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Issues in Science and Technology Librarianship
Fall 2012


Book Reviews

Open Access

Elliott Smith
Emerging Technologies Librarian
Marian Koshland Bioscience and Natural Resources Library
University of California Berkeley
Berkeley, California

Copyright 2012, Elliott Smith. Used with permission.

Suber, Peter. Open Access. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. 2012. ISBN 9780262517638

What industry asserts ownership of products created and funded by others, raises prices at a faster rate than healthcare costs, and can make higher profit margins than oil companies?

If you answered commercial scholarly journal publishing, you probably need no introduction to Peter Suber. Director of the Harvard Open Access Project, Open Access Project Director at the advocacy group Public Knowledge, Senior Researcher at the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC) and author of the SPARC Open Access Newsletter, Suber has been a leading advocate of Open Access (OA) for more than a decade. Open Access, the third volume in The MIT Press Essential Knowledge Series, is a concise guide to the movement and its underlying philosophical, legal and practical rationales.

Suber points out that current journal subscription models are not sustainable due to the sheer growth of research and the scholarly literature, which far outstrips the ability of library budgets to keep pace. He argues that OA is "a system of research dissemination that scales with the growth of research volume" (p. 41). OA also makes the scholarly literature available for text- and data-mining and machine discovery, which will become increasingly necessary to keep pace with the burgeoning number of papers, datasets and other products of scholarly creativity.

If you're confused about the distinctions between the different colors (green and gold) and flavors (gratis and libre) of OA, Suber provides clear and concise explanations. He points out that OA can be compatible with "copyright, peer review, profit, print, prestige and preservation" (p. 167). He suggests that OA is aligned not only with the public interest but also with an author's self-interest, because it "increases a work's visibility, retrievability, audience, usage, and citations, which all convert to career building" (p. 16).

Given the recent attempts in Congress to rescind the NIH Public Access Policy, Open Access should be of interest to a broad audience. It is particularly relevant to faculty and administrators at research institutions, who are urged to give OA publications full weight in hiring, tenure and promotion decisions. Practicing what they preach, Suber and the MIT Press will make Open Access itself OA one year after publication. Open Access includes a glossary, additional resources, extensive notes and an index, and is especially recommended for academic library collections.

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