5 December 2014

Open Access Books: “Books fall open, you fall in”

"Books fall open, you fall in, delighted where, you've never been." 
David T. W. McCord

With this post we want to highlight the importance of open access books. When people think of open access, their minds might naturally think of journal articles and conference papers. But, there are a growing number of Open Access book publishers as well. Recently, we were lucky enough to have representatives from OAPEN and DOAB (Directory of Open Access Books), and Open Book Publishers speak at a roadshow event in the University. Judging by the energy of the presenters and the enthusiasm of the attendees, there is growing momentum behind open access book publishing at the moment.

Mike Lee, CC-BY 2.0
A search of the St Andrews library catalogue reveals the efforts we have taken to deliver open access monographic material. For instance recently the cataloguing team have created records for the entire Open Book Publishers catalogue. Open Book Publishers was started in 2008 by a small group of academics at the University of Cambridge. It is now an international enterprise that publishes books in hardback, paperback, ebook, and free online formats. Elizabeth Cuthill, a member of the cataloguing team here at St Andrews, has been adding value to the catalogue by creating high quality MARC records for the OBP content. These MARC records can then be harvested and re-used by other libraries, ensuring maximum discoverability. Elizabeth commented on the rich variety of material published by OBP:

"There are some very interesting and unusual titles on this publisher’s list of around fifty so far. For example, I’ve just completed cataloguing several titles on Quechan folklore (Quechan is a native American language spoken by a tribe living in southern California and in Arizona south of the Colorado River). It is a language and culture so rare that there are only around 700 native speakers left. One of the titles can be found at this link http://library.st-andrews.ac.uk/record=b2106224~S5. This work documents the tribe’s creation myths. I’m assuming this work must be quite unique in that it is a written document from what is primarily an oral tradition. The book is part of Open Book Publishers’ World Oral Literature series, published  in conjunction with the World Oral Literature Project, a collaborative project which describes itself as "An urgent global initiative to document and make accessible endangered oral literatures before they disappear without record." It’s becoming apparent as I work through cataloguing this material that the vision of a not-for-profit venture such as Open Book Publishers provides a fantastic outlet for freely distributing material which is very specialised and does not conform readily to existing publishing models." Elizabeth Cuthill

We also have records for all of the books created as part of the Knowledge Unlatched project. This unique publishing platform has been covered in the blog before. In the catalogue there are currently records for 28 books produced as a result of the project covering a wide range of subject areas. In total we have 173 open access books on our catalogue, but there are many more to be discovered. Using resources like OAPEN and DOAB you can find thousands of fully open access books, which can be downloaded onto your computer, phone, tablet, or e-reader.

Open access books offer a different way of interacting with subjects, for instance Diderot's 'Rameau's Nephew': A Multi-Media Edition published by Open Book Publishers contains mp3 recordings of contemporary music by the Paris Conservatoire embedded into the book. Why not give the book a read and a listen!

Publishers like Open Book Publishers are developing new means of expressing scholarly research through e-books. And, in recent years new e-reader technologies have emerged making reading electronic books more comfortable for longer periods. Now really is a great time to discover the possibilities of electronic open access books.

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