A Look Back at 29 Years as an Open Access Publisher

Imagine the Internet without the Web. Imagine that there is no Google or similar search engine. Imagine that the cutting edge Internet applications are e-mail, LISTSERV, FTP, and Telnet (terminal sessions). Imagine that the Internet is made up of a number of different noncommercial networks, and that the connections between them are not always transparent. Imagine that Microsoft only shipped one million copies of the second version of Windows last year, and you are using MS-DOS without a graphical interface instead. Imagine that no established publisher has even experimented with an e-journal. Imagine that the latest mid-range PC has a 6 MHz 16/32-bit 80386SX processor, a 30 MB hard drive, and 2 MB of RAM and costs about $3,900.

That was the situation in June 1989 when I launched PACS-L, a LISTSERV mailing list, after distributing some photocopied handouts at the ALA Annual meeting. PACS-L was one of the first library-oriented mailing lists, and it was unusual in that it had a broad subject focus (public-access computer systems in libraries). PACS-L was sponsored by the University of Houston Libraries. Walt Crawford and Roy Tennant have shared their thoughts about PACS-L in "Talking about Public Access: PACS-L's First Decade" and "Remembering PACS-L."

In August 1989, I launched and began editing The Public-Access Computer Systems Review, one of the first e-journals on the Internet and the first open access journal in the field of library and information science. It was freely available, allowed authors to retain their copyrights, and had special copyright provisions for noncommercial use. It was published by the University of Houston Libraries. Issues were announced via e-mail, and articles were distributed as ASCII files from a LISTSERV. You can find a history of the journal and links to articles and reviews about it in "The Public-Access Computer Systems Review." From 1989 through 1996, the journal had over 4.2 million file requests (including spiders).

In 1996, I established and began writing the Scholarly Electronic Publishing Bibliography, an open access e-book, which was published in the HTML, PDF, and Word formats. It had 79 subsequent versions. This early e-book was published by the University of Houston Libraries until late 1996. My "Evolution of an Electronic Book: The Scholarly Electronic Publishing Bibliography" article recounts the history of the e-book through 2001. From 1996 through 2011 when the last version was published, the e-book had over 11.9 million file requests (including spiders).

All three of these digital publishing ventures were authorized and supported by Robin N. Downes, the visionary Director of the University of Houston Libraries.

In 2005, I established Digital Scholarship, and I began to write and publish open access works under Creative Commons licenses. Since then, Digital Scholarship has published PDF books, inexpensive paperback books, XHTML bibliographies, weblogs, Twitter streams, and other works.

The most popular publications have been (excluding spiders): DigitalKoans (over 22.7 million page views), Transforming Scholarly Publishing through Open Access: A Bibliography (over 575,000 page views), the Open Access Bibliography: Liberating Scholarly Literature with E-Prints and Open Access Journals (over 422,00 page views), and the Digital Curation and Preservation Bibliography (over 288,000 page views).

Back in 1989, I never thought that a wacky idea and a few handouts would lead to 29 years of digital publishing projects.

You can find a complete chronology of my digital publishing activities in A Look Back at 29 Years as an Open Access Publisher.

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Copyright © 2005-2020 by Charles W. Bailey, Jr.

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