Thursday, February 28, 2008

Another open access experiment

Harvard's new open access initiative has made a lot of waves, but InsideHigherEd reports today on another, smaller scale, but in some ways more interesting initiative, this one out of Indiana University.

What makes this one of particular interest to libraries is that the Indiana library is providing the publishing platform.

This makes eminent sense, for two reasons: libraries increasingly have the technological infrastructure to support a venture like this (look at the volume and variety of online services we provide already: what's one more?), and it cuts out the expensive and unsustainable middleman from the provision of serial content. Why pay a university press when you can serve it yourself, and partner fruitfully with faculty into the bargain?

It does remain to be seen how cost-effective this will be: a big unanswered question is whether open access scholarship really saves money or just shifts the burden of cost around. That's difficult to predict without trying it out, though.

One question that has often lurked in my mind when thinking about the role of libraries in scholarship, now and in the future, is whether or how libraries could play a role in the publication process. Indiana hasn't just been thinking along those lines, they've done something about it. More power to 'em and let's see what happens.

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