Open access; who what where why?

Open access to online content. A somewhat confusing sentence, so think of it this way: open access is like an unlocked door, you don’t need a key to open. Still a bit puzzled? Don’t worry I was at first too, check out Wiley’s short cartoon that helps give a general overview of what open access means.

For a content producer specifically it is debatable whether the rewards are great enough to make their content freely available online.

On the one hand they could be playing key role in the reinvention of what a classroom experience is (Forbes, 2013). Suggesting that in making content available they are facilitating social change, and perhaps even levelling the equality of access institutions can provide their students with. Therefore changing the impact a school’s funding has on the level of education an individual is afforded with. Something Wiley suggests is possible for the “first time in human history” (Wiley et al., 2012). The motivations for open access are vast; increasing audience, reuse, access, experimentation, reputation, revenue, participation etc. (The Ed Techie, 2013). Illustrating just how wide and all encompassing the benefits of making content available can be.

On the other hand however there is also the suggestion that content producers themselves could be perhaps exploited by larger media companies who facilitate the access. They are at times seen as “optimised content offers” (Lepitak, 2013), something which can vary from content to content, as well as the form in which it is made available. Suggesting that although the producer created the content, they may not directly benefit from this access notion as greatly as the media companies do (Brown, 2012). The infographic below helps to illustrate the differences in the costs of various methods of distribution (Wiley et al., 2012). Whilst the significantly lower cost for retrieving an electronic copy of book could be of great benefit for those attempting to access such content, it is also clear that this could disadvantage content producers relying on an income from their published content.

250 Page Book

Infographic created by Rachel Whalley using Canva. Data taken from Wiley et al. (2012)

Overall it is possible to see both sides of the debate; do you publish something in the hope that one day it may contribute to social change? Or do you cut your losses and stick to what is more commonly done and perhaps more financially beneficial for yourself?

Word count: 401


Brown, A. (2012). Open access: why academic publishers still add value. Accessed: 05.05.17

The Ed Techie (2013). What sort of open do you want?. Accessed: 06.05.17

Forbes, (2013). Education Finally Ripe For Radical Innovation By Social Entrepreneurs. Accessed: 05.05.17

Lepitak, S. (2013). 90% of online content to be held behind paywalls in three years media company survey suggests. Accessed: 05.05.17

Wiley, D., Green, C. & Soares, L. (2012). Dramatically Bringing Down
the Cost of Education with OER. Accessed: 05.05.17

Wiley (2014). Understanding open access. Accessed: 07.05.17


4 thoughts on “Open access; who what where why?

  1. catherinefrances says:

    Hi Rachel,

    You do a great job of really thinking yourself into what matters to a content producer wishing to publish their work online and effectively weigh up both sides of the argument. The Wiley film which you frame much of your discussion around provides an interesting and potentially biased perspective as it is advertising its services to publishers.

    It strikes me that content producers are faced with a difficult decision. Imagining you were faced with this dilemma what route would you choose? You may want to check out this article which debunks six myths about publishing open access.

    Let me know your thoughts,
    Many thanks.



    Liked by 1 person

    • Rachel says:

      Hi Catherine,

      Thank you for your lovely comment! I think you’re right to call that video potentially biased – although it gives a good overview we should definitely be wary of Wiley’s motive behind producing it!
      That article you mention is really interesting and I think it is difficult to say what I would do in that position. I think that although those myths about open access have been debunked, a lot of stigma still surrounds it. So if I have an academic article I wished to publish I would probably still go for traditional routes as I would want the best reception and reputation for it. As a student however I am completely for open access so I can see both sides! What do you think?


      Liked by 1 person

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