well https://www.oapen.org/home The English version was downloaded around 1 million times so far. That means, a large part of the world get the impression what autonomous driving is from this book, and Springer can be called the forerunner of future publishing. It seems, that they have a better understanding of the market than Amazon has.

Hello Amazon, are you there? The world is asking for free content for all. Nobody is buying books anymore. Even if Amazon ignores the market needs nobody cares. What all companies have in common who are ignoring the market is, that they are going bankrupt. In capitalism, there is only one winner.

The opposite of peer review is self-publishing

A peer review publishing house is doing two things: first, he is doing copy editing with the help of phd students and secondly he puts the result to a website. Well known publishers like Elsevier, Wiley and Springer are organized in that way. They have a large amount of peer reviewed journals in the product catalog, which means that Springer itself or a friend-company take a look into the manuscript, corrects spelling mistakes and improves the quality.

The reason why the quality improvement is not called copy editing but peer review has to do because an academic manuscript is more complicated to improve than a fiction book. In a fiction book, it is enough to check for spelling mistakes, but in an academic manuscript the content needs to be adjusted. Only experts are able to determine if a manuscript is well written and how to improve it. If somebody doesn’t know, what a convolution neural network is, he is not able to give a qualified feedback to the author. A good copy editor knows more about the subject, than the original author. Otherwise the workflow doesn’t make much sense.

Let us define, what the term self-publishing means in the bookmarket. Self-publishing is the absence of a copy-editing and formatting of the manuscript. Instead, the publisher sees it’s role reduced to the distribution itself which is equal to print the book, provide an ISBN number and put the title into the large stores. Self-publishing means, that the author has to provide the camera ready manuscript. If the pdf file contains of spelling mistakes and not understood content, the publisher won’t correct the issue.

In the previous chapter I’ve explained that peer review is an advanced form of copy editing. The absence of copy editing is called self-publishing, so the conclusion is, that a publisher who doesn’t provide peer review is equal to a self-publishing company. In the debate around Open Access this is often called a predatory publisher, because the publisher doesn’t provide a quality control nor quality improvement. Instead, the author provides the camera ready manuscript and publishing is reduced only to put the document the webserver.

The reason why predatory publishing and other forms of self-publishing are interesting is because the costs are lower. If the other side doesn’t improve the spelling mistakes, and doesn’t give feedback on a content base, the overall submission pipeline is simplified. The author can publish a document in a short time and for the lowest possible costs. In the normal book market, the genre is called book on demand publishing in which a single book costs for the author around 10 US$, while in academic publication the same idea is called a megajournal in which a single submission produces costs of less than 100 US$. Predatory publishing has the same disadvantages like self-publishing. In general it is preferred by authors who are rejected by a normal publishing house and now they are trying to get into the market at the lowest possible price. A typical example for a self-published novel is sold in an ebook store for 0.99 US$ which is much lower than a real book which is distributed by large publishing houses.

What we can say for sure is, that predatory publishers and self-publishers are destroying the market. Their strategy is based on discount prices and the quality is much lower than in regular publishing. In a healthy book market, self-publishing is not successful. Only in a broken market, self-publishers are able to reach the bestseller list. Sometimes, the predatory publishers are claiming that Academic publishing is broken. No it is not. The only thing what should be avoided is the publication of manuscripts which are not peer reviewed. This destroys the system.

Predatory publishers are using the reader of a manuscript as a feedback channel. They are deliver a manuscripts full of typo mistakes and misunderstandings and hope that the reader will fix it. The typical workflow is, that the reader discovers a new manuscript on the website. He hopes, that the document will answer his question, But during reading he will notice, that the manuscript if full of errors. It is only the raw text not corrected by anyone. The reader is asked for feedback, which means, that he should revise the document and say who to improve the content. It is unfair to utilize the reader in that a way. Even if he hasn’t paid for the content the reader should get always the final document and not a draft version. It is not the job of a reader to improve the content. That is the job of the peer reviewers.

The existence of predatory publishing demonstrates, that Open Access in general is the wrong way. In a system in which the resulting documents is free to the reader under a creative commons license the danger is high, that the publishers are trying to reduce their costs. Predatory publishing shows, that Open Access doesn’t work. The better idea is to ask the reader for money which can be realized with paywals. Paywal protected high-quality content is sign of a healty publication market in which self-predatory publishing has no chance.

Again, small tutorial for creating a book from scratch

The pipeline of creating a non-fiction book from scratch is easier than it looks like. At first we have to define the amount of needed words. According to some information in the Internet, the average non-fiction book contains of 50000 words. Typing in the text in a single session is not the best idea. But writing a book is different from writing an exam, because the author can write at home. If he types in the first 1000 words and press the save button on his preferred texteditor, all the information is stored on the harddisk and he can start at the next day on the same entry point.

Suppose, somebody has written 50000 words. Then his book is ready, or at least it is nearly ready. It’s correct that a draft manuscript which contains lots of spelling mistakes and doesn’t have correct literature references to existing literature can’t be published as a book, on the other hand every draft manuscript can be extended with the missing features. So the overall task of creating a book can be reduced to typing in 50000 words in the draft document and the rest is easy going.

How complicated is it to write such amount of text? Not very much if we are comparing the task with programming sourcecode. If the 50000 words are equal to computer instructions, it is a large scale programming project which will takes years and a single person is overwhelmed by the task. If it’s only a book, then a single author can handle the project easily. A realistic writing speed is if someone types in 1000 words each day. On a modern keyboard this is not very complicated. According to the math the overall typing task will take only 50000/1000=50 days. Can this project be handled by everyone? Sure, and this is the reason why the number of published books in the world are growing each year. Most hobby authors have recognized that with a modern PC and a bit keyboard training the creation of a book is easier than it looks like.

Let us go to the details. The challenge of writing a small essay which contains of 1000 words is well known from the mainstream education system. It has to do with writing an fluent to read text about a single topic. In a dense formated twocolumn formatting, the amount of 1000 words fits onto a single US-letter page. If somebody writes the essay by hand with a pen he will need more space, I would guess at least 8 pages upto 10 for some corrections. But who can a 1000 word essays extended to a non-fiction book which contains 50x times more content? The answer has to do with chapters and sections.

If someone has written a longer text the content gets a name, called section. At first the sections are ordered linear. That means essay 1 is section 1, essay 2 is section 2 and so on. If someone has written many of these section, he will recognize, that some of them are belonging together. They are about the same subtopic and can be outsourced in a new section. This will produce the well known table of contents which every books has. The ability of copy and paste sections into a hierarchy is the fundamental feature of a professional writing tool like lyx. Without sections, it is not possible to create a larger amount of content.

Open Access publication is equal to Total customer orientation

In the business theory, customer orientation describes a reverse management principle in which all business decision have to obey to the customer. The idea is, that the customer is put into the position of the boss of the company and can give commands to the employees. For example, the customer likes to see the latest clothes in the store, and the employee have to bring it. The customers asks for a different color and another employee has to talk back to the production line, if this color can be made.

The reason why customer orientation is not widespread used by all companies has to do because it more labor intensive then a classical top down company in which the orginasational structure defines what the customer gets. What most researchers and publishing experts are not aware is, that total customer orientation works outside of old economy perfect. Let us take a look into academic publishing what a customer first ideology means. The customer of a book or a journal is the reader. He sits in most cases in the library or at hame at the computer. It is not wonder, that libraries are the driving force behind Open Access because they are interested in providing a better service for the customer. So what are the needs of the ordinary visitor of a university library? Very simple, he asks what all customers are interested. He want to read millions of books, in his prefered language, without paying anything and without any waiting time. In the past, the library customer was happy, if becomes the book with an inter-library loan after 4 weeks of waiting time and if he pays for the service 5 US$. Today’s costumer won’t tolerate that anymore. They want to read the book right now and without paying the 5 US$.

The total customer orientation and the Open Access principle is easy to explain from the customer perspective. It means basically, that that customer is king, he pays nothing, gets the highest quality, has not to wait, can browse in the fulltext of millions of papers and if something is not in the catalog, the publisher has to create the paper from scratch and put it into the catalog within two months. Playing the social role of such a demanding customer is very easy. The best way in doing so is to imagine, that the customer is some god, has the absolute power, and all the publishers, libraries and authors have to do what he wants.

And now comes the bad news. Realizing a customer first principle is very hard. If one the one side a customer is there which has lots of wishes somebody on the other side has to fulfill these wishes. Which kind of social role has to be played by authors, and publishers in an open access system? Most people are aware of it, and that is the reason why Open Access is not introduced yet. It is something which is very labor intensive. It means, to work harder, produce a higher quality and lowering the price. It is easy to ask for Open Access but it is complicated to deliver. The good news is, that with advancement in technology the potential is available to deliver a higher quality at a lower price. With today’s internet, modern textprocessing tools and standardized document formats like PDF it is more easier to produce high quality documents for free. A first step in fulfill the needs of the customer for paying nothing is to avoid printed books and prefer online information. If the books isn’t printed anymore a large amount of costs can be saved. And if the costs are lower, the customer has to pay less or nothing in the best case. A second option for improving the productivity is to use modern textprocessing software. If not a mechanical typewriter but an integrated software program is used on the PC without printing out a draft version the workflow is speed up drastically. And the third important building block for lowering the costs is a dedicated open Access license. If a paper is published under a creative commons licence it can be copied without restrictions and there is no need to protect the content with a paywal.

Unfortunately, the creating of content has bottleneck which is the author. Today’s technology can only support the author in the writing process it can’t create the document automatically. First ideas based on neural networks which are producing academic papers were tested in the past, but the quality is to low for a practical purpose.

The surprising fact is, that there is no need to convince anybody that Total customer orientation or Open Access is a here to stay. It is not a classical ideology which has to be explained, but it is the default structure in social groups. Sure, a single company can avoid to publish as Open Access but on the long run, that market will decide that this company goes bankrupt. Customer orientation and Open Access is a very aggressive business strategy results into conflicts for the employees. If in a company some kind of discussion and mobbing is visible, this is the result of a customer first ideology. The principle was shown in the media in the TV series “Gordon Ramsay cooking chef”. The reality documentation shows a very demanding customer who criticizes every food and forces the kitchen staff to work harder and become more friendly to him. Usually the episode ends if tears roll over the face of one of the employees.

What is an Open Access and peer reviewed journals?

In the mainstream debate, many journals are calling themself Open Access but it is unclear what does it mean for reality. Is Open Access equal to Open Access Gold, or can a predatory journal be also published in this workmode? And what is a peer review system, should it be double-blind or done openly?

I’d like to define the terms more precisely, by introducing the concept of Web 2.0 Web 2.0 means basically user-generated content which is equal to “Author pays”. The reason why the Web 2.0 ideology is helpful is because there is a long history available which shows what Web 2.0 is in reality and what not. So let us define what a typical web 2.0 website is. The main idea is, that content production is not paid and the business model of a web 2.0 company is trying to sell the infrastructure for creating the content. Let us make an example. Suppose somebody likes to start a blog. The person needs at first a digital camera to make the photos. Such a camera is sold by Canon. The blogger will need a smartphone for creating content during travel. Such device is sold by Apple. The blogger will also need an UMTS internet flatrate plus a standalone DSL flatrate. Such services are provided by AT&T. What the blogger need also is webspace in the internet, this is sold by Godaddy. He will need a laptop which is sold by Asus, an operating system which is produced by microsoft and a photo-manipulation software which is released by the Adobe company.

Let us investigate the flow of money. All these companies are not paying money to the blogger but it is the other way around. The blogger has to pay for computer hardware, for the software, for the cloud storage and for the internet connection. That means, the blogger is rich, Apple/MIcrosoft are both poor and the rich blogger has to spend money to the poor companies … This workmode is called Web 2.0 It means, that the author of content has to invest money, time and effort and the reader gets content for free. The same principle is available under the term Open Access. Open Access is for academic content while Web 2.0 is about blogging content. Similar to Web 2.0 in the Open Access movement the companies are not paying money to the author, but they are asking for money. Typical examples for such companies are: Academia.edu, Elsevier, Enago, Endnote, Mendeley and others. All of them have products which are useful if someone likes to create academic content. Academia.edu for example provides space in the cloud for uploading a paper, while the endnote software allows to put references in a document. Enago is a company who provides paid peer review. What all these companies are doing is to force the academic author into a social role.

That means in detail. The author of a paper doesn’t helps Elsevier to create new content. Instead Elsevier helps the author to do so. The question of who helps whom is important because it defines in which direction the money will flow. Elsevier isn’t a company who pays money to an author in exchange for manuscript but Elsevier asks for money if an author likes to publish content online. This paradigm shift is important because of two reasons. The first one is, that the resulting product is free to read. That means, all the user generated content has a creative commons license and no paywal or subscription is needed. The second idea is, that the authors of the content will get lots of problem. Not the overall publishing system is under pressure but the individual author. He has to create the content, he has to ask for compensation of his costs and if he doesn’t find a library who likes to finance his journal submission he has to pay the money from it’s own pocket.

This kind of forces social pressure will produce a higher productivity. If the author pays the costs from his own pocket he will think twice how to reduce the costs. HE will prefer predatory publishers over high quality journals because the costs for him are smaller. This decision forces the journals to think about their own costs and how to reduce the price for the end user which is the author. This triggers a cascade which increases the overall productivity and the number of publications at the same time. The principle is known from the Web 2.0 in which the total amount of worldwide blogs have increased over the years.

Let us discuss Open Access and Web 2.0 from a market perspective. The market consists of the customers who are reading content, the publishers who are sitting in between and the authors who are creating the content. Web 2.0, Open Access and user generated content is equal to a Total customer orientation strategy. Which means to give the customer what he wants. The customer asks for high quality content, doesn’t like to pay anything and needs a high number of publications. In the traditional market these customers needs are not fulfilled. In the older system the customer was paying 10000 US$ to read a single journal. In the new Open Access world he gets the same journal without paying something and the quality in the journal is higher. The disadvantage is located on the other side. If the customer is king, the author of content is the servant. Nobody asks if an author has the money, if the authors is happy or allow the author to become owner of a document. Instead the market creates pressure to the author. The market forces the author to release the document under a CC-By license which is equal that the author will loose all rights, the market is forcing the author to pay the APC-charge, the market is forcing the author to organize the peer review process to increase the quality and so on.

In the Open Access situation it is comfortable to become the reader. He gets all the information for free without complicated registration, subscriptions or fees. But it will become hard to play the social role of an author. Let us assume, the author pays model is transfered into other business branches. It means, that a company who needs construction workers for building a pharaoh pyramid, doesn’t pay money to the workers, but workers have to pay money to the pharaoh. And if somebody has no money, he is not allowed to help on the project. It sounds a bit uncomfortable, but that is the idea behaind “author pays”. It means, that the pharaoh never pays a loan to it’s workers. They have to work for free. And if they doesn’t know to travel to the construction site, they have to pay the journey to the destination from her own pocket. But it can become more worse. If the worker is at pyramid. the pharao says to him, that he will help him to do the daily work. And in exchange the worker has pay money to the pharaoh.

It is very easy to predict that the workers are not happy about this situation. They will become angry, boycott the project and they will ask for an alternative. It’s up to the pharaoh to demonstrate who is the boss and who is the subordinate.

What I want to explain is, that Open Access and Web 2.0 isn’t funny in reality, but it is the most aggressive form of capitalism ever invented. The ideology is trying to reshape existing structures and put the content creators in a weak social position. Every author who argues against Open Access is right, because he will loose everything.

Creating a book for beginners, do’s and dont’s

Creating a book an one man show. An individual is trying to climb on a mountain and nobody will help him. The journey can be simplified with the right tools. The most powerful one are a PC, a textprocessor like Lyx, and an internet search engine to get information about books created before. The funny thing is, that writing itself can’t be teached nor trained. Writing is something which is already there in form of a text. If text is available it can be explained if this is compiled into a book. The easiest way in doing so is to press “preview pdf” button in Lyx. This forces the software to render the chapter and the paragraphs into a book and display’s the result on the screen. So the major question is, where does the text comes from? Text is typed in with a keyboard. The most important skill an author has is the ability to type in large amount of text in a short time. If somebody is not familiar with the qwerty system he can’t become an author. Because his writing speed is too low for creating a longer book. Even if he invests each day one hour in concentrated writing it would take 50 years until the book is ready. The secret in book production is to shrink down the needed time to a minimum. The best book is created in a short amount of time. Perhaps in a month or two.

Let us explain the advantages if a draft text is already there. Suppose the amount of 100 kb of text was typed in and should be converted into a book. The good news is, that the steps in doing so can be explained and the workflow is repeatable. The main task is to structure the paragraphs into chapters, make the references right, put some images into the text and proofreading the content. The result will be an improved quality. A well formated text is superior to it’s draft version.

The overall book production cycle can be seperated into three stages. First is to setup the infrafracture, which is a PC, the Lyx software, a nice keyboard and access to a search engine. Step 2 is writing the raw text and step three is formatting the raw text into the final document. Creating the raw text is often called the core of the production cycle. In this phase the book itself is created. The other steps are treated as pre-production and post-production steps. This results into an important question: how to write the raw text of a book?

The answer to the problem is remarkable easy. It won’t work to invent new topics or new self-motivation for a book project. Instead the typical author is repeating what he has done the years before. If somebody has written in the last 3 years some articles about flowers in his blog, it makes sense to write a book about flowers as well. If somebody is a fan of science fiction literature it make sense to write the raw text about this subject. All what the invididual author has to do is to take a look back into his own biography to identify well known subjects and intensify the work on the text. If somebody has only experience with fictional literature and tries to write in a new project something which is different the chance is high that the project will fail. That means, he won’t write a single line and the author is blocked.