Open Archives (1): How Open?

Exact Editions has recently improved its content management system, so that a publisher can determine HOW MUCH of the magazine archive should be exposed for open access to the general public, the general web user.

Our system is set up so that a publisher can offer five levels of access to an archival resource:

  1. An archive can be completely closed except to subscribers. This might be an appropriate solution for certain types of B2B publication (eg membership only magazines). None of the consumer magazines in our shop is completely closed.
  2. All the magazines currently in our shop have at least one, open, free trial issue. We will maintain this option for the publishers who want it.
  3. A publisher may opt to make all except the last year of the publication ‘Open Access’. We call this option a 12 month moving wall.
  4. A publisher may opt to make all except the last six months of the publication ‘Open Access’. We call this option a 6 month moving wall. We will also support more current, more proximate, moving walls: three months, two months, one month, should this be needed…..
  5. Finally, a publisher might opt to offer the magazine as a completely free ‘Open Access’ resource. Currently we are delivering The Publican for CMPi on this basis.

There are good reasons why some magazines should be completely Open Access — many scientific periodicals have moved to this model of distribution. They now have to pay their costs by levying a charge from the contributors or sponsors of the research reported. Also, Open Access makes complete sense for magazines which are essentially free in print; but we think it is unlikely that a consumer magazine which is completely Open Access will sell many personal subscriptions.

So complete and immediate Open Access is not recommended for a consumer magazine which aims to sell personal subscriptions. But it, of course, does not follow that a consumer magazine which aims to sell digital and print subscriptions should be completely Closed. Far from it. But there is an interesting question as to “How Open should a consumer magazine be?” when it wishes to sell the most possible subscriptions? We will look at this issue in the next few days.