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  • Writer's pictureThe Publishing Post

Path to Open: Preserving Bibliodiversity in Academic Publishing

By Emma Regan, Hayley Gray, Jordan Maxwell Ridgway and Laura Ingate

This week the Alternative Publishing team will be providing a platform for a new pilot project, Path to Open, that has been established by JSTOR and University Press Partners as a means of support for open access publications of innovative and ground-breaking scholarly books.

For those who are unaware of JSTOR, it is a non-profit “digital library for the intellectually curious” and is a part of the cohort of leading university presses that provide open access to scholarly content through a diverse and powerful teaching and research platform.

With this in mind, as a non-profit, open access publishing faces a lot of challenges with funding being the main predator. However, the expansion of knowledge and education inevitably exceeds these obstacles which has led to the introduction of Path to Open: it supports libraries’ efforts to increase their bibliodiversity, whilst simultaneously reducing financial risks for academic publishers to work with, and invest in, authors and their research.

The main goal for Path to Open is to bring new, diverse perspectives and research to millions of people. This is done through financial contributions that enable participating presses, like JSTOR, to publish books that will transition seamlessly from licenced to open access within three years.

When Path to Open launches later this year, it will offer new monographs and studies from a range of subjects including humanities and social sciences. There will be an emphasis on bringing forward literature that showcases diverse perspectives and concepts for anyone to access.

JSTOR is helping to pilot Path to Open given its extensive digitisation of academic papers and the platform’s ability to reach millions of users every day. Anyone can register to read online journals and articles on JSTOR with over 8.5 million articles available for free on the platform.

JSTOR is also widely available to walk-in library users with a network of over 10,000 institutions worldwide which are authorised to access the content on JSTOR. This creates further opportunities for anyone to discover the new and diverse publications brought via the Path to Open pilot later in the year.

Path to Open intends to release the first one hundred titles by autumn, with a further 300 academic titles added each year from 2024 onwards.

In a previous article, the Alternative Publishing team has covered the ways in which university presses are helping to keep diversity alive in the publishing industry; but keeping these presses running doesn’t come without costs. Digitisation of books has helped provide greater access to many forms of literature, but university presses are also being hit by the risks they take in funding more niche topics, the decline in sales made at brick-and-mortar stores and changes in library purchases. Many university presses are looking to expand their audiences, whilst still serving these readerships that have been marginalised and under-served.

There have been previous attempts at university presses to find a scalable and sustainable way to provide greater access for readers, such as Luminos at the University of California Press. It was reported at the Charleston 2022 conference that there was an increased interest in developing open access book publishing. The changes made by Path to Open could prove to be a major change to the infrastructure of disseminating scholarly works, but as it is currently a pilot scheme, only time will tell if it becomes a long-standing process.

Overall, it is clear to see why JSTOR and the cohort of university presses are hoping to change the future of open access book publishing with this ground-breaking project. Having the ability to increase bibliodiversity amongst scholarly work will completely change how research is conducted and help reduce the risk of oversaturated opinions appearing in a scholar’s work, by searching out for those who are usually left in the shadows due to the way open access works. Yet, it is hard to predict whether or not this will make things easier, or more complicated in the long run.

Moreover, research being transitioned from licenced to open access on JSTOR after three years of being initially published certainly brings emphasis on showcasing diverse perspectives to anyone who is often unable to access them. It also combats the monopolisation of academic publishing, which has often been the case in regards to scholarly work. Being able to study such things as humanities and sciences comes at a price most students cannot afford with the needed use of JSTOR and other digital libraries, so everyone in the Alternative Publishing team has their fingers crossed that Path to Open will make researching easier for all who want to do it.



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