Gary Hall on Fri, 29 Jul 2011 00:51:25 +0200 (CEST)

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Re: <nettime> some more nuanced thoughts on publishing, editing, reading, using


Thanks. No, it's not a glitch. Digitize This Book! was originally written and published as a print-on-paper (and not open access) text: partly as a way of drawing attention to some of the politico-institutional issues and difficulties the book is attempting to engage with around open access, certainly as it existed at that time. However, interestingly, and perhaps not altogether surprisingly, people have taken the title literally and posted it in various places around the net, including both and Scribd.

All of which I guess raises a variation of the question Michael Gurstein asked regarding journals: given the number of independent, not-for-profit, open access book publishers that are available now - Open Book Publishers, and so on - 'why is anyone still working for/publishing in/editing/reading/using or otherwise supporting the current more or less obscene system of academic for profit publishing' with regard to books, too?

(There's a fuller list of OA book publishers here:; and an interesting report on/overview of Open Access Models for eBooks in the Humanities and Social Sciences here:

At the same time, I don't mean to give the impression all corporately owned, 'closed' publishers and journals are the politically co-opted tools of global capitalism, while the smaller, independent, not-for-profit open access publishers and journals are somehow able to elude all this. As my Open Humanities Press colleague Marta Brunner has pointed out to me, ‘many of us who work in public universities are already implicated by the ties of our institutions (e.g. to the military, to defence labs) that pay our salaries and therefore would also be paying for our open access publishing, to a certain extent, given... the volunteer economy of humanities-based OA.’

There are things we can do, though. For instance, something I've also suggested elsewhere, by way of building on the Striphas (there's an open pre-print version here:, is the establishment of an initiative whereby all academic editors and publishers are asked to make freely available details of both their sources of income and funding, and of all the sources of financial income and support pertaining to the journals they run. And that an equivalent directory to the DOAJ and SHERPA/RoMEO directories is set up - only in this case documenting all these various sources of income and support, together with information as to who the owners of the different academic journals are and, just as importantly, the other divisions, subsidiaries and activities of their various companies and organisations. It seems to me something along these lines would help provide today's 'precarious intellectuals' with the knowledge they need to make responsible political and ethical decisions as to who they want to publish with or undertake editorial work and peer review for.

I also like the fact that the processes of conglomeration in the academic publishing industry mean such an initiative wouldn't require as much time and effort as one might think. Striphas shows that ‘Reed Elsevier, Springer, Wiley-Blackwell, and Taylor & Francis/Informa... publish about 6,000 journals between them.’ So, working to these figures, in order to cover 6,000 journals, or somewhere between a quarter and a fifth of all peer-reviewed journals, we'd only need to research and disclose details of four corporations.

Which almost brings us back round to one of the places where this discussion started. For according to some accounts at least, wasn't it information gathering of a not too dissimilar nature that Aaron Swartz was involved in regarding JSTOR?


Gary, your post and the Strichas article have led me to a fascinating work, namely your own "Digitize This Book! The Politics of New Media, Or Why We Need Open Access Now." This pdf reads like an expanded, in-depth synthesis of all the excellent debates we've had on this topic on nettime over many years, since the Budapest Open Access Initiative was launched in 2002. As I understand it, the book is not a hacker call to piracy, but instead a program to achieve institutional transformation, using the technical possibility of free access as a wedge to open up the current university hierarchy and fight the entrepreneurial trend with a new constructive program. It seems the book was supposed to be available in the digitized form championed by its title. And it is -- but as far as I can tell (perhaps due to some technical glitch?), it's only available at the website-of-choice for today's precarious generation: everybody's library-of-the-future-right-now, A recommended destination for the alienated academic multitudes.

best, Brian


Gary Hall
Research Professor of Media and Performing Arts
School of Art and Design, Coventry University
Co-editor of Culture Machine
Co-founder of the Open Humanities Press

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