At The London Book Fair held on April 2014, Publishing Technology brought together a panel of academic publishing experts from Nature Publishing, Macmillan Digital Science and PLOS ONE to imagine a future for the industry beyond open access. The digital transition has been a long, rocky road for the academic publishing industry. Many of the same bumps, obstacles, crossroads and cul-de-sacs that its garish and vociferous trade publishing cousin has encountered have also been features of its own equally eventful journey.
A recently proposed model on open-access publishing has drawn praise for rethinking the roles institutions, libraries and professional organizations play in promoting scholarly communication, but can its collaborative structure be sustained? The proposal envisions stakeholders forming partnerships, each handling one or more of the duties of funding, distributing and preserving open-access scholarly research -- specifically in the humanities and social sciences. To fund the new structure of scholarly communication, institutions would pay into a centralized fund that awards grants to promote research through a competitive application process.
In the 2013 NYRB piece, Darnton described the DPLA as 'a distributed system of electronic content that will make the holdings of public and research libraries, archives, museums, and historical societies available, effortlessly and free of charge.' Initially, the offering would 'be limited to a rich variety of collections-books, manuscripts, and works of art-that have already been digitized in cultural institutions throughout the country.' But around that core, he predicted, the DPLA 'will grow, gradually accumulating material of all kinds until it will function as a national digital library.' The words science, scientific, and journal never appeared in that 2013 piece, though implications for them did.
Taxpayers in the US spend $139 billion a year on scientific research, yet much of this research is inaccessible not only to the public, but also to other scientists. This is the consequence of an exploitative scientific journal system that rewards academic publishers while punishing taxpayers, scientists, and universities. Fortunately, cheap open-access alternatives are not only possible, but already beginning to take root, suggesting a way forward to a more open and equitable system for sharing research.
Publishers are eager to put out works in translation, but this can encounter problems in the research phase. There are various ways a publisher hears about an author who piques their interest: a newspaper article with a fleeting mention of a once-popular foreign author; a glance at the bookshelf of a great-aunt who immigrated from Hungary; a rave from a foreign friend or acquaintance; a tip or submission from a translator; an agent. If a publisher is interested, then the questions that follow are: Is anything available in English? Where can I read it? Has anything by Author X been translated before? Is anybody working on it now?