Karl Fogel’s recent comment asking why Samir Chopra and Scott Dexter did not publish Decoding Liberation with some sort of open licenses, especially since they are such unabashed advocates of open licensing, spurred a flurry of further comments from the authors on my blog as well as some more thought out blog posts and commentary.
I don’t have too much to add except perhaps to state the obvious: the economics of book publishing and software are quite distinct creatures. When it comes to software, one can pull in revenue from support and services, while this is pretty much impossible for most books. Software also has a much shorter shelf life, which is why making it open access, fast, is key.
Books however have a longer shelf life, which is why I am personally not opposed to some sort of limited copyright for books (around 5 years, give or take a couple) so that publishers can recoup their costs (and in academic publishing, no one is making a bundle of money, that is sure) but then it should be made free to the world, never to die that awful death of “out of print” (in so far as it can be thrown on the web, legally).
Journal publishing is another matter and I firmly believe that articles should spread far and wide and quick because of their shorter shelf life, which tends to be shorter mostly because there are just so many articles… As Alex Golub has informed us, my own professional association has really failed not only in providing more open access journals, they are not even allowing the members of the organization any say in the matter.
But thankfully other disciplines and academics are taking open access and the possibilities afforded by new media a little more seriously and here is an edited volume by CT Watch Quarterly The Coming Revolution in Scholarly Communications & Cyberinfrastructure that provides an important node in what is an important conversation.