Tuesday 27 July 2021

Spotlight on Opening the Future, CEU Press / COPIM

 – Shortlisted for the ALPSP Awards for Innovation in Publishing 2021

This year, the judges have selected a shortlist of six for the 
ALPSP Awards for Innovation in Publishing. Each finalist will be invited to showcase their innovation to industry peers at the ALPSP Awards session on Wednesday 15 September at the opening of the ALPSP Virtual Conference & Awards 2021. The winners will be announced on the final day of the Conference on Friday 17 September

In this series, we learn more about each of the finalists. 

Tell us about your organization

COPIM is an international partnership of researchers, universities, librarians, publishers and infrastructure providers working on bringing about a new OA publishing ecosystem. Their remit is to build a revenue infrastructure, and examine production workflows and metadata, experimental publishing and archiving. The project is working with colleagues across the sector to document existing, and open up new, ways of funding open access monographs.

CEU Press was established in 1993 to reflect the intellectual strengths and values of its parent institution, the Central European University, and is a leading publisher in the history of the region, communism and transitions to democracy. It is widely recognised as the foremost English-language university press dedicated to research on Central and Eastern Europe and the former communist countries. With a new Executive Chair on board in 2020 and a new Director in 2021, CEU Press enthusiastically took up the challenge to work with COPIM to help shape and pilot a new funding model, aiming to convert the Press to a fully open access monograph frontlist publisher over three years.

What is the project/product that you submitted for the Awards? 

‘Opening the Future’ - a new funding model for publishing open access monographs through a consortial library membership scheme.

Tell us a little about how it works and the team behind it

The model was developed by COPIM, a £3 million project funded by UKRI and the Arcadia Fund, supporting Community-led Open Publication Infrastructure for Monographs. A project team, directed by Martin Eve, Professor of Literature, Technology and Publishing at Birkbeck (University of London) is working with the CEU Press to pilot migrating the whole of its monograph output to open access. Professor Eve is a co-founder of the Open Library of the Humanities, a publishing platform funded by an international consortium of libraries. CEU Press’ lead on the project is Dr Frances Pinter, former CEO of Manchester University Press, the founding Publisher of Bloomsbury Academic and founder of Knowledge Unlatched - an open access funding initiative. 

In essence, the Opening the Future model works like this: library members pay a small annual fee to get unlimited multi-user eBook access to packages of the well-regarded Press backlist; and the membership revenue is then used by the Press to produce new open access (OA) monographs. There are no hidden catches, there is no bait and switch, and no double-dipping: library membership fees will pay for only those books that do not already have funding. If a proposal for a book comes to the Press with partial OA funding already in place, the Press will use Opening the Future membership fees to share the production costs and publish the book OA. Publishing the OA titles is a rolling process: as soon as the Press has the funds to produce a title they can publish the next one in line, and so on.

The aim of this approach is to continue to yield a sustainable source of revenue for a press while achieving the desired commitment to making more titles OA. Given the current global library environment and existing budget pressures that have now been exacerbated by Covid-19, a consortial model of funding promises a cost-effective solution for OA that means no single institution bears a disproportionate burden.

In what ways do you think it demonstrates innovation?

It has been said there is nothing new under the sun. Yet, as we exploit our new digital world we find new ways of doing old things. Sometimes this requires a totally new business model. Other times marrying something old with something new is just as innovative, and requires a whole new mindset to make it successful. That is what our Opening the Future initiative is all about. The old subscription model is married to a membership scheme creating a community, enabling publishers and librarians to work together to achieve open access and reduce collective library spend on monographs. 

This model brings together a Subscribe to Open (S2O) model (currently being tested by a number of journals) with the concept of membership to a cause devoted to building a knowledge commons and populating it with open access monographs. Leveraging the backlist to pay for the publishing costs of the frontlist is novel to book publishing. It is also unusual in that it is predicated on dynamic scaling and makes books available as soon as enough money is raised. It is not an all or nothing model as in many other OA initiatives; there is no need to wait for hundreds of members to open up books. Frontlist titles are made open one by one with each additional ten members. Within just a few months of launch at the end of January 2021, the first few books are already fully funded. 

Unlike the S2O model for journals (which we support), the risk of this model is lower for the publisher. That is because the publisher can continue publishing the books closed if membership targets are not met. The model does not preclude OA funding from other sources, and indeed encourages publishers to take up funding from research funders and institutions where available. But it recognises that in HSS subjects such funding cannot cover all the costs of maintaining the diversity of publishing programmes and services sought after by authors themselves. The knowledge infrastructure and scholarly communications landscape of HSS are very different to STEM subjects. So, Opening the Future is significant because it is a new way for small and medium sized university and specialist scholarly presses to survive and thrive. 

No other model can be funded from either the acquisitions budget or an OA budget, giving libraries much more flexibility on where they find the funding for this initiative.

No other model caters to both libraries that have most of the backlist books already – in which case the frontlist is available at a far lower rate than otherwise would be the case – and to libraries that do not have the books and for whom the backlist is an easy and very inexpensive way to make these otherwise pricy books available to their users.

What are your plans for the future?

In January 2021 COPIM released the code written for the Opening the Future website, which collects and processes library signups. The software is freely available for any publisher to adapt and use themselves - it is a generic signup system for open access projects that have consortial membership models. This code will be one component of a practical ‘toolkit’ that COPIM will produce on how presses might transition to sustainably publishing OA monographs. Other elements of the toolkit will include a report reviewing revenue models in OA publishing, financial modelling spreadsheets, communication and advocacy materials, and more.

The programme is already growing. In June 2021 COPIM was delighted to welcome a second pilot publisher to the Opening the Future initiative: Liverpool University Press, the UK’s third oldest university press, with a distinguished history of publishing exceptional research since 1899, including the work of Nobel prize winners. LUP will offer libraries subscription/membership access to a choice of two modern language backlist series.

Plans for further expanding use of the model and creating an OA Book Hub serving many similar presses are already underway, and COPIM is working with industry partners Project MUSE, LYRASIS, Jisc and OAPEN to explore how the programme might scale up. We are also participating in policy discussions and working groups with the ultimate aim being to facilitate a viable route for small and medium sized academic presses with leverageable backlists to flip their frontlists to open. 

If enough libraries and publishers participate, with clusters forming around disciplines, then both the research and teaching requirements globally can be well served by monographs which otherwise would not be available to any but those in the wealthiest institutions. There will be sufficient funds flowing into this sector to support a diverse and healthy monograph programme. Libraries will be redirecting their acquisitions budgets more efficiently and effectively to making monographs open and thereby fostering the health of disciplines through the support of essential knowledge infrastructures.

For further information, please visit:





Visit the ALPSP Annual Conference 2021 website for more details and to book your place.

The ALPSP Awards for Innovation in Publishing 2021 are sponsored by HighWire.

About the authors

Martin Paul Eve is Professor of Literature, Technology and Publishing at Birkbeck, University of London. A co-founder of the Open Library of the Humanities he has been a member of the HEFCE Open Access Monographs Expert Reference Panel, the Universities UK OA Monographs Working Group, and several other expert panels on HE and open access.

Frances Pinter is Executive Chair of CEU Press. She was CEO of Manchester University Press, the founding Publisher of Bloomsbury Academic and founder of Knowledge Unlatched.

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