Open Source Publishing Platforms Proliferating But Not Very Impactful: MIT Press


Open publishing needs new infrastructure that incentivizes sustainability, cooperation, collaboration and integration, the report authors said.

The MIT Press released a major report on the current state of all available open source software for publishing.

Titled ‘Mind the Gap’, the report revealed that the number of open source online publishing platforms has proliferated in the last decade, but they are often too small, too siloed and too niche to have much impact beyond their host organization or institution.

“This leaves them vulnerable to shifts in organizational priorities and external funding sources that emphasize new projects over the maintenance and improvement of existing projects,” it said.

The report suggested that if open publishing is to become a durable alternative to complex and costly proprietary services, it must grapple with the dual challenges of siloed development and organization of the community-owned ecosystem itself.

It was also found that even though platform leaders and developers recognize that collaboration, standardization and even common code layers can provide considerable benefit to project ambitions, functionality and sustainability, the funding and infrastructure supporting open publishing projects discourages these activities.

“If the goal is to build a viable alternative to proprietary publishing models, then open publishing needs new infrastructure that incentivizes sustainability, cooperation, collaboration and integration,” said lead author John Maxwell, Associate Professor and Director of the Publishing Program at Simon Fraser University.

Scholarly publishing community must unite

The report authors listed 52 open source online publishing platforms, i.e. production and hosting systems for scholarly books and journals, that meet the survey criteria of “available, documented open-source software relevant to scholarly publishing” and in active development.

“John Maxwell and his team have done a tremendous job collecting and analyzing data that confirm that open publishing is at a pivotal crossroads,” says Amy Brand, Director of the MIT Press

“It is imperative that the scholarly publishing community come together to find new ways to fund and incentivize collaboration and adoption if we want these projects to succeed,” she added.

The MIT Press secured a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon foundation in 2018 to conduct a landscape analysis of open source publishing systems.



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