Quite the shakeup in library scholarly-communication circles. BePress’s foolish, venal sellouts (may they choke on their doubtless-massive payouts) have sold themselves and their customers to Elsevier.
The Loon has approximately one million and one things she might say, had she time. (Do not ask about her day when the news broke, or her workload at present. The former was heartbreaking for reasons having nothing to do with scholarly communication, and the latter is staggering as well as full of her least-favorite job task.) As she watched some of the discussion on Twitter, however, she kept noticing that little of it took into account everything that BePress did.
So, in hopes of being useful (including to several potential BePress killers or pieces thereof, such as Fulcrum
—beware autoplay video, the Web’s current scourge—Hyku, and the perennial OJS), the Loon will lay out as clearly as she can her understanding of what BePress was and did. Note that this understanding is somewhat spotty, as the Loon’s Boring Alter Ego rarely touched BePress and was never herself responsible for a BePress installation. Corrections and amplifications are welcome in the comments.
First, something BePress used to be but divested itself of: an open-access journal stable, sold to de Gruyter half a decade or so back. (This did not raise many hackles, as far as the Loon recalls. As mostly-toll-access corporate publishers go, de Gruyter is fairly decent.) This obviously informed the design of its frankly best-in-class journal-publishing platform.
Second, as just mentioned, a journal-publishing platform whose usability and author/editor-focused feature-set left Open Journal Systems (its chief, if not only, open-source competitor) in the dust. The Loon is harping on BePress’s unparalleled usability and feature set in this post because it is important to point out that BePress libraries were not lemmings, were not sellouts, were not ignoring open source. Even for libraries capable of running and maintaining open source (as often and rightly mentioned, hugely far from all of them!), BePress was still a smart, defensible platform choice. The innards of the behind-the-scenes journal workflow the Loon is not intimately familiar with; what she chiefly knows is that BePress attracted—even stimulated—impressive amounts of new journal development by faculty. The Loon did run OJS for a time. It simply didn’t measure up.
Third, author-brag pages (“Selected Works”). These are not exactly elaborate (see Denise Troll Covey’s here), but authors love them (likely for their just-the-facts simplicity, in fact) and neither DSpace nor EPrints has ever had them.
Fourth, an institutional-repository platform that for all its petty irritations (the Loon was always particularly irked at how BePress used to rename every single file handed it—it finally seems to have stopped this preservation-unfriendly practice, which is good) was good at attracting depositors and deposits. Conscious that its client base often lacked web-design and -development talent in-house, BePress cheerfully did the design and branding customization for them, more or less eliminating sheer ugliness as a reason for faculty to turn away. (The Loon has themed DSpace some half-dozen times. She doesn’t think she ever managed to make it pretty. She tried to theme OJS once and gave up in sheer despair. OJS is outright fugly.)
Fifth, a portal/aggregator (the DigitalCommons Network). After OAIster went down OCLC’s ravening maw and disappeared, nothing else like this existed until the advent of academia.edu and ResearchGate. In the Loon’s experience with DSpace, some faculty shied away because they didn’t like what else was in the tiny IR neighborhood but they couldn’t conceive of that neighborhood as part of anything bigger. The DigitalCommons Network, the Loon suspects, did away with that particular suspicion.
Sixth, all of this—every piece, joined together mostly seamlessly—as a service. To this day, no other such service exists. Oh, one can purchase journal-platform-as-a-service and IR-as-a-service; in latter days, brag-pages-as-a-service has also come about. But together, never mind actually integrated? No. There is nothing like BePress. Nothing whatever.
Would-be BePress killers have a significant mountain to conquer.
Well, Elsevier has any number of options here. The Loon can’t say which road they’ll take.
- Elsevier could knock a big chunk out of US-based green open access at a stroke. How? Pricing BePress’s current client base out. The quickest, easiest, and most PR-friendly way to do this is to bundle ElseBePress with Pure, Mendeley, and so on… and as we all know, Elsevier surely does love leveraging bundling for high prices.
- Re-enclosure. As it did with SSRN, Elsevier could do copyright sweeps. It could take down the DigitalCommons Network. It could robots.txt away search engines. It could play soft-TPM games. Petty pettifogging, but effective.
- Embrace, extend, extinguish (and goodness, the Loon did not mean that post as prophecy no matter how much it reads as such now!), especially in combination with the bundling/pricing strategy.
- Extending its tentacles into the non-Research-1 library/institutional market. This will only be possible as long as Elsevier can curb its normal pricing rapacity. Can it? The Loon doesn’t know.
- Letting BePress languish undeveloped, with an eye to eventually shrugging and pulling the plug on it.
The Loon is sorrier than she can rightly express for all the libraries who trusted BePress and have been betrayed by its foolish, venal leadership. They do not have easy choices in front of them, and that is not their fault.
- In which the Loon feels a smidgen of sympathy for publishers
- Germany v. Elsevier: keeping on keeping on