Dr. Martin Eve (Eve, 2014) has an interesting article posted that deals with the possibility of Amazon killing a revenue channel for open access monographs. The argument goes that books are just a tad more labor intensive to produce than journal articles.
So how Does one Ensure Open Access and Still Generate Revenue to Keep the Publishing Enterprise Viable?
In the article Dr. Martin writes that economic solutions to make monographs open access could be freemium models, print and electronic subsidy, institutional subsidy and consortial models. In these models, it is suggested that
…publishers can recoup their costs by selling print versions of the monographs and or electronic versions… -Eve (2014)
He writes that could be accomplished by distributing an electronic version in PDF while trying to sell the eBook version on Kindle.
The problem, the academic publishing industry claims is Amazon.
Let’s take a look. Amazon seems to do a splendid job in fighting for consumers by lowering prices to almost all the products it sells. Books and eBooks included. Amazon’s Kindle pricing policy explicitly states that:
You must set your Digital Book’s List Price (and change it from time-to-time if necessary) so that it is no higher than the list price in any sales channel for any digital or physical edition of the Digital Book. – Kindle Direct Publishing, (2014)
In other words. If a publisher gives away, for FREE, any print or electronic version of a title anywhere else (any sales channel), the publisher cannot turn around and charge for the eBook made available on Kindle. Makes sense.
So there lies the problem, publishers claim. Here is how I understand the industry’s position. Amazon is killing open access because publishers cannot give away a copy (print or electronic) while still being able to charge for the eBook version on Amazon.
However, I believe; publishers are approaching this particular problem from the wrong end. Here is how MindBodyMed Press handles this problem for its mini monographs. Granted, MindBodyMed Press is not an open access publisher, but I think open access publishers could approach the problem utilizing Amazon’s programs.
How Could This be Done?
MindBodyMed Press distributes paperback versions of its mini monographs through a variety of channels. Because producing a mini monograph is time-consuming, and MindBodyMed Press needs to cover overhead (just like any publisher), a fair price needs to be charged.
All MindBodyMed Press mini monographs are available in an eBook version as well. For the first 90 days, each eBook is available exclusively through the Kindle Select Program. During those 90 days, each mini monograph has a five-day promotional period during which the mini monograph’s price is set to $0.
Furthermore, the Kindle MatchBook program offers customers who buy, or have previously purchased, a print book from Amazon.com the option to buy the Kindle eBook of that title for $2.99 or less. Participating publishers can set a price of $2.99, $1.99, $0.99, or free for the Kindle eBook version.
So it seems that Amazon is not a problem for open access publishing. Publishers simply need to flip the scenario elaborated on above by Dr. Eve. Open access publishers could use other “sales channels” to sell their mini monograph paperback version, while giving away the eBook version for free on Amazon, without running afoul of Kindle’s publishing requirements.
How Does it Work in the Real World?
Let’s take MindBodyMed Press’s mini monograph “The Experience of Being Diagnosed with Cancer” by Kathy Blough.
The title’s list price is $12.99. The eBook’s list price is $5.99. During the 5-day promotional period (September 22 to 26, 2014) “The Experience of Being Diagnosed with Cancer” eBook version was downloaded 236 times.
The $0 price promotional period was enough for the mini monograph to garner first place in Amazon’s “Holistic Medicine” store. As well as garnering substantial exposure by reaching third place in the “Oncology” store during this time.
Once the 90-day “Kindle Select” period is over, electronic versions of the mini monographs will be made available through iBooks, Kobo, as well as MindBodyMed Press’s website.
The lesson? Hypothetically, rather than looking to Amazon as an enemy of open access publishing, an open access publisher could devise a program and strategies to serve their needs while embracing Amazon’s publishing programs and pricing strategies.
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