27 Aug 2008

Defining Open Access: Gratis vs Libre

Peter Suber and Steven Harnad have introduced two new terms into the Open Access lexicon: gratis and libre.

I'll let Peter explain:

"When the Bethesda and Berlin statements came out (June and October 2003) they followed the Budapest statement in calling for the removal of both price and permission barriers. As a result, all three components of the Budapest-Bethesda-Berlin (BBB) definition of OA now call for both sorts of free online access.

But unfortunately we still don't have widely accepted terms for the two sorts of free online access: (1) the kind which removes price barriers alone and (2) the kind which removes price barriers and at least some permission barriers. This gap in our vocabulary has caused confusion and conflicts, not least because it created pressure to use the term "open access" for each. For now, my choice is to use "gratis" and "libre". They are accurate, neutral, and descriptive. In the neighboring domain of free and open source software, they exactly express the distinction I have in mind".
Gratis is cost free
It means free to read.

Libre is cost free & permission free

It means free to use.

Heather Morrison is a fan of these new terms, and I think they are going to catch on (although some are confused). I do still think that 'real' open access is more than just giving it away for free - permission barriers matter, and others like Jim Till agree. That the initial suggestions for gratis and libre were 'weak OA' and 'strong OA' speaks volumes.


Jim Till said...

Please note the correct spelling of my surname (it's "Till"). The last sentence in my blog post Free versus Open Access (August 20, 2008) was: "My own view: “Open Access” seems likely to continue to have multiple definitions, and those with different kinds of self-interest seem likely to continue to prefer different definitions. More categories than Peter Suber’s first two (”gratis OA” and “libre OA”) will probably be needed."

Anonymous said...

Name corrected, Jim. Apologies.

There are definitely more categories than Gratis vs Libre, e.g. OA journals vs self-archiving (Gold vs Green); full OA vs only non-commercial use; OA journals vs hybrid journals.

There are also many different business models:
Article processing charges; sponsorship or grants; advertising; only allowing non-commercial use and charging for commercial use, e.g. reprints; funding online open access using profits from print copy sales; charging for access to PDFs but not HTML; submission fees; volunteerism.

See http://oad.simmons.edu/oadwiki/OA_journal_business_models