Author success story
Context about the author:
Andrew Smith is Professor of Urban Experiences at the University of Westminster. Andrew is based in the School of Architecture and Cities and he currently leads one of the University’s four cross-school research communities, which is dedicated to Sustainable Cities and the Urban Environment. His work examines urban tourism and city events from a place-based perspective using ideas from urban geography and urban studies. He has written several books on these themes, including two monographs published by Routledge, but he has also co-edited two open access books published by the University of Westminster Press.
Please provide some background information on the research project, book origin, adjacent research, and/or network enabling the book
The book aims to pull together the expertise at the University of Westminster on city tourism, in particular our knowledge about London – one of the most visited cities in the world. Westminster has a long tradition of research in the field of city tourism, going back to the 1990s, so we wanted to capture the work of a strong team of academics and capitalise on our co-location in London. We also wanted to provide a platform for early career researchers to publish their work.
What was/were your motivation(s) for wanting to publish this book?
My main motivation was to establish a joint project which would bring our research group closer together. I also wanted to write something that could reach wider audiences – beyond academia and beyond Europe.
Please give some information on the funding behind the research / book / network
The book didn’t receive any dedicated funding, although we successfully applied for University of Westminster funds to help pay for images and graphics. University of Westminster Press is a diamond open access publisher and therefore it covered any other costs related to the book.
Was the book made available on your own website, or the website of any other editors or contributors, or your institution? If so, please state which.
It was published on the University of Westminster Press site, and on the University of Westminster’s repository, and the link to the book was subsequently distributed on social media. It was also made available via OAPEN and JSTOR.
Open access success story:
What makes this book successful?
The book is successful because it achieved what we set out to achieve – to promote our work to new audiences, to celebrate a strong aspect of the University of Westminster’s research and to pursue a joint project.
Why did you choose to publish this book open access?
I had become frustrated with the cost and the inaccessibility of books published by the main academic publishers – particularly research texts costing £130. The fact we had an in-house open access publisher was a major reason too – the book was by Westminster authors so it made sense to publish it via the university press. To be honest, we had previously had a lukewarm reception from other publishers to the idea of a book exclusively about London, so it was refreshing to work with a more receptive publisher. One of the chapters was about threats to the accessibility of public space – so it made sense to ensure this resource was not similarly accused of exclusivity.
Do you think that open access publication helped the book and if so, why?
It definitely did. I had emails from people all over the world (e.g. Brazil) thanking me for making the book available to all. Alongside the availability, people have also commented on the accessibility of the language, which matches its ‘open’ status. The other thing it really helped with is that some of the partners involved in certain chapters (e.g. Unseen Tours, a charity that helps homeless and insecurely housed people) were able to access it and distribute it to their contacts.
Did your OA book show immediate success upon publication, or did the success unfold more slowly over time?
It depends what you mean by ‘success’. Success for us was completing the project and getting the work published open access – it was a bonus that the book was received so positively. Frustratingly, some of the early reviews didn’t even mention the fact the book was available for free! The most effective way of distributing the book was via email listservs – which sounds very old-fashioned but there are some very widely read lists in our field. I suppose we made an initial impact – especially because good, open access books in this field are rare – but then success took longer to materialise. The pandemic has been a real problem – the book was about the expansion of tourism – but we are hoping that interest will pick up as things return to ‘normal’.
If early signs of success started to show, did you try to reinforce this in an unusual or creative way?
Twitter was very helpful. We had a physical launch, but really the main way the book was promoted was via social media and email. The exciting, eye-catching, and unexpected cover helped!
Did open access help to reach unreachable / unknown / unexpected / new audiences? If yes, how do you know this?
Yes, as described above: mainly through emails sent to the editor(s).
Did open access make new connections / follow-up possible?
It helped reinforce existing connections rather than necessarily helping to establish new ones – but there have been some useful connections created by the book, such as those with relevant destination consultancy firms and key stakeholders in London.
Is there any long tail (awareness, citations, downloads) of this book that you consider would (most likely) not have happened with print sales only or toll-access?
We have found it surprisingly difficult to access accurate information on downloads because of the multiple platforms on which the work is published. To be honest, citations have been less impressive than awareness or downloads, but I suppose these take longer to materialise (the book was only published three years ago).
How do you think academia can benefit from your book being OA?
It sends a message to the main publishers that the current way of working is unsustainable – academics want their work to be read and they don’t want to have to tell interested readers that their books cost £130 to buy. I think it was good to set an example to our peers that high-quality books could be published open access, and that open access publishing could involve zero cost to authors and readers.
How do you think society at large can benefit from your book being OA?
It shows that academic work can be accessible, useful and interesting. We optimistically hope that Destination London might be the first academic book some people have ever read, and that it might inspire people around the world to become researchers themselves.
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