What are they?
According to a recent scholarly definition, an e-book is "a digital object with textual and/or other content, which arises as a result of integrating the familiar concept of a book with features that can be provided in an electronic environment. E-books typically have in-use features such as search and cross reference functions, hypertext links, bookmarks, annotations, highlights, multimedia objects and interactive tools" (1).
Open Access books are e-books whose content is freely accessible in the internet. These books may have been published first in print and then become freely available in the internet, or they are digital-born books. E-books are presented in various ways, such as in a page-by-page view in html, in a pdf view by chapter or the entire book, as audiobooks. They can be downloaded to a PC, a smart phone or a dedicated device, such as an e-book reader. E-books are either printed in small numbers (short print runs) or, more commonly, they can be printed through a print-on-demand service (POD). A variety of open source software can be used to create e-books, such as Connexions , developed by Rice University, or DPubS , created by Cornell University.
A significant drop in book sales that university presses have been experiencing in the past years coupled with rapid advances in internet technologies led to the adoption of the e-book, and eventually open access books, as a cheaper and more efficient solution for the production and distribution of book content in the academic world. Open access books undergo the same quality control as their print counterparts, i.e. peer review, according to publisher practices. Most scholarly monographs are produced in the humanities, and thus the topic of the open access book is of particular relevance for scholars in the Humanities (cf. section on Electronic monographs in the humanities). Thus far, however, the scholarly e-book, and indeed open access book, is not a prevalent mode of scholarly communication. Currently, the journal holds the lead in digital scholarly communications.
Open access books are of particular significance for schools and universities as textbooks. E-textbooks and indeed open textbooks reduce costs for students, while at the same time providing enhanced possibilities for use, as do all electronic books.
Publishing scholarly books in the open access model:
-increases the visibility of the work through the internet
-increases references to the work
-leads, in the long run, to saving of financial resources
-affords the publication of books addressed to small and specialized audiences
-affords the publication in a book format of research results that would otherwise remain unpublished for financial reasons
-does not disrupt the peer-review system for books, but
-does not hurt books in print; indeed, some cases indicate that it may help increase print sales
-contributes to economic and social progress
There is three main ways to publish open access books:
1. By having a book published with an open access publisher. These publishers are mostly university presses. Examples of publishers and publishing partnerships can be found in the webpage of the Association of American University Presses .
2. By publishing a book in print and electronic format in closed access, and self-archiving the book in the Institutional Repository of his/her institution in open access. Not all publishers allow the self archiving of books or even chapters of books, there is, however, an increasing number of publishers that allow self-archiving.
3. By publishing a book in print and electronic format in closed access, and having the publisher archive the book in the open access repository.
(1) Vassiliou, M., Rowley, J. 2008. ‘Progressing the Definition of ‘e-book'', Library Hi Tech, 26.3, 355-368, http://www.emeraldinsight.com/Insight/viewPDF.jsp?contentType=Article&Filename=html/Output/Published/EmeraldFullTextArticle/Pdf/2380260303.pdf
Greco, A. N. and Wharton, R. M. 2008. ‘Should University Presses Adopt an Open Access (Electronic Publishing) Bussiness Model For All of Their Scholarly Books?' , Proceedings ELPUB 2008 Conference on Electronic Publishing- Toronto-Canada-June 2008, 149-164 http://elpub.scix.net/data/works/att/149_elpub2008.content.pdf.
Griffiths, R. and Rascoff, M. 2005. The Evolving Environment for Scholarly Monographs, Ithaka 2005, Washington, D.C. http://www.ithaka.org/ithaka-s-r/strategy/Environment%20for%20digital%20monograph%20publishing%20and%20distribution.pdf
Steele, C. 2008. "Scholarly Monograph Publishing in the 21st Century: The Future More Than Ever Should Be an Open Book." Journal of Electronic Publishing 11, no. 2. http://dx.doi.org/10.3998/3336451.0011.201 .
Thatcher, S. 2007. ‘The Challenge of Open Access for University Presses", Learned Publishing 20, 165-172 doi: 10.1087/095315107X205084.
Wasserman, M. ‘Reprint. How Much Does it Cost to Publish a Monograph and Why?' The Journal of Electronic Publishing 1998, http://dx.doi.org/10.3998/3336451.0004.104
Willinsky, J. ‘Toward the Design of an Open Monograph Press', Journal of Electronic Publishing, 12.1., 2009 http://dx.doi.org/10.3998/3336451.0012.103