At this point–seven weeks after The Gold OA Landscape 2011-2014 was published–it seems like a good time to discuss the issues surrounding possible continuation of this full-survey research for another year (that is, covering 2015, done in 2016).
Part 2 will deal with finances: what it would take to make it happen.
This part deals with a related question: Since I’m not depending on this revenue to keep meals on the table or a roof over our heads, why do I need any revenue for it at all?
[No, nobody’s said that quite so flatly. Still: every time somebody says “there’s something wrong with charging for a writeup about open access or the research it took to do that writeup, because OA’s supposed to be free,” or something of the sort–which has happened every time I or ALA (or MIT) has published something on OA that carries a price–once I calm down, I turn it into the question above.]
Turns out, this is a philosophical question of sorts: Namely, what motivates me to do anything (other than lie around the house, do some housework, read books, watch TV, go for walks and like that)?
That question’s been clarified in my own mind over the years since it’s become clear that Cites & Insights itself is unlikely to attract significant contributions (the total has never reached the high three figures in a year, much less four figures). Here’s how I’ve worked it out in my own head, although I’m sure it’s an incomplete model.
I see four factors: Fun, Interest, Worth/Usefulness/Effectiveness, and Appreciation. Two are internal, two external.
I do some essays in Cites & Insights because they’re fun or amusing to me. Certainly true of The Back, The Middle, most Media essays (esp. old movies). That’s part of why I started looking at liblogging, library blogging and library slogans (and, for that matter, library use of social media): it was fun.
“Fun” and “interesting” can overlap in slightly unpredictable ways. It was, initially, fun to unveil the realities behind Beall’s lists, and in some ways it’s been fun to see how well Chrome/Google does or does not translate non-English journal websites (and to appreciate some of the blank verse generated by some translations).
I have lots of interests, and I’ll pursue an interest to what might possibly be considered extremes–I’m a completist in some areas. It has certainly been interesting to examine the Gold OA landscape in detail, and once I got well into it I realized that I wanted to see it through.
Interest certainly explains some ongoing features in Cites & Insights. I don’t find copyright discussions particularly amusing, but they’re interesting, just as one example.
But I have lots of interests, and could readily cultivate more. And time eventually does become a limiting factor. At this point, I don’t expect to live for more than 30 years or so–possibly quite a bit less, probably not much more. (For a long time, I’d pegged 93 as my desirable stopping point; I’ve moved that to 98–which gives me 28 more years–as long as I’m im good mental and reasonable physical health. I have no desire to live to 103 or 108 or some extreme old age–but ask me again 20 years from now, I suppose.) There are a lot of books I’d like to read and quite a few I wouldn’t mind rereading; there are a lot of movies I want to watch; I read and enjoy quite a few magazines (and one daily “paper”); there’s a fair amount of TV I enjoy watching (although probably very little by most people’s standards); lots of music to pay attention to; and… and… and…
So at a certain point I have to balance competing interests, especially since time is finite and some significant portion of it is taken up with household maintenance, family life, sleep (yes, I get 7.5 to 8 hours a day; no, I’m not willing to reduce that much), vacations, exercise and long walks/hikes, etc…
Balance isn’t much of an issue when I’m choosing a book that may take 4-5 hours to read or an essay that may take 5-10 hours to write. It’s a lot more of an issue when I’m contemplating a project that would probably take 500 to 600 hours over the course of six or seven months.
Which is to say: I find the ongoing story of gold OA interesting. Do I find it interesting enough to give up 500-600 hours per year of other stuff? Which brings us to:
When something’s fun and not too time-consuming, this and the final factor don’t come into play.
When it’s a question of balance and which projects are worth starting or continuing, this and the final factor definitely do come into play.
To wit: what is this worth (and how useful is it) to me and other people?
(Yes, this and the final factor overlap a lot. That’s how life is.)
I look at readership, citations, and things like that as indications of worth and usefulness. If an issue of C&I is only read 200 times over the course of three months, it apparently wasn’t found to be worthwhile or useful; if it’s read 2,000 times over three months, it apparently was worthwhile or useful.
Of course, worth can also have a financial aspect, which gets more into appreciation: do people find something sufficiently useful or worthwhile to pay for it?
I recognized that my series of books on liblogging had ceased to be worthwhile/useful about a year too late, when sales declined to pretty much nothing and readership for related C&I issues declined substantially. But I did eventually recognize it and stopped doing the series. (A ten-year recap might or might not happen; if it does, it will be at a “this might be fun/interesting” level, not a “people might be willing to buy this” level–there wouldn’t be a book.)
There have been other themes in Cites & Insights that have disappeared because it appeared that people didn’t find them useful or worthwhile. Indeed, I stopped doing individual HTML essays because there didn’t seem to be much demand for them (and it was clear nobody found them worthwhile enough to pay for) and they were never interesting or fun to do–while the single-column version of C&I has proven to be useful enough to keep doing.
As to effectiveness: that’s so hard to measure that I generally ignore it–but I do have to mention it within this discussion.
So how does the OA research fall on the interesting/worthwhile axis?
Looking at OA-related issues of Cites & Insights over the past two years, including research-based ones and others, I find the following download numbers through this morning at 5:30 a.m. (but missing most of the last day of each month):
- April 2014 (“The Sad Case of Jeffrey Beall”): 10,576, one of the highest total downloads figures ever — but in terms of effectiveness, I look at how often the lists continue to be used as the basis for policy or, sigh, “research,” and have to wonder whether there’s been any real effect at all.
- May 2014 (“The So-Called Sting”): 4,126 downloads, a high figure.
- July 2014 (“Journals, ‘Journals’ and Wannabes”): 5,121–a high figure, and since this was a full-issue essay, I can reasonably assume that the readership was entirely related to this essay.
- August 2014 (“Access and Ethics 3”): 1,643, a decent-but-not-great figure.
- October/November 2014 (“Journals and ‘Journals’: Taking a Deeper Look”): 1,704, another decent-but-not-great figure.
- December 2014 (…Part 2): 1,669, another decent-but-not-great figure.
- January 2015 (“The Third Half”): 2,783, a good solid figure, especially since it represents less than a year.
- March 2015 (“One More Chunk of DOAJ”): 2,281, a good solid figure, but in this case the essay taking up most of the issue–“Books, E and P, 2014”–probably accounts for much of that, since that’s always been a hot topic.
- April 2015 (“The Economics of Open Access”): 2,476, a good solid figure–and this one’s a single-essay issue.
- June 2015 (“Who Needs Open Access Anyway?”): 1,595, a decent figure for five months.
- July 2015 (“Thinking About Libraries and Access, Take 2”): 839 downloads–and this one’s a little disappointing because that essay was my own take on/beliefs about OA. This suggests that people are a lot less interested in what I think than in what I’ve found out through research. That’s OK, of course…but…
- October 2015 (“The Gold OA Landscape 2011-2014”): 2,169 downloads in the first seven weeks or so, which I regard as very good numbers, especially for the first couple of months.
This shows up in citations elsewhere, tweets and the like, but also in donations and sales (and, heck, speaking invitations–one of the coins of the realm, but there haven’t been any in a couple of years–certainly none related to this research).
When it comes to citations, I don’t have any real complaints; ditto tweets.
As far as donations: still in the low three digits, and that was mostly when I was offering a free ebook and production-priced paperback. None since the project was completed (other than two very small recurring donations that are for C&I, not OA research.)
As for sales…
For the same period–the books appeared a couple of days before the October 2015 issue did–here’s what I show, not including my own copy: Seven paperback copies, one site-licensed PDF ebook. Total: Eight copies.
In other words, not even one-half of one percent of those who’ve downloaded the October 2015 issue have, so far, found the research sufficiently worthwhile to buy the full story.
Of course, there could be dozens, nay, hundreds of orders just waiting to go to Amazon or Ingram.
So where does this leave me? Wondering whether the effectiveness and demonstrated worth is enough to justify doing it again.
(If you’re wondering, I’d say total revenue counted toward this project–including all donations and all self-published book sales of any sort since September 1, 2015–is more than one-third of the way, but considerably less than halfway, toward being enough to make the anonymized spreadsheet available on figshare. It’s a bit more than one-fifth of the way toward making me think seriously about doing it again.)
Which brings us to Part 2, later today or maybe another day.