I spent part of yesterday at the O’Reilly Tools of Change for Publishing Conference. A lot of it was the same old wheeze we’ve heard before, but there was a very interesting session on libraries as publishers presented by three University of Michigan librarians—Maria Bonn, Shana Kimball, and Jeremy Morse—who took the digitization projects the library was performing for preservation and turned them into a small side business as the facility’s Scholarly Publishing Office.
Morse said that the current model of scholars using libraries to create content that is then sold back to them by publishers is nuts, so they decided to eliminate the middle man and release the materials themselves. They now have a hefty 9000 titles available for print-on-demand listed on Amazon and publish two journals at very little cost through partnerships with anyone willing to snuggle up (authors, editors, vendors, you name it).
Scholars apparently are far more interested in getting their research out there than they are in making money from a journal, so many are willing to publish the materials for free as long as they can keep the rights for future use.
The venture makes very little money, but profits aren’t the point. If they can do it, you can too.