COPIM End-of-project Conference 'Scaling Small: Community-Owned Futures for Open Access Books'


➡️🔍🖺 Full conference website & documentation available at:

Date & time:

  • Thursday, April 20, from 3pm (BST)
  • Friday, April 21, from 3pm (BST)


The theme of our Conference converges around the organisational principle of Scaling Small, our term for an alternative way of envisaging a publishing and distribution ecosystem for open access books based on mutual reliance and other kinds of collaboration. In opposition to the dominant strategies of organisational growth for publishers, which flatten community diversity through economies of scaling ‘up’, Scaling Small is built on the idea that healthy growth of an ecosystem can be nurtured through intentional collaborations between community-driven projects. It aims to promote a bibliodiverse ecosystem while providing resilience through sharing of resources and knowledge, and other kinds of collaboration (Adema and Moore, 2021).

Scaling Small has been the guiding principle of the COPIM project from its inception. Our mission has been to develop communities, platforms, tools and infrastructures to address key challenges around the production, dissemination, discovery and preservation and archiving of OA books. This conference will discuss some of the ways scaling small has guided our work, reflect on our outputs and successes so far, and look to the future to explore how scaling small will inform our ongoing collaborations and activities. With like-minded and related projects, we will also be exploring how others can build on the models and structures we have established in the pursuit of an equitable, diverse OA landscape.

During this conference we will ask, what might a developed non-commercial ecosystem for open access book publishing look like and what is needed to create it? How can we safeguard the landscape against corporate acquisition? Who will be the players in such an environment, and how will we work together? What role can scaling small play in fostering uptake of a non-commercial alternative to commercial publishing?

In the Global North, funders such as UKRI in the UK, initiatives such as Plan S in Europe, and the landmark White House mandate in the US, all want to make publicly funded research openly available. Although such mandates support progress towards a more open landscape for books, they do not fundamentally address the ongoing consolidation of research infrastructure by major publishing corporations, the encroachment of platform capitalism into OA spaces, and in particular the increasing attempts to monetise and, potentially, monopolise the infrastructures of open knowledge dissemination. There are clear indicators showing that oligopolistic/oligopsonistic tendencies endanger the existing diversity of scholarly outputs, which are particularly relevant to the Humanities and Social Sciences. Likewise, a reliance on Book Processing Charges (BPCs), prevalent among major commercial players and some university presses, privileges wealthy institutions and academics and shores up the inequalities already inherent in academia. Rather than profit-focused, competitive models that take Book Processing Charges as a norm and flatten diversity in the name of scaling ‘upwards’, we envisage a landscape for OA books that is community-led, horizontal, networked, diverse, and equitable. Scaling small, we believe, enables a plurality of small-to-medium publishers to thrive and support each other, enables diversity of content, form and language, while also actively resisting the encroaching surveillance and privatization of knowledge, research, and the academic landscape.

The Scaling Small philosophy that COPIM has been following is explicitly and intentionally an alternative to large-scale, commercial approaches to academic publishing. This principle has guided COPIM’s main outcomes and objectives, and has supported us in building various models, systems, and platforms as part of our work to start removing the hurdles preventing new and existing open access book initiatives from adopting open access workflows. In addition to creating the community-led governance structures, archiving and preservation best practices, and experimental book pilots and resources to support this, scaling small comes to the fore very clearly in 3 of COPIM’s main outputs: the Open Book Collective (OBC), a UK charity governed by its members that brings together open access publishers, libraries, and publishing service providers to enable sustainable collective funding for open access books without charging authors; ‘Opening the Future’ (OtF), a revenue model which enables the transition of legacy publishers to OA by offering their closed access backlist to libraries via a subscription scheme, and using the revenue to fund new OA books; and Thoth, an open dissemination system that enables publishers to share their open access books much more widely, by easily creating high quality open metadata in a wide variety of formats.

As COPIM concludes and we look towards the launch of the Open Book Futures project, we hope to discuss and extend the organisational principle of Scaling Small in several ways, and with a range of collaborators.