Madras, Giridhar (2008). Current Science, 95(8), p. 1081. 25 October 2008
This book discusses the initiatives taken by various institutions in India towards digital library, open courseware, open access (OA) journals and finally, national and institutional repositories.
OA is a term often used but misunderstood, even by academicians. OA literature is often digital, available free of charge, and usually free of most licensing restrictions. OA research articles fall into two categories: OA journals and OA repositories. Unlike other professionals, research scholars write journal articles for free to advance knowledge in their field and, possibly, their careers. The entire process of writing a research paper, reviewing by other peers and editorial decisions are carried out at nearly no cost. However, the publisher charges for access to the journal. In the OA model, it is available free for readers but not free for producers. OA journals normally charge the authors (who are likely to pass on the cost either to the publisher or the agency that funded the research) to publish the research paper. These charges may be exorbitant in some cases, but the charges are also waived by a few OA journals. However, scholars publish their research for impact and the most prestigious journals in many fields are not OA yet.
Therefore, a researcher, especially from South Asia/India, is likely to publish in a journal that is considered prestigious internationally, rather than just OA. In these cases, OA repositories would greatly help. Many OA repositories comply with the OA initiative protocol (OAIP) for metadata harvesting, thus allowing a user to access a paper without being aware where the archive is located. Almost all publishers of journals allow archiving a postprint of the research paper after peer review in an institutional repository. Thus the author can submit the paper in a repository after it has been accepted for publication. However, most publishers do not allow archiving of papers that have been copy-edited and published by them. While many OA repositories in India claim to have thousands of papers, because these are not post-prints submitted by authors but the copy-edited paper published by the society/publisher. Thus many of these papers are inaccessible outside the organization, which defeats the very purpose of OA. Unless authors clearly perceive the advantages of depositing in a repository (like improved impact etc.), it is unlikely that post-print deposition will increase. Most of the research in developing countries like India is publicly funded and the funding agencies can mandate that the research papers arising from this funding should be deposited by the authors in an institutional repository. This would greatly impact the open access movement in India.
The book would be a good starting point for novices who are unaware of the number of digital libraries, OA journals, etc. in India. It would have been better if the authors had discussed the access to these websites, the advantages and disadvantages of some of these OA initiatives and the details of the holdings. Instead, this book is just a compendium of screenshots of many digital libraries, OA journals and repositories in India. A few typographical error, like, ‘IISc, located at Bangalore, is India’s most renounced research institution . . . .’ (p. 101) could have been avoided.