The Copim team talks with Kevin Sanders about his experience joining the Open Book Collective an Open Access Engagement Lead
Setting out the relationship between Copim and Open Book Futures, our aims and ambitions for our new project, and our ongoing commitment to community over commercialisation.
The COPIM (Community-led Open Publication Infrastructures for Monographs) Project came to an end on 30 April 2023, having established a number of infrastructures, including: the Open Book Collective, Thoth Open Metadata, Opening the Future, the Thoth Archiving Network and the Experimental Publishing Compendium. You can read more about that project’s achievements in this report.
And seamlessly, on 1 May 2023, Open Book Futures began!
Open Book Futures is a new project that builds on the achievements of the previous three and a half years, with an expanded (and more global) team. Funded again by Research England and Arcadia Fund, and scheduled to run until 30 April 2026, it will be, in PI Joe Deville’s words, ‘transformative’. It gives us the time, and the funding, to develop the infrastructures that were first created as part of the COPIM Project so that, at the end of three years, they can stand on their own two feet. We have (of course) a number of targets to expand and develop them, to involve more presses and libraries, to publish more open access books, to connect with more like-minded initiatives and people and infrastructures across the world. These more global ambitions are reflected in the new partners who have joined the project, which include the Continental Platform/University of Cape Town, SciELO Books, and the Curtin Open Knowledge Initiative (COKI), among many others.
All this activity is intended to contribute to the creation of a larger and more powerful community-led, mission-driven ecosystem for open access books. As we said at the start of the COPIM Project:
Open access book publishing stands at a crossroads: one avenue leads to the monopolisation of open access by large commercial publishers and for-profit intermediaries, with infrastructures and funding systems set up to serve those businesses and their approaches; the other opens up a more diverse, scholar-led, community-owned, and not-for-profit publishing ecosystem that enables smaller and more community-focused presses to thrive and multiply.
We are still working to build and nourish that ecosystem, in partnership and parallel with many other people and organisations, using the strong foundations laid during the COPIM Project. These include the powerful idea of Scaling Small, which animates so much of our work: the notion that small, diverse presses and publishing projects can become mighty when they work in collaboration with each other and with colleagues in universities, libraries, infrastructure providers and more. Individual organisations do not have to exponentially grow in order to survive if they can establish a mutually supportive network of mutual reliance. The infrastructures built as part of the COPIM Project and developing as part of Open Book Futures are a practical expression of Scaling Small in reality.
And what of Copim itself? Well, as all this would suggest – it lives! We are going to keep the ‘Copim’ name, for a number of reasons:
People know it! Thanks to our work during the three and a half years of the COPIM Project, the name has become recognisable. Many people understand what we stand for and what we are working towards, and there’s no point putting that knowledge in the bin just because a new phase of work has begun.
Many of the same people and organisations are still involved in Open Book Futures, and our new partners and team members were inspired to join us by the original vision expressed and put into practice by the COPIM Project.
We are working to build and expand the infrastructures originally established by the COPIM Project. Open Book Collective, Thoth, Opening the Future, the Thoth Archiving Network and our experimental publishing work – all of these are Copim infrastructures, and will grow and become stronger as a result of the work planned during the Open Book Futures project.
‘Copim’ therefore describes the people and organisations working together to develop these non-profit, community-owned infrastructures. We think of ourselves, particularly as we grow, as a ‘community of communities’ united by a shared vision of how academic book publishing should be: open, bibliodiverse, community-led, equitable, inclusive, anti-competitive. As with any living community, ours is developing and changing; it is, to some extent, contingent and undefined, and we look forward to its growth over the next few years. The Open Book Futures project is a key part of this process, but the Copim community’s work extends beyond any single project. For that reason, we refer to Open Book Futures as a ‘Copim community project’.
As a point of style: we’re going to use ‘Copim’ as a name rather than an acronym, and write it accordingly. (We often struggled to recall precisely what the acronym stood for, in any case!)
But as a point of substance – and something that seems worth underlining, in Open Access Week 2023 when the theme is ‘Community Over Commercialisation’ – we remain committed to the principles outlined in this statement, that the infrastructures we build are for community ownership and governance, and not for commercial control. As we state in that piece:
We add our voice to those arguing that infrastructure is not peripheral to academic research; on the contrary, it conditions and sustains it, and its creation, development and ongoing management is therefore a vital aspect of that research. We look forward to working with others to ensure that at least some of these essential structures will be unenclosed, open, and owned by the academic communities that rely on them.
For Open Access Week 2023, we have released a number of interviews with members of our team, some of them new to Copim, who reflect on what community ownership means to them. We hope this will give you a chance to learn a bit more about us and our values. These interviews are available at the bottom of this piece and on our PubPub home page.
You can also hear Joe Deville speaking at two events this week: on Tuesday at 12pm BST he will discuss ‘Beyond BPCs: Towards fairer, more sustainable futures for Open Access books’ with the Danish Network for Open Access, and on Thursday at 11.30am BST he will be on a panel about OA books at the University of Derby and the University of Essex. Both are online and free!
And it’s worth closing this piece with some more words from Joe, when asked why Copim’s Open Book Futures project should receive funding:
because there is so much more to do, to support a fairer, more sustainable Open Access book publishing landscape.