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Publishing your book OA: An author’s perspective with Helen Gilbert

An interview by Alison Welsby, Editorial Director with Professor Helen Gilbert from Royal Holloway University of London, on the publication of the Open Access work, In the Balance: Indigeneity, Performance, Globalization.

Thank you, Helen, for agreeing to this interview. In the Balance is a remarkable work that considers indigenous peoples’ performance over recent decades. Why did you choose to publish this extraordinary work Open Access?

Above all, we wanted as wide a readership as possible so as to showcase the vital cultural work being done by indigenous performance makers across the world. Open Access allows broad and equitable distribution of our research, including to people who may not be able to readily source or afford a printed book. It therefore opens up the possibility of new reader communities, even if they only look at some chapters. In particular, we were determined to make the book accessible to the indigenous artists and communities whose creativity has inspired and sustained it. Too often, such communities are left out of the dialogue once the research is officially finished.

‘In the Balance’ is an edited collection: were all contributors supportive of the work being Open Access? Did anyone have any concerns or pull out from the volume?

There’s been great enthusiasm for this publishing route and no-one has raised any concerns. In fact, several contributors have reiterated (more than once) how happy they are that the results of their research will be broadly available. Many have worked closely with indigenous communities in developing their ideas and are delighted to be able to send the published results back to stakeholders so readily.

When choosing an Open Access platform, what were the factors that were crucial in your decision-making?

We wanted to publish with a rigorous and reputable press while also making the book widely available. A subsidy from the European Union’s Open Access pilot programme made it possible to pursue this route. Liverpool University Press was our first choice because of its long-standing interest in postcolonial cultural studies and its record of producing high quality, influential books in this and other humanities fields. We were also impressed by the press’s website, which is informative, attractive and easy to navigate. In terms of actual platforms, OAPEN seemed to have the profile, professionalism and rigour we sought and was recommended by experienced EU research staff.

The book has many stunning images. Were third parties accommodating when it came to acquiring rights to use their material in an Open Access publication?

Yes, with only one exception and we eventually managed to negotiate rights to the photograph we wanted in that instance, after explaining the conditions of the Creative Commons license at issue. One other copyright holder we attempted to contact didn’t reply, but we were able to find a suitable alternative image. Many of the photographers were kind enough to grant free use of their work since this is a not-for-profit publication and where we did pay licensing fees, they were very reasonable.

If someone was starting a similar Open Access project today, what advice would you give them? What are your lessons learned?

First, plan ahead and canvass options for offsetting the costs, whether through a larger research grant, or a separate subsidy. Second, approach the publisher whose remit best matches your topic and aspirations, keeping an open mind about which presses may be willing to explore the possibility of producing Open Access work. Otherwise, the process was fairly standard so the usual advice should apply: offer only your best work for publication and always keep prospective readers in mind.

Finally, do you plan to publish future works as Open Access?

Yes, wherever possible. I’m committed to sharing my research widely and can only see benefits to this mode of publication as long as editorial and production standards remain geared towards producing quality work.

@LivUniPress  #OAWeek 

An Open Access edition of this book will be made available on publication via our website and OAPEN.