Teaching and Learning in a Net-Centric World

Ongoing Saga of an Open Access Book

Readers of this blog will remember that I published the results from the first year of sales and downloads of the book I edited, the Theory and Practice of Online Learning, 2nd Edition published by Athabasca University Press. In summary during  the first year, AU Press sold 404 copies and supported the delivery of 2,457 copies of the complete text and many more individual chapters, (but that is another story).

The 2nd edition followed the success of the 1st edition, except we quickly sold the 400 paper copies we printed of edition 1 (save those collector items!) and so we were unable to really quantify the effect on sales of open publication. My friend and colleague Rory McGreal has been examining sales ranking from Amazon Press comparing open and closed access publications from University Presses and so far has found no significant difference, but this is challenging since most purchases of the tomes from academic presses come from libraries- not from Amazon. Nonetheless, his early data is showing that releasing your work as Open Access does NOT negatively impact sales.

Since the publication of the second edition a new player is on the block – Google Books. My friends at AU press emailed me today some interesting data on page views and click through to  “buy the book”. First let me encourage you to make the statistics I present below hopeless outdated by going to the site for the Google Books Theory and Practice of Online Learning clicking through to AU Press, and purchasing multiple copies of the book 🙂

Google Book stats for the 12 months of 2009 report that 6,814 people viewed the book, saw 105,679 page views and 148 clicked through to “buy the book”. Now of course we don’t know how many of those folks actually typed in their Visa number, but the click through of 2.17 % of viewers compares favorably with the 1.5% I reported last year who purchased after reading or downloading electronic copies from the AU Press site.

This data indicates to me that – Google Books is great (at least for academics). I use the service OFTEN myself and when I see that 6,814 people took the time to read at least part of the content, I am very pleased. It also seems to indicate (warning very small data set) that the limited views provided by Google Books, haven’t hurt commercial sales and MAY have increased them.  I also hear from the popular press that Google’s proposed settlement with the publishers is bogged down with the lawyers, but there MAY be financial returns from Google to AU Press and myself from these viewing. More gravy!

So, three suggestions for readers:

1. Go to AuPress and download a few books (not just mine),  they are all available for free download and likely look great on an IPad, but alas as a Canadian, Apple has blessed us with another delay in delivery of delivery of this latest reader.

2. Purchase copies of those works you want to hold, give to your students or if you just want to show support for the press and its authors.

2. Consider publishing with AUPress or another Open Access publisher if you really care about letting everyone benefit from your scholarship.

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  1. April 17, 2010    

    Thanks for this update. I just completed my dissertation on the impact of free e-books. A summary of that research is at:


    I’d love to connect with Rory McGreal and learn more about what he has done.

  2. April 19, 2010    


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