By Miguel Dela Pena and Prototyping the Digital Archive team of INKE
In support of
our goal to move the John Donne Journal from print to Diamond open access
electronic publication (essentially, freely available at no cost), the Prototyping the Digital Archives team conducted a brief survey of the current state of open
access journal publishing in Renaissance studies with the purpose of
understanding the current state of journal publication in our field and the
range of publication and distribution modes. We were particularly interested in
the possibility of retaining the Journal's print publication along with an
electronic, ideally open access, instantiation. This survey involved 108
journals catalogued in the MLA Directory and found through the keyword
“Renaissance” or time periods “1500-1599” and “1600-1699.” It should be noted
that we took the MLA data at face-value and did not confirm its accuracy.
Out of these 108 journals, sixty-seven (62%) are not available through open access. Five of these are publish exclusively in print, and the remaining sixty-two are available both in print and electronically through subscription. Most of these journals are distributed mainly by aggregators such as Project MUSE, EBSCO, JSTOR, Gale, and Iter. The remaining forty-one journals (38%) have content available in open access to varying degrees. Twenty-eight of these are currently available only electronically, either by virtue of being born digital or transitioning from print to electronic publishing entirely, the latter being a common trajectory for Renaissance journals (more on this later). The other thirteen are indicated to be available both in print and electronically while being open access; however, this indication of multi-modality is misleading in most cases. Some journals, such as The Upstart Crow and the Milton and Melville Review, are (and evidently were never) distributed simultaneously in print and electronically, as they have been discontinued print publication (2012 and 2011, respectively) and as such do not need to support further publications. The Upstart Crow, though, has been, “in spirit… reborn as an independent online, open access journal called Upstart: A Journal of English Renaissance Studies.” This trend continues with journals such as Seventeenth-Century News and Humanistica Lovaniensia: Journal of Neo-Latin Studies. The latter, for example, was previously available through JSTOR until its transition into an “online-only open access publication” in 2018 as its publishers’ “response to the evolving scholarly landscape.” On the other hand, those that are, in fact, simultaneously available in print and electronically are not available in Diamond open access. For example, volumes 33 to 52 (2002-2022) of Comitatus: Journal of Medieval and Renaissance Studies are behind a subscription paywall at Project MUSE while its first 32 volumes are available in open access through eScholarship where “subsequent volumes will be uploaded at a rate of one per year.” One journal, Multicultural Shakespeare from Lodz University Press, is published in print and in Diamond open access simultaneously, with the electronic version being fully and freely available on their website and paid subscription being reserved for the print version only.
Regarding society-based journals like the JDJ, there are ten among the 108 in the list. Milton and Melville Review is one of these. All ten have an online presence, but those that are available for open access were either born-digital or transitioned completely online, following the general trend. The only apparent exception is XVII-XVIII: Revue de la Société d'études Anglo-Américaines des XVIIe et XVIIIe Siècles, which the MLA Directory indicates is available in print and electronic open access. The journal's website, however, does not offer information about print copies, listing only an ISSN for an electronic version in its publication policies page. What makes XVII-XVIII particularly interesting is that all of its content is open access, but only in HTML full-text format. All downloadable formats (PDFs and ePubs) are accessible only through a “Freemium” subscription system through OpenEdition, which aims to “[allow] libraries to pursue an acquisitions policy that both encourages the development of open access and respects the needs of teaching, research and learning communities.” OpenEdition also discloses that all revenue from this system goes back to open access development. Another French journal, Actes des Congrès de la Société Française Shakespeare, is also accessible via OpenEditions, only without the Freemium subscription requirement for downloadable formats.
As for the remaining journals, The Shakespeare Fellowship and The Shakespeare Oxford Fellowship merged in 2013 to manage the content for their journals, Brief Chronicles and The Oxfordian, together. Brief Chronicles follows the pattern of discontinuation and complete online migration. It does, however, continue “as an occasional series of scholarly books.” There are currently two volumes in this series: the first was published in 2019, and advance copies of the second were previewed the same year. This second volume is in the process of revision. The Oxfordian, on the other hand, continues as an annual journal, with only their most recent volume being behind a membership paywall for an embargo period. All back issues are available in open access, and students can get free online access to recent issues if they provide a valid student ID and institutional email. Similarly, The Spenser Review also demonstrates the importance of collaboration in open access publication as its fully open access existence is “sponsored [by] the International Spenser Society with the support from The University of South Carolina and Washington University in St. Louis.” As well, The Spenser Review, as its name suggests, only hosts article reviews “of topics in and around Spenser studies.” It does not “evaluate or print scholarly articles itself.” For that, the page links to Spenser Studies: A Renaissance Poetry Annual hosted on the same website but published by the University of Chicago Press instead of the International Spenser Society. This second journal is not available for open access. In this case, the open access content is different than, but points to, the subscription content.
Based on our analysis, the group recognizes that the most common and perhaps most sustainable method for making open access content while also maintaining print publication is a hybrid model, where some or most of the journal’s offerings are fully accessible and some (or some form of it) is provided only to subscribers. The best model is provided by XVII-XVIII: Revue de la Société d'études Anglo-Américaines des XVIIe et XVIIIe Siècles, where the difference between open and paid access is in the form it takes, rather than the content it contains.
About the author and his team:
Miguel Dela Pena recently graduated with an M.A. from the Department of English at the University of Saskatchewan. He is responsible for the research presented here. The rest of the Prototyping the Digital Archive team consists of Brent Nelson (University of Saskatchewan), Jesse Sharpe (Houghton University), Matt Sherman (Drexel University), Constantine Kaoukakis (University of Saskatchewan), Joel Salt (University of Saskatchewan), and Kyle Dase (University of Victoria), and this work is part of the Implementing New Knowledge Environments (INKE) Partnership, funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.
The research presented here informs a fuller exploration of open access publishing options in an forth coming article in POP! Public. Open. Participatory.