Tom Hill is Publisher & Managing Director at Libertas Academica based in Auckland, New Zealand. Libertas Academica is an open access publisher of scientific, technical and medical journals.
KH: Many people in the education industry are following the development of open soure content and its commercial potential; so let’s start with the business model. How do you describe it?
TH: There are essentially two business models for open access publishing. The first is where the author, or more commonly the author’s institution, pays for the cost of processing and publishing the journal, in exchange for a potential readership of everyone with an internet connection and an interest in the subject with no other access barriers. The major costs involved in open access journals are around the establishment and maintenance of production and editorial systems and the staff required to operate them. So while open access publishing avoids the logistical costs of printed subscription journals, it unfortunately can’t be free because of this.
The advantage of this approach is that it is sustainable. Authors and readers don’t have to worry that the journal is subject to changes in policy by the funding body. The disadvantage, of course, is that the author has to pay.
The other approach is that the journal is funded by an institution or society. From my perspective I would argue that this is a less sustainable approach because it depends on the good will of the third parties involved. Nevertheless, it’s important to note that OA journals using this approach are a vibrant and important part of the OA journal space. Generally they are run by highly dedicated individuals. As a commercial OA publisher I should add that I don’t see these journals as being in competition to ours.
KH: How do you see the open source market changing over the next five years?
TH: This is a hard question to answer – no matter what I write I’m confident that the position we find ourselves in 2013 will be much different!
I predict a couple of changes. First, OA will have made major gains against all but the upper echelons of subscription journals. A number of subscription journals will have either been closed down, merged, or converted to OA. Publishers with a substantial subscription business will be struggling with lack of submissions and declining subscription revenues.
Second, at least one major commercial OA publisher will probably have been purchased by a conventional publisher. The conventional publisher will face huge cultural and business model differences and will probably struggle to come to terms with these problems.
Third, other OA article databases will spring up to compete with Pubmed.
KH: What are your plans for growing the business?
TH: Our greatest challenge is to communicate the benefits of OA clearly to authors. Even now, with a huge number of OA journals and vocal advocacy, there is still a great deal of misunderstanding about the nature of OA journals. This is partially because of the many hybrid OA journals which arguably are not even OA journals but which combine some elements of subscription and OA journals.
Beyond that, our objective is to continually strengthen the quality and repute of our existing journals while continuing to launch new journals when we identify potential topics.
More information about Libertas Academica is available here: