OA books – detailed familiarity leads to multiple on-going sales
Previous post on five new OA monograph series is phenomenal news for the Free Our Books campaign, and an example of, i believe, future to come soon. We, the authors, will be battling with publishers to give our books away electronically, hoping that we will capture readers attention enough to buy a print copy. Early this year, in May, i went through a short discussion with my, then potential (contract signed since), publisher, in which i suggested, and was without any problems granted, an Open Access book contract for which i drafted an Addendum – more details on that in another post soon.
I buy books weekly, and my biggest problem is where to store them and when to find the time to read them. However, most books that i buy these days are books whose content i already know reasonably well. Either through finding a copy somewhere online, or often by reading parts of full length essays which make up the book, frequently posted by authors on their personal website, sometimes presentations from conferences, or published in journals.
A clear example of this is Graham Harman’s work. I first heard of him through a one day workshop on Speculative Realism, held in April 2007 at Goldsmiths in London. Although i missed the workshop, I saw some of the authors on multiple occasions presenting papers in other conferences too. Full transcripts from the conference were published in Collapse III, which was the reason why i bought it (familiarity leading to a sale). I liked Collapse III so much, that i bought 4 out of 5 of issues published so far (familiarity leading to multiple sales). The only one i missed, strangely enough, is the sold out one, Collapse IV, which was provided for free on-line after it sold out, as reported on this blog. I then saw slides and part of the video from Harman’s talk at LSE in November 2007. Earlier this year, in April, i was at the second Speculative Materialism / Speculative Realism workshop in Bristol at UWE, where i saw Harman for the first time live, presenting. Because i liked the conference, and was intrigued by his presentation, i downloaded and read part of his book Prince of Networks, published by Open Access book publisher Re.press. I started writing on object-oriented philosophy and if it develops in a full text, i will most likely buy Harman’s books (familiarity leading to sales).
If i end up liking his work a lot and using it extensively in my own work, his book will become automatic-buys for me, in the same ways books by Antonio Negri, Slavoj Žižek, and Alain Badiou are – i have vast majority of their books published in English, because i’m familiar with their work and because i always get the taste of what’s in the coming books from their conference papers, texts they continuously publish, often with free access (like lacan.com), on blogs, websites and in journals. Again, it’s my familiarity that leads to multiple, on-going, sales.
Authors that only publish in closed access journals, that do not self-archive on their websites — especially if institutions in which i work are not subscribed to the journals in which they publish, and if i don’t follow conferences at which they present — have hardly any chances of me buying their books. Some clever publishers and authors expose their books almost entirely through Google Books preview option, i bought several books like that (familiarity leading to multiple sales).
Publishers and authors which do not allow me to get familiar with their work in detail through some form of Open Access before i buy it, if it is to judge by my book buying patters, are loosing sales. And we’re not talking small sales here either. While a student, my books budget is modest (£600 this year, estimate annual average over last 5 years is £500) in comparison with a busy researcher with a budget that comes with the job . If, and when, i finish my PhD and get a job in a department doing well financially, i might end up with a annual research fund between £1300-1700 to spend on books, every year, for many years to come. My colleagues who are already in this position told me that once you work in academia, you end up getting lots of books for free. But you don’t necessarily get exactly the books you want. Nor do you get them when you want them. And these are two key criteria for a fast developing research. I’m used to immediate access to texts in my research so much, that if and when i think i really need a book, i buy it immediately on-line. Sometimes i make mistakes, and long distance selling regulations helped on several occasion to return the book bought by mistake in a rush – i don’t use book sellers which do not easily, with no postage to pay, allow books to be returned within a week, or often two weeks. In short, i don’t think that i will buy less books because i will be geting some of them for free. The only reason i might be buying less books is storage space, and i’m working on a solution to that too (it’s the hardest part).
Over 15 years, roughly £23.000 is likely to be the budget that i’ll be spending on books. I’m far from the only person with this buying pattern. It is more likely that my pattern represents a significantly large category of academic book buyers. How large and how significant, statistically speaking, i can’t tell. A rough judgment would be that it’s large enough to be taken seriously, researched in more detail, and taken in consideration when decisions on Open Access are made by authors and publishers. For us, book addicts with this pattern, the more an author and publisher embrace Open Access, the more likely is a part of our budget going to be spent on their books.
With Open Access Books, familiarity leads to sales.
Detailed familiarity leads to multiple on-going sales.