This blog post was first published on 29 August 2022 on the Hardiblog of NUI Galway Library.
In our Open Voices series we are talking to Dr Éamon Ó Cofaigh, who recently published the monograph “A Vehicle for Change. Popular Representations of the Automobile in 20th-Century France”. It is available from Liverpool University Press as an Open Access Monograph free to download (or as a printed copy for £34.99). We talked to Éamon about his book and about his experience of publishing a monograph Open Access.
Hardy: Éamon, thanks for talking to me and congratulations on publishing your book.
Éamon: Thank you very much.
Hardy: We will talk about what it is like to publish an Open Access Monograph, but first can you please summarise what your book is about?
Éamon: Well, my book is based on my PhD thesis which I completed in 2015 and it’s about how the automobile was and is consumed in France. I look at popular representations of the car and see how they evolved. For example, I look at motorsport and see how it was used as a vehicle for selling the car and how it was used to show that the car could go over and beyond what people thought it could do. The first car race ever took place in France around the turn of the 20th century. Then I move on to the Le Mans 24 hour race in 1923.
The second part of the book is about the colonial history of the car when the car was used to conquer North Africa. And then I move to post World War II, and I look at the role of the car in the growth of tourism in France. Tourism in France essentially meant driving to the south of France, down to the Cote d’Azur. Paid holidays started in France in 1936, but it wasn’t really until after World War II that this had an impact on the everyday person. I look at popular representations of people driving to the south of France and how that is reported in magazines at the time. I take a thirty year period and I look at the evolution of representations of the car from 1945 to 1975 to see how it is portrayed.
There’s quite a change, it has been written about a lot, it is called the three ages of the car. The first age is where it is fetishized, where it is desired. The second one where the car is accepted and a third one, which starts around 1973 during the oil crisis, where the car is rejected. The three ages are reflected in popular culture, too, for example in French cinema. I look in particular at two French cineastes: Jean-Luc Godard and Jacques Tati and both of them reject the globalisation that comes with the car. With the car we have mobilisation, but when there are so many cars we actually have immobilisation! There is a very famous scene in one of the Tati movies where it’s meant to be a traffic jam but it is very obviously a car park that he is filming. He is playing with the idea that in the 1970s motorways became car parks. So that’s what I am looking at: the evolution of the car from its start in France up to about 1970 and how it is portrayed.
Hardy: You mentioned your starting point was your PhD, so how did you go about from publishing your PhD to publishing the monograph? How did that happen to be an Open Access book with Liverpool University Press?
Éamon: Well, I looked at my PhD and I sent a sample chapter to Manchester University Press and Liverpool University Press. Liverpool got back to me straight away and said that they’d be interested. but they said it is a bit too theory heavy. They said that if you want to make it more reader friendly you are going to need to lighten the theory to make it a little bit more accessible. So, I took out one major strand of my theory and it meant the book was not as dense.
I sent my first draft to the publisher, and it took about a year to maybe 18 months to go through the draft. Then it was sent out for peer review. The reviews came back about six months later, and I had to make certain changes. There was still no talk about Open Access at this stage. The only other time I had any dealings with Open Access was with the publication of one article, and the journal offered me the chance to make it available Open Access but they said, I would have to pay [an Article Processing Charge of] 1500 Euros, so I could not afford that.
While I was working through comments of the peer reviewers, I was told by Liverpool University Press that I had been awarded a prize of an Open Access book, so my book was going to be converted into Open Access. If I wanted this, I would have to offer up any income that I would have made from the book. Also, the book, instead of becoming an expensive hardback, it would become a more affordable printed book. I think generally those hardbacks sell for about 90-100 Euros.
Instead, my book that did come out is selling for 35 pounds in print. I don’t know what the difference is to a 100 Euro book but it looks exactly as I would have wanted it to look. Any royalties that I would have received go to Liverpool University Press. Remember, I contacted you about which way I should go, and you recommended taking up the Open Access offer and I am very happy with that choice!
For example, I am looking at a book launch in September 2022, and instead of having to send a hard copy to the person who is launching the book, he was happy to download the Open Access version, so it makes it easier to get it to people!
Hardy: Do you know how much the value is of your award did they tell you?
Éamon: No, they didn’t send me that information. I am also unsure what the royalties would be, but I was talking to my PhD supervisor about that, and he was saying that they never amount to much anyway.
Hardy: I haven’t checked the price range that Liverpool University Press will charge for an Open Access Monograph [see the comment on that at the end of the interview] but typically Book Processing Charges are between 5 and 15,000 Euros [see some prices here], so your award is worth quite a lot.
I wanted to ask you, now that your book is available Open Access to everyone in the world to download and read, what are your expectations compared to a print only book that would cost 100 Euros?
Éamon: My editor was saying before I was given this award that she expected to sell about 100 copies of the book. Essentially these copies would be sold to libraries. I didn’t expect any individual to spend 100 Euros for my book. So, number one, the hard copies are available for 35 Pounds, so that is much more affordable. At least two or three former students of mine have bought it. People have been sending me emails about little snippets that they read in the book, so I know that they have read the Open Access version of it.
I would also imagine that my citations from the book are going to be much higher. I know that the book will reach a much broader audience. I also know that former students will be interested to dip into it out of interest because I taught them. I know that it is going to reach a far broader audience than I could ever have hoped, and I imagine that would put me in a much stronger place when I start working on a second monograph, which is the plan. I think that my citations for the first Open Access book would be so much higher that I can argue that it would be a good idea for you as a publisher to take me on for a second book. I think that the Open Access book will strengthen my position for further publications!
Hardy: How important are citations for monographs in comparison with articles, where we all know how important they are?
Éamon: To be honest, I am not 100% sure myself. I have placed the link to the Open Access version of my book onto ResearchGate, and I put it on my LinkedIn profile and I have it on my University of Galway IRIS profile, too. I have a colleague who already cited my book due to ResearchGate. When the official book launch comes in September 2022, I make sure to mention the Open Access part, too. The book has not been reviewed yet because it only came out last month but reviews might help as well.
Hardy: You are using social media to disseminate your book, and the licence of your Open Access book allows us to do this?
Éamon: That’s right. I wrote a blog entry for Liverpool University Press as well, and I had my first social media blast via Twitter and Facebook after that. When the reviews are coming in and if they are good, they will go up on social media as well.
Hardy: Will Liverpool University Press provide you with data about where the readership or the downloads come from?
Éamon: I don’t know. But it is a very good question and it’s something that I will find out. It would be very interesting to find out that kind of information!
Hardy: Liverpool University Press are referring to a recent Springer Nature study where they look at the global impact of Open Access monographs. There is evidence that your readership is not only becoming bigger in numbers but also a lot more diverse geographically. Your book has probably a few ideas and threads where a wider audience might be interested in, people who study cars, are interested in French history etc.
Éamon: My book is interdisciplinary, so I think film studies might be another area. The keywords that are placed with it are quite wide ranging so it should get a broad readership. When should I start looking for the metrics on that, after first six months?
Hardy: I know citations for monographs are slower to build up [this study from 2011 argues for a citation window for monographs of 6-8 years]. For other metrics like downloads, you would have to ask the publisher.
Éamon: I will definitely do that, because that would be an important factor if I was looking for a future publisher of my second book.
Hardy: You mentioned that you are thinking about writing another monograph. A follow up or a second part?
Éamon: My first book had the cut-off point with the oil crisis of 1973, so there is another 50 years of popular representations that I that I haven’t engaged with yet. There was a big change in engagement with the car from around 2000 onwards. There’s actually a lot more material on the last 50 years than there was for the first 70 years.
Hardy: Would you look at publishing an Open Access monograph again? Is that now a consideration?
Éamon: Of course, I would! If the opportunity presented itself and I could afford it, I most definitely would. For the first book, it was important to have a nice, printed version as well. I would have baulked at the idea of having a digital Open Access copy only without having a physical copy in my hand but that’s just pure ego [laughs].
But for the second book I would be not only interested in going Open Access, but I wouldn’t be that worried about having a physical version of the book. I use Open Access myself all the time. Whenever I can, I download papers and books for my research. Very rarely do I use physical versions of anything. Of course, most journals are online, but even with books I often scan pages with my phone and convert them into a PDF so I have an electronic version of it on my computer. I think we’re moving in that direction for everything, even books.
I think that libraries have changed very quickly over recent years and the actual need for physical documents is diminishing hugely. I don’t know how many dictionaries are in the library, but as a French teacher, I can’t honestly tell you the last time I opened a physical French dictionary!
Hardy: That is interesting to hear! What about the visuals, images, advertisements, etc.? Is that more impactful in a physical copy?
Éamon: I don’t think so. The contract for the printed version that I negotiated were black and white images, but I would imagine that if I was to go Open Access and digital only, that wouldn’t necessarily be a concern and I could go fully colour. The advertisements probably would have had a better impact if we had managed to keep the colour, but I wasn’t allowed due to the physical version going black and white, and that was all that was on offer. I bought the images in full colour, so they were then converted to black and white. I think a digital only Open Access version probably could have kept the colour.
There is much more liberty and much more freedom with the Open Access versions of a book as well because with paid ebooks, you have access for a couple of days, and then, and then they will disappear [more about libraries’ struggle to offer ebooks in the Irish Examiner]. It is quite annoying that you can’t have a copy of a book on your computer. I love having a PDF where I can do a keyword search! For my PhD that was essential. Doing keyword searches on material that I have downloaded onto my computer.
Hardy: Congratulations again on your book. Great that it is Open Access and we hope all goes well with the official launch in September!
Éamon: Thank you very much. I will let you know how it goes.
As a non-commercial university press, Liverpool University Press (LUP) is committed to Open Access publishing including Open Access Monographs. It signed up early to initiatives like Knowledge Unlatched and or Modern Languages Open (MLO). The question about the cost of publishing Open Access books with LUP depends on length and other charges like images but as a guideline, costs are: “As a guide, for a manuscript of 100,000 words with no images, a BPC of £8,500 (plus VAT) would be required”. There are currently 72 Open Access books published by Liverpool University Press.
The Directory of Open Access Books currently includes more than 58,000 monographs.
Q&A with Éamon Ó Cofaigh, author of A Vehicle for Change. Liverpool University Press blog. 28 Jume 2022. https://liverpooluniversitypress.blog/2022/06/28/qa-eamon-o-cofaigh/
Nature, Springer; Pyne, Ros; Lucraft, Mithu; Emery, Christina; Neylon, Cameron; Montgomery, Lucy; et al. (2020): Diversifying readership through open access: A usage analysis for OA books. figshare. Journal contribution. https://doi.org/10.6084/m9.figshare.12746177.v1
University of Cambridge: OA monograph costs. https://osc.cam.ac.uk/monographs/open-access-and-monographs/oa-monograph-costs