Niki Akhavan speaks about her book, Electronic Iran: The Cultural Politics of an Online Evolution, published by Rutgers University Press.
Why did you agree to allow your book to be included in the Knowledge Unlatched Pilot?
My research and teaching have benefited from using material available through Open Access, and by making my own work available with a CC licence, I hope to make a similar contribution to the work of others in the bigger scholarly community.
Also, I’ve had many experiences where I have asked libraries about e-books that the library was not able to carry due to prohibitive costs. I think Knowledge Unlatched offers an exciting model that reduces the costs for libraries at the same time as it increases the number of patrons who can access the material. The idea of libraries sharing Title Fees means that the more libraries participate, the less their individual fee. This is great incentive for more libraries to carry a title, which allows many more patrons to gain access to the work.
What are your hopes for your book, and do you think Open Access will play a role in achieving them?
When I was writing this book, I read across a number of disciplines and spent as much time digging through scholarly research on Iran and New Media as I did on material targeting popular audiences. My hope is that the readership for Electronic Iran will similarly traverse across specialist fields and will appeal to a general audience as well. I think Open Access will mean broader access and will increase the chances of reaching a vaster audience of readers.
What do your friends/colleagues think about your decision to allow your book to be made available for free under a CC licence?
The reactions have been mixed. Most friends and colleagues encouraged me to participate, agreeing that this would expand the potential readership and impact of the book. Others wanted to know more about the type of CC license, and worried about the parameters for the reuse of material. Overall, however, my friends and colleagues were supportive of the decision. Since none of them have yet made their work available under a CC licence, they are all curious about how my “experiment’ will go because the outcome may sway their future decisions about whether or not to do the same.
My research and teaching have benefited from using material available through Open Access
Do you think that making your book available on an Open Access licence will increase its reach and impact?
If my own experiences with new titles are any indication, then definitely, yes. For many years, I found out about new research through the conventional scholarly channels — publishers’ booths at conferences, publishers’ catalogues, and the like. Physically picking up and flipping through a book was a big part of my encounter with new works, but over the last several years, I’ve increasingly found and accessed new work digitally. And when those e-books have been available on an Open Access license, they have made my research and teaching that much easier. I’m also more likely to share those works with colleagues and students, who can in turn easily access the material, exchange ideas about it, and pass it along to others with shared interest. I hope that my book finds itself circulating among such expanding networks of exchange that are made possible by Open Access.
Who would you most like to read your book and why?
While I am very eager to have specialists in my field and related disciplines read my book so that I may benefit from their feedback, I particularly hope that it finds an audience among younger readers such as advanced undergraduates and graduate students. I hope my book starts conversations about re-thinking how the role of New Media has been understood in Iranian and Middle Eastern contexts more broadly, and I hope that a younger generation of scholars can critique and build on my ideas. I also think that perhaps this group will especially appreciate—and perhaps even prefer—works that are available electronically with Open Access licenses.
How do you think your dream reader might find your book?
Whether via a simple search engine query or a search at a library database, I hope that accessing my book will be just a free click away for my dream reader.
Were you interested in Open Access before you became aware of the Knowledge Unlatched pilot?
Yes, I was, but I wasn’t sure what options I would have to make my own work available through Open Access. I really like the model Knowledge Unlatched offers, so I am very excited to be included in the pilot collection.
Niki Akhavan's Electronic Iran: The Cultural Politics of an Online Evolution as well as 27 other titles are available through our Pilot Collection.