Earlier this month, Andrew Cullison, Jonathan Jacobs, Mark Lance, Kevin Timpe and I launched a survey to gauge interest for an open access philosophy book press. Following the successful launch of open access philosophy journals like Ergo and Philosopher’s Imprint we wanted to see if there was sufficient interest for a book publisher that worked on a non-profit, open-access model.
A total of 416 philosophers took our survey. Of these, 223 respondents left their contact details, saying they’d be interested to help as advisory board members or area editors. Here’s the breakdown in % of how our respondents thought about an AO philosophy book press. 85.4% said they would definitely or probably be willing to serve as a referee (without renumeration), 66.7% would definitely or probably submit as an author, 64.8% would definitely or probably be willing to serve on an Advisory Board, and 59% would definitely or probably be willing to serve as an Area Editor (see below the fold for more detailed results and a selection of comments).
Just focusing on those who left contact details (N=223), here is a breakdown of countries of residence.
Here’s a breakdown of the respondents who left contact details in terms of their academic, student or other professional situation
To get a sense of how these contributors are spread in terms of AOS, here is a breakdown in numbers (NOT percentages, it’s more useful here to have numbers) of respondents who left contact details in AOS. It adds up to a lot more than 223, but that’s because respondents typically have multiple AOS’s.
Respondents left comments about what they thought about the project.
Positive responses (sample)
Many respondents enthusiastically endorsed the idea of a new OA Press.
“It is a great idea. I will invite my contacts to share and spread the world about this project. The possibilities to maintain knowledge free is of fundamental importance as citizens and philosophers. It could be an important step toward the abolition of economical and cultural barriers.”
“It's an excellent project! All the "probably"s would be "definitely"s if I had tenure.”
“This is a superb plan! The press could get a smooth start by making use of some of the fantastic existing free / open source infrastructures for collaborative commenting, editing, publishing etc already available on the web.”
“This is an excellent idea - although only if standards are kept high, as quality control is critical (as it is with Phil Imprint and Ergo). I hope there exists enough energy within the profession to make that happen. My compliments, and good luck!”
Worries, concerns and suggestions
The following themes consistently emerged from the many responses we received.
1. In order to be successful, the press would need to have a very respectable editorial board
“The reason I would probably not serve on the advisory board is this: I am a relatively junior person, and my status as such would harm the project were on on the board. For an open access press to succeed, it would need the halo effect of very senior people on its advisory board. This is an unfortunate (contingent but extant) fact given the status-obsessed norms of our profession. I would probably be willing to review manuscripts and probably be willing to submit manuscripts.”
“I do wonder about the Advisory Board. The struggle is always one just, productive inclusiveness and perceived professional standing. Phil Imprint, for example, started with a just aim towards inclusiveness in their board; but they also had a robust group of well-established philosophers. Something similar will be needed. (Otherwise, Department Heads, Deans, etc will advise against publishing in "non-traditional" venues.) .....But in general: I like the idea!!!”
2. The press would need some prominent scholars to start up the publication of books
“My first step would be to get 3-4 major names (i.e., who don't really need the imprimatur of a big press anymore) to contribute the first books. Without such names, more junior scholars would be justifiably cautious about submitting...”
“I suggest that you get someone with serious star-power to publish a book with the press at the very beginning. Phil Imprint started out with Kit Fine's /The Question of Realism/, and I think that made a huge difference for them.”
“Young colleagues will have to wait with publishing with the press until the press has established itself, due to career pressures. However, this is a mutual interest. The press needs to establish itself by having senior philosophers publish with it. The plan should be to ask around amongst established colleagues to publish with the press. I think the plan should also include to first gather a strong group of authors, and then make one big first announcement which will include an impressive number of books hat will be anticipated by many. In this way, the word will spread naturally without much need of publicity work by the press itself.”
3. There were concerns from more junior scholars that this press would only be a good option for them once it became more established
“In principle, I fully support the idea of open access publishing. But I'm an early-career philosopher and need 'prestigious' publications to be competitive on the job market. Given the biases in the profession at the moment, it does not seem to me that open access publications are felt by those 'higher up' in the ranks to be as 'prestigious' as traditional publications. I hope this changes, as the reasons behind it are questionable, but until it does, my first choice will probably continue to be traditional publications.”
4. Some respondents expressed an interest in an on-demand hard copy printing service
“The analogy between virtual book publishing and virtual journal publishing isn't strong: it's easy to print and staple a single article, but to print a whole book is a hassle, and the end-product is unwieldy. Of course one can forego printing, but I'm not convinced that the future belongs to e-books. We three-dimensional corporeal philosophers still like three-dimensional corporeal externalizations of content!”
“OA books should be available on paper too. The typesetting in the file as well as on paper needs to be good, e.g. with LaTeX. Large enough fonts, not like OUP often today. Perhaps www.openbookpublishers.com is suitable for philosophy too.”
“This is a great and timely idea. It might be good to see if a print on demand function could be included (would not have to be free as long as the electronic versions are). I think it is also important to ensure state of the art typography and design.”
“I love the idea! However, I'm also a fan of hard copy books. Might your project be able to accommodate something like print on demand, where people can order nicely bound hard copies of the books at production cost? (There are probably companies that would offer that service) That would make the project even more awesome!”
5. Several respondents mentioned other OA presses that might be useful to collaborate with or draw inspiration from
“I have a book under contract with an Open Access publisher, called Open Books. It is run by scholars from Cambridge University, and it has a strong focus on the humanities. Why not team up with them? Or, at least, get in touch with them?”
“re.press in Australia has been publishing good OA books in continental phil. for some time now”
“There are a few other presses doing work in open access and philosophy, and if you haven't already, you might want to talk with them. I am thinking here of Open Humanities Press, which has a few philosophy series, re:press, and punctum books.”
“I'm a co-founder of Open Humanities Press, an OA press which publishes critical and cultural theory. Our model is to partner with like-minded libraries to share the labour. We'd be happy to help in any way we can. Feel free to be in touch.”
6. Miscellaneous concerns about length, typesetting etc
“I think the advent of the internet has made (or at least ought to make) the entire distinction between articles and books obsolete, and you could take advantage of that. What I mean is that journals typically have maximum word limits and books have minimum word limits, which leaves a no man's land of possible writings that simply can't adequately cover a topic in less space than can fit into an article, but don't warrant an entire book-length treatment. I'd be in favor of using the forum you're suggesting to also publish these sorts of works.”
“I would love to experiment with online or electronic formats that are variations on the standard book. Say an aesthetics book with lots of hyperlinks to YouTube. Or a book on rhetoric and pragmatics that embeds MLK speeches. We needn't be constrained by the limits of cellulose as a medium.”
7. Funding sources
About possible sources of funding, respondents mentioned, among others, JSTOR, the John Templeton Foundation, Marc Sanders Foundation ,American university libraries, Creative Commons Foundation, NIH, Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Scholarly Communications Program. Some respondents suggested a modest contributor fee by authors (lower than for-profit OA presses).
One respondent said “Also, I would talk to the editors from the SEP - they have build the most impressive Open Access Philosophy Resource, in my opinion.” Several respondents mentioned the American Philosophical Association.
“I guess you may already be aware that in the UK the main funding council have been concerned about OA and monographs? Details of their project and reports are here: https://www.hefce.ac.uk/pubs/rereports/year/2015/monographs/”
“If you have a full professor from Germany on board, they might find out about possibilities at DFG or one of the foundations (e.g. Volkswagenstiftung). They might be interested in funding a pilot project.”
“With Canadian collaborators, it may be possible to apply for partial funding through SSRHC.”
“I know that the Open Commons of Phenomenology is hoping to make use of crowdfunding to get their project off the ground. I am on the founding committee there, but have only helped out with translation, but I'd be happy to put you in touch with someone in more of a leadership role.”
Your further comments on this topic are welcome!