Open Archives (4): Citeability and Moving Walls

There is a strong case for Open Access to scientific research and scholarship published in article form. This was crystalised in the Budapest Open Access Initiative in 2001. Scientific and scholarly research publications benefit from being openly accessible, because the value of the underlying research is enhanced when it is made freely, easily, accessible to other researchers. If scientific research is to be effective it needs to be cited and referenced; it is clear that open web-based publication makes it easier for researchers to cite the work of others in the field. Open web-based access is the way that research in an internet age can be most efficient.

The Budapest programme specifically limited its recommendations to:

The literature that should be freely accessible online is that which scholars give to the world without expectation of payment. [my emphasis].

This is an important limitation. For sure, commercial consumer publications are not obliged to follow the STM (Scientific, Technical and Medical) and other scholarly periodicals in providing free and Open Access to their magazines. After all most consumer magazines pay their contributors, often very handsomely. Yet it may well be in the interests of a successful consumer magazine to make a substantial portion of its archive freely accessible as a web resource. Why should this be?

One reason — is that Open Access to an archive enhances the authority and renown of a magazine. Consumer magazines are often quite specialist, quite limited, in their appeal. But this tight focus is part of their strength and gives them potentially authoritative status. The reputation of a magazine or a periodical is immediately enhanced if its articles can be effectively cited, referenced, commented upon, by others. The prevalence and searchability of the web has enormously increased the extent to which magazines can build a reputation through links and citations. Citeability/referenceability/linkability is the strongest reason for making some portions of a consumer magazine archive available as a digital resource.

This way bloggers, enthusiasts, journalists, emailers, advertisers, and reviewers will pile in to amplify the reputation of the publication. An obvious way of gaining the advantages of a citeable archive, whilst not giving away the baby with the bath water, is for the publisher to make the archive freely available through the web, outside of a ‘moving wall, so that issue become available after a period of some months (6 months, 12 months — whatever is judged necessary to maintain the perceived value of the personal subscription). The concept of a Moving Wall in this sense comes from JSTOR — an archival system for scholarly periodicals. Interestingly, JSTOR was originally set up simply as a way of archiving and aggregating inaccessible periodical archives, but they are now trying to reach through to an Open Access model (or a more Open model).

So making portions of a consumer magazine archive Openly Accessible makes sense if this significantly enhances the reputation and the authoritative quality of the publication, and if it does so without damaging the commercial prospects of the magazine. We think that in most cases it will clearly do so, but it is a matter for publishers to decide and our system enables publishers to control the extent to which the archive is open.

Because Exact Editions is a middle-man we have an interesting perspective on the dilemma of Open-ness. We do not publish magazines and our subscribers are always subscribing to a magazine where the publisher has control of the product, the subscription price, frequency, extent, design, copyright etc. Exact Editions is a distribution partner whose reward is a small commission on the digital subscriptions sold. So we are keenly interested in having more subscribers.

Furthermore, the way our deal works with the publishers we absorb the distribution and maintenance costs of the digital edition. So it costs Exact Editions, not the publisher, a bit more to maintain an Open Archive. We think these costs are easily containable within the parameters of the small commission we obtain from selling additional digital subscriptions, so we encourage our publishing partners to offer Open Archives with a moving wall. The marginal costs of maintaining Open Access are marginal. So you dont need to feel sorry for us!

On the other hand, if you enjoy the open archives and never buy a subscription you can thank us as well as the publisher for making this service available. We like subscriptions best, but we also like appreciative feedback or fan mail😉