Opening Knowledge: Frances Pinter Illuminates CEU Press’s New Open Access Model

November 17, 2020

Central European University Press (CEUP) is moving to open access (OA), thanks to a pioneering new library subscription membership initiative, Opening the Future.

Open access publications are peer-reviewed research, which are free to read and free to re-use. Increasingly on international policy agendas to promote equity of knowledge access, national and cross-border funding bodies are also heavily promoting OA as a funding requirement.

Over the next three years, CEUP will prototype a funding model that provides access to a selection of key titles from CEUP’s highly-regarded backlist. Revenue generated from member subscriptions will in turn support newly-published books to be open access from the point of publication.

Executive Chair of CEUP and longtime publishing innovator, Frances Pinter, has been leading the press’s transition to OA in partnership with the Community-led Open Publication Infrastructures for Monographs (COPIM) project.

“Open access is the only way we're going to eventually level the playing field in terms of access to knowledge.” Pinter comments. She emphasizes that digital resources offer different capacities for circulation and access models than print, thus offering a major opportunity for innovation. “Most people in scholarly communications have until recently tried to replicate what we had in the print world in the digital world, and that doesn't take advantage of the ability that we have to make major changes,” Pinter says. “We'll see that going open access is not only going to change access, but also change the way research is done and how people communicate and work with one another as they conduct their research projects. Knowledge will be created differently in the digital world and that's hugely exciting.”

CEUP is the first of two non-OA publishers to be working with COPIM through Work Package 3 to transition existing economic models to OA equivalents. Part of the work involves documenting the working model as a step towards creating a free, open toolkit and roadmap for other book publishers considering OA. A major goal with the documented success of Opening the Future, is to have a model that could lead to the widespread transition of many university presses to OA.

Pinter credits an increasing awareness of OA in the journal field as an enabling factor for the initiative, along with support from CEU’s leadership. Additionally, the context of the pandemic accelerated the rationale, when platforms, such as Project MUSE, opened access freely around the world for a limited time during the spring and summer of 2020. During this temporary period of access, Pinter found that some CEUP’s titles, whose sales in print may be in the low hundreds to wealthy libraries, suddenly jumped to being downloaded thousands of times each across 129 countries, indicating that CEUP’s books were really wanted by readers.

“With those figures we've got a moral responsibility to do what we can to make the books accessible,” Pinter says. As a leading publisher in the history of the region, communism and transitions to democracy, CEUP publishes approximately 25 new monographs and research-based edited collections a year. The press's revenue goal for the new library subscriptions will be to eventually cover the costs of these 25 new monographs annually, to prepare the way to transition to OA. Once the revenue target is met and the entire monograph frontlist is openly accessible, Pinter's intention is for future membership fee rates to be lowered.

The membership model is specifically designed for libraries in such a way that they are able to allocate a modest amount from their acquisitions budget toward membership. While many libraries do not have a large budget set aside to support OA, Pinter's format allows for flexibility and the use of funds from a collections budget. This represents a significant shift in thinking: until now, OA has largely been paid for through the payment of a ‘book processing charge’ (BPC), which is often referred to by academics as an “author-facing charge”. While this expense is occasionally covered by research funders, it can fall on the author. Therefore, to mitigate this burden on the scholar, the Opening the Future project looks to libraries and other institutions to support the expenses of OA, without author-facing charges.

“Getting something new adopted is always going to be a long process, but I've already got some terrific people around the world on board supporting this; we've just launched it at the end of Open Access week. Everybody's rooting for it,” said Pinter.

Watch here to hear from Pinter about developing a model for OA for books: