Open Book Publishers, the second publisher featured in this series is much different than RosettaBooks, its predecessor. While RosettaBooks is an aggressive commercial publisher, Open Book Publishers is an academic publisher “committed to making high-quality research available to readers around the world.”
For Open Book, making scholarly research available to a world-wide readership means that all the works it publishes are available in their entirety for reading online, free of charge. As explained in their vision statement, “Our books are published in hardback, paperback, pdf and ebook editions, but they also include a free online edition that can be read via our website . . . Open Access (that is, making texts free to read online) helps spread educational materials to everyone, globally, not just to those who can afford it.”
A few things are worth noting about this statement. First, Open Book is not a digital-only publisher. It deals in print. Second, not all of Open Book publications are freely available*. For example, Ariel Rubistein’s Economic Fables is £8.95 (roughly 14 USD) in paperback, £2.95 ($5) in PDF, EPUB, and other device-specific formats. Most interesting of this last fact is that Open Book distinguishes between an “e-book” as available on its website but with no download or conversion capability and an “e-book” amendable to being read away from a computer screen, Internet connection, and on a dedicated e-reader (e.g. Kindle, Nook). The latter is different enough from the former that Open Book expects people will be willing to pay for it even when a web-only version is available for free. This is an absolute crucial point. In my mind, the latter is a true e-book, while the former is a stopgap to getting content not otherwise available and as a commercial product, usually not worth paying for.
*: For an explanation of why not all Open Books are free books, see Open Books Publishers FAQs. The explanation: “We need to charge a small fee for our PDFs to offset our production costs. We are a non-profit company and charge very little for our printed books, so PDFs are a vital revenue source to help us keep our books affordable and free online. In the future we aim at raising enough income from grants and sales to stop charging for PDFs.”
PS. I bought David Levine’s Is Behavioral Economics Doomed? The Ordinary versus the Extraordinary as a show of support for Open Book Publishers and the generous impulse of Creative Commons licenses. And because it’s a good book.