Draft version, originally published in: Ebner, M., Schön, S. & Alimucaj, A. (2016) Print your Per-
sonal Book – A New Service and Revenue Model for Open Access Journals. In: Media Convergence
Handbook Vol. 1, pp. 171-185. Springer Berlin Heidelberg
Print your Personal Book – A New Service and
Revenue Model for Open Access Journals
Social Learning, Information Technology Services Graz University of Technology,
Münzgrabenstraße 35/A, A-8010 Graz, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
ILAB – Innovation Lab, Salzburg New Media Lab, Salzburg Research
Forschungsgesellschaft, A-5020 Salzburg, e-mail: email@example.com
Social Learning, Information Technology Services Graz University of Technology,
Münzgrabenstraße 35/A, A-8010 Graz, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Abstract Open access journals have developed new business processes and reve-
nue models. Within our contribution we will describe and discuss a new service
and revenue model for open access journals: the personal book printing service for
the Open Journal System (OJS). To start with, we will give a short introduction to
open access journals and their revenue models, new print-on-demand services, and
the most often used open journal system. Building upon this state of the art, we
will describe the technical prototype of our new “personal book printing service”
for OJS and discuss our first experiences.
Nowadays we are living in a world with big changes in the field of publishing and
media. On the one side, new technology is growing with an amazing speed and
new devices are available within a very short time frame. Smartphones and tablets
are becoming ubiquitous in everyone’s daily life, additionally to personal comput-
ers and laptops. Even the traditional TV stations are more and more merging with
the Internet. The so-called “second screen” brings social media in our living
rooms. Furthermore, Amazon and other companies are offering e-readers to deliv-
er books and journals as e-books and e-journals directly to the device. The famous
Kindle is just one of them. It can be stated that the world becomes more and more
digitalized assisted by different surrounding technologies.
Furthermore the so-called Web 2.0 changed the way people deal with the Inter-
net [O’Reilly, 2004]. Nowadays anyone can easily write and therefore publish on
the Worldwide Web by using different kind of media, like Weblogs, Wikis or
even Video- and Audio-podcasts. Finally many different applications appeared al-
lowing collaboration through technology and writing together on documents in re-
al-time [Schaffert & Ebner 2010].
Through these developments many different questions arise, concerning the
traditional media market. For example: Should our daily newspaper still be deliv-
ered to our home in a printed form? Is a printed book maybe a thing of the past?
Will humanity read only on digital devices in future? Even more questions arise,
when we think about the entire process and business models. What will the reader
pay for and in which ways? Considering the application markets of Apple (iTunes)
and Google (Play Store) today’s digital business model is individualized as much
as possible. Finally, the World Wide Web has brought us openness, summarized
by the open movement, where different kind of resources can be accessed and also
used by anyone for free. So why should we pay for information, when we can get
it for free on our device on any time? – Currently, traditional media and digital
media are diverging more and more. There is a need for concepts, developments,
and implementations to bring them together, to use synergies, and to develop in-
novative cross-medial solutions.
Within our contribution we will describe and discuss a new service and revenue
model for open access journals: the personal book printing service for the Open
Journal System (OJS). Our question was: How can open access journals be assist-
ed by traditional (print) media to strengthen convergence, to build a new service
and a new revenue model?
To start with, we will give a short introduction to open access journals and their
revenue models, to the new print-on-demand services, and to the most often used
open journal system, OJS. Building upon this state of the art, we will describe the
technical prototype of our new “personal book printing service” for OJS as well as
our experiences with it.
Open access journals as part of the open movement and their
Open access journals are part of the “open movement”. Sharing intellectual prop-
erty with other people is one of the most important movements of the last two
decades. The World Wide Web allows anyone to offer his/her work, documents,
programming code, or any other resources online to anyone. The OECD [OECD,
2007] defined the open movement goal and ambitions as offering everybody the
possibility to access intellectual resources freely for (non-) commercial purposes.
The open movement is a general term for many different developments:
• Open source software includes software published under certain li-
censes that allows the end user to use it without any charge.
• Open source hardware is the necessary resource needed to understand
and rebuild a project that describes a hardware design.
• Open standards are a set of rules that assist the exchange of open data.
• Open design are mainly free design templates and resources for web
• Open knowledge is any content, information or data that is free acces-
sible and reusable without any restrictions.
• Open data refers to an initiative that make public information availa-
ble and reusable for everyone.
• Open content is any kind of resource, freely available for reuse, revise,
remix, and redistribute.
• Open educational resources are free online teaching and learning ma-
terials. “Open courseware” are whole courses and lectures series pro-
• Last but not least, open access concentrates mainly on scientific jour-
nals and allows the download and free access to articles.
Hence, the primary goal of the open access initiative is that results of science re-
search must be available for free for the public. Several arguments strengthen and
support this open access movement: First of all, very often the authors and re-
viewers of scientific publications and content are paid or co-funded with public
money. Naturally, the scientific community and the public have to get free access.
Further arguments for open access are: Scientific research will be improved, if any
scientific institution has access to any result. Organizations (like startups or com-
panies) can use free scientific publications to bring innovations faster to the public
In general, there are different ways for open access, tagged with “colors” [Har-
nad et al. 2004]: The “green road” to open access are pre- or re-publications of
printed texts, e.g. in institutional repositories. The “golden road” and best way to
support the movement is the publication in an open access journal. Open access
journals are per definition free available, i.e. every article and issue is for every-
body freely accessible within the Web. Concerning to the Budapest Open Access
Initiative users should have the right to "read, download, copy, distribute, print,
search, or link to the full texts of these articles" [BOAI FAQ 2012].
By January 2013, the Directory of Open Access Journals [DOAJ 2012] lists
more than 8.600 journals that are available as defined, use a peer review system
and have an ISSN. The story of open access is a success story, but nevertheless it
still tackles with traditional reputation arguments of impact factors bound to tradi-
tional (printed or electronic fee-affordable) journals. Nevertheless, there are al-
ready disciplines such as computer sciences and physics where it seems to be ob-
ligatory to publish open access to be recognized by the scientific community. Ad-
ditionally, a majority of studies shows that publications with open access are more
often cited than non-free publications [Wagner 2010] – an important argument for
future publications strategies for researchers.
Offering something for free does not mean it is produced and developed with-
out costs. Open access journals are often managed and offered by researchers or
institutions without sufficient knowledge in journal publishing. Not surprisingly,
they sometimes struggle with the monetary component. These new editors provide
us with enthusiastic and very often inspiring work, but with a lack of financial in-
terest and therefore tend to be naïve in a mid-term perspective of the journals. In
addition, public funded open access journals (e.g. by research funds) very often
needs to look for funding alternatives after the first kick-off funding phase. As a
result, open access journals has developed new business models to (re-) fund and
co-finance their costs of setup, hosting, editorial work and management.
Some of the revenue models for open access journals are listed below [Open-
• Author pays: The authors of the article pay the full publication fees. This
is also known as “article processing charge”.
• Research foundation: The publishing of the article is paid from research
• Institutional funding: The open access journal is part of the institutional
work, e.g. publication strategies, and funded with internal money.
• Institutional subsidies: For example, universities take care about the re-
pository using their existing infrastructure and know-how.
• Publishing support fund: The open access article is paid by the institu-
tion or library of the researchers.
• Hybrid business model: This model is a mixture of subscription and pub-
lication fee. For example, the editor Springer offers to publish an article
online for a defined fee.
• Community-fee model: The members of a community gather funds to fi-
nance open access.
• Other financing options: Newer funding options using the idea of dona-
tions, sponsoring, or crowd-funding. In the case of crowd-funding, pub-
lishing is only possible if many people provide the necessary money be-
• Combined model: Very often, open access journals use a combination of
different models mentioned above.
But “open access” does not mean that it is not allowed to offer additional ser-
vices where users (readers) have to pay for, especially printed version of its issues.
Some open access journals use printed versions as an additional service and (addi-
tional) way to get some (small) earnings. For example, the open access journal
J.UCS also appears in an annual printed archive edition [J.UCS 2013]. As we will
show in the following paragraphs, the availability of new print-on-demand ser-
vices can be seen as the base for new services and also revenue model for open
Print-on-Demand as a possible base for a new service for open
Print-on-Demand (PoD) denotes mostly the technology based on digital printing
that enables printing different kinds of documents even in a small editions. With
other words, the digital document is sent to a service provider who does the print
Mostly PoD is directly connected to self-publishing which allows to bring a
book directly to the market without a traditional publisher. Due to the fact that
such providers offer also an appropriate online portal, publishing a book for any-
one was never easier. The main steps are uploading a document and paying a valid
ISBN number; afterwards the book is offered on the platform for any interested
readers. Amazon, the world greatest bookstore, also follows this trend and is offer-
ing “Amazon Print on Demand”; other enterprises offer similar services. So any
private author finds a convenient way of selling his/her books. The revenue model
is rather simple: Figure 1 shows an example of the price of a PoD book calculated
with Amazon’s service. The author defines the price of and finally gets revenue
for each sold book.
Fig. 1 Amazon PoD costs and revenue example
Gross price (set from the publisher)
Value added tax (VAT)
Price after tax
5% from marketing campaign
50% PoD’s share
Stock, shipping, digital administration
PoD services allow anyone to publish his/her document as book available in the
bookstore without the need of a traditional publisher. Usually, the book is printed
when ordered or printed in small editions when it is on demand. On the one side,
this leads to a high flexibility, on the other side, the book price is more expensive
due to higher print costs. Book on demand as a printing technology was the base
for a new publishing process: Authors are now able to print, publish, and sell
books, even with a valid ISBN, with relatively very low cost and low risk. The
main advantages of self-publishing are that it easy to publish, easy to update the
content and it is seen as a step to a more democratic publication business
Not surprisingly, open access journals and other open content initiatives, which
develop text materials, use such new PoD and self-publishing possibilities to offer
additional printed versions. It has to be seen as a service for readers and an addi-
tional way to find readers that do not want to search for free texts but for a book
on a portal. Additionally, it is an additional (small) revenue for the authors and
The open access journal “bildungsforschung” [bildungsforschung, 2013] is
such a scientific interdisciplinary journal (on education and learning in German
language) that already uses print on demand services for four years. Several issues
are available as printed books within online and also traditional book services with
the help of a German PoD publisher called “Book On Demand” (BOD) (Norder-
stedt, Germany). Another example for scientific texts is the German e-learning
textbook project “L3T” [Ebner, & Schön, 2011a]. It is available for free, via mo-
bile devices [Ebner & Schön, 2011b] and in the iTunesU store, as well as with
cost as e-book app and in two different printed editions (as softcover and hardcov-
er) – and with two different German PoD publisher (BOD from Norderstedt and
“epubli” from Berlin).
From our own experiences as editors of these two open access initiatives we
have seen that it is just a limited extra workload to publish such texts as book (e.g.
we have to develop a cover and to order it, about 2 days of extra work) and a man-
ageable sum (about 300 US-$, excluding copies for authors) for the printing. The-
se costs cover the cost for the contract, the ISBN, and the monthly fee for hosting
of the book.
In general, we see that the print service means additional effort for us but that
this extra effort is more or less refunded by the author margins; in the case of our
textbook project we even have a more positive result. Nevertheless, we have seen
two limitations: (a) The print of issues is not very convincing, as we have addi-
tional other articles with similar focus in our journal/textbook that are not included
in the issue and (b) the print of a whole issue is sometimes not needed and there-
fore too much/expensive. To sum up: the print-on demand service is not flexible
enough to meet the interests of our readers. We guess that they would like to col-
lect and select articles from our whole journal and textbook collection for their
“personal printed issue”.
Building on this, we sketched the idea of a “personal printing service”. As it
has to be included and part of our running system, the Open Journal System, we
will now describe this before we will go on with our new service.
The Open Journal System as major technical system of open
The Open Journal System (OJS) is a research and development initiative directed
toward improving the scholarly and public quality of academic research through
the development of innovative online publishing and knowledge-sharing environ-
ments. [Willinsky, Stranack, Smecher, & MacGregor, 2010] The open source pro-
ject was started in 1998 to be able to manage, to publish, and to index online jour-
nals. The system has designed to reduce the time and energy devoted to all the
tasks associated with editing a journal and all editorial processed. Due to the fact
that the whole process is highly complex the software assists and provides follow-
• Administrators manage the whole system as such as well as the user
management. They are responsible for all preferences of the journal
and they have to install additional plugins to extend the core system.
• Journal managers are responsible for a specific journal. He/she is able
to publish a new volume and allocates editors.
• Editors can change and configure requirements, sections, review pro-
cess etc. for one volume of a journal. Furthermore they are responsible
for the whole publishing process – for the call for papers, the correct
submissions, the allocation of reviewers, the delivering of the reviews
results and the acceptance of articles. Finally he/she is doing the final
edits before publishing.
• Authors are people submitting articles.
• Reviewers are responsible for doing a review of allocated articles in
• Readers are the public who is interested in the final journal.
As mentioned, the software is open source and can be downloaded for free, cur-
rently in its version 2.4.1. It is written in object-oriented language PHP using
Smarty template framework for the user interface abstraction. The backend sup-
ports most free SQL database management systems. OJS offers a huge variety of
features due to its extendable architecture and the possibility of additional plugins.
The introduction of the OJS can be seen as a milestone for the open access ini-
tiative and movement. On the webpage it is visualized that in January 2012 more
than 10.000 installations worldwide were in use [PKP, 2013]: This number is even
larger than the current number (8.600) of registered open access journals in the
[DOAJ, 2013]. Consequently, we guess that the OJS is the most often used system
used for open access journals. Therefore, every attempt to add new facilities and
extra features for this open journal system can be seen as a support for open access
journals and the whole open access movement.
Building on this insight, our department, Social Learning at Graz University of
Technology (AT) already developed some add-ons for theOJS:
• Mobile access: There are already three mobile apps existing for read-
ing any article on each OJS that is using our mobile access plugin.
This plugin provides an API allowing mobile devices to download and
read any content. In the appropriate stores are applications for iPad,
iPhone, and Android phones.
• Social media: Another plugin concerns the embedding of different so-
cial media networks like Facebook, Twitter, or Google+. Posts done
on one of these platforms will be directly shown in the sidebar of the
• Recommender system: This plugin recommends directly at the article
page another similar articles, based on content similarity or user read-
ing pathes [Taraghi et al, 2013].
The following add-on is our newest development.
Implementation of a prototype for a personal printing service as
add-on for the Open Journal System
Within a master thesis project at the University of Technologies in Graz [Alimucaj
2011] we sketched and implemented a new service called “personal printing ser-
vice” as add-on for the OJS.
Focus and general assumptions
The main idea of our research work is to combine the idea of open access with the
emerging technology of PoD using the OJS to create a new printing service and
revenue model. Due to the fact that each OJS holds a huge number of articles, it
should be possible to combine different articles of different volumes in order to
meet the expectations of readers. Afterwards the chosen articles are converted to
just one document with additional overall journal information and sent to the PoD-
provider who is responsible for the production and shipping of the personal book.
As mentioned before, the OJS has a flexible and extendable architecture. With the
help of so-called “plugins” the system can be enhanced in different ways. In our
particular case a block-plugin has been developed, due to the fact that those
plugins react on user inputs and display a different user interface.
First of all, use cases were designed for our plugin to generate the necessary
workflows. Fig. 2 shows the general overview. It must be considered that the im-
plementation will work with two different systems – the OJS as well as the PoD-
system. There are four different user roles:
• Author: The author writes an article, submit it to the system, and get
feedback according to the review process.
• Publisher: The publishers are responsible for the whole publishing
process. This group includes editors, sections editors, layout editors,
copyeditors, and proof-readers.
• Reader: The readers link both systems, because he/she decided to
choose different articles for print and customize the book on the PoD-
• PoD-Provider: The provider is responsible for the book print, its de-
livering, and finally also for the financial part of the process.
Fig. 2 OJS and PoD system use case
Fig. 3 points out the workflow from the user’s perspective. He/she decides to print
articles from the OJS. Afterwards he/she has to select articles, to rearrange it and
to start the PoD-process. If the automated process is accepted from the PoD-
provider the user will be asked to make the final customizations of the book as
well as accepting the order. The order will be finished as soon as the user pays and
the production will be started from the PoD-provider.
It must be noticed that such a workflow is only possible in case the PoD-
provider offers a web-based application programming interface (API) to send the
final document and the additional parameters. The technical communication of the
OJS with the PoD system was a precondition for developing this plugin.
Fig. 3 PoD flow chart
In this section the mandatory parameters of the developed plugin are discussed.
For example, the partner ID, a security key, and the repository must be provided
by the PoD-provider. The plugin itself is programmed independently to give the
possibility to cooperate with any PoD-provider. In our particular case the company
epubli joined us for this research work.
Two further parameters “cover” and “format” are needed for generating the fi-
nal document. After the selecting of articles by the user and pressing the button
“generate” the cover is automatically added to the pdf-file which will be delivered
to the PoD-provider in the predefined format.
Finally, there is also a parameter called “price”. There are two different ways to
define the amount of money that should be transferred back to the publisher (reve-
• Static price: The publisher defines a fixed price that will be added au-
tomatically to the PoD-providers one.
• Dynamic price: The publisher defines a ratio. With other words the
price depends on the number of printed sites; for example: 1:100
means that 1€ (if € is the defined currency of the PoD-publisher) is
paid for each 100 sites; or 0,1:10 means that 10 sites cost 10 cents.
The prototype online
For our real-life test we implemented the prototype within the OJS of our textbook
project L3T [Ebner & Schön 2011] in cooperation with the German PoD publisher
[epubli 2013]. After installation of the plugin and activation on the plugin setup
site the parameters has been defined. Afterwards, the “Select Article Box” ap-
peared in the sidebar of the OJS. Figure 4 shows the box, where different articles
can be easily chosen by the reader and be added to the shopping cart. Before the
user generates the final document he/she is able to rearrange or delete articles. Af-
ter pressing the button “Print on Demand” the document is directly sent to the
PoD-publisher with all predefined parameters. In the reader’s browser the homep-
age of the PoD-provider appears and all further steps must be done there.
The strength of this application is that just this small box is needed to handle
the whole process to maximize usability experiences to the consumers.
Fig. 4 Select Article Box at http://l3t.tugraz.at
[put figure here]
First experiences with the new personal OJS printing service
As a reader of our report you may guess that we were pretty curious, and yes, we
were also a little bit enthusiastic about the possible reactions on our new service.
Nevertheless, the first reactions did not surprise us: The new service was imple-
mented and it worked: We ordered a personal issue of L3T and got a small
softcover book with our selected chapters. We count more than 180.000 down-
loads of single chapters at L3T homepage, therefore the traffic promised potential
customers. But nobody else used our service within the first two weeks.
We made a short advertising video for our new service, distributed in our
community-network, e.g. at our Facebook fan page, Twitter account and Google+
page. Additionally, we installed the add-on at the open access journal “bildungs-
forschung” with more than 1.000 visits in a single month.
Same there: Within the next 3 weeks, no-one ordered a personal printed ver-
sion. Nevertheless, we got very positive feedback over our social media channels
(“cool service!”, “great work”). For example, on Facebook the post of the video
attracted 5146 people, but only 84 watched the video (1,6%) and only 52 of them
(1%) clicked on the link to the system. When a closer look at the API is done, it
can be carried out that till today 138 people generated a final document and were
passed on to the PoD page, but nobody of them ordered the final book. To clarify
the barriers of ordering we asked selected people and did some small updates (e.g.
revising spelling error). Our investigations, e.g. at an Austrian e-book conference,
did result that the whole idea is hardly understandable for people who never heard
about PoD possibilities. Additionally, the service itself was confusing: Why
should an open access text be printed? The main idea of our approach seems to be
the main hurdle: Is our innovative cross-media solution too new?
The goal of our research and implementation work was to develop and implement
a new concept for the convergence of digital media (in our case: open access jour-
nal articles) and traditional media (printed journals) by combining existing sys-
tems via a web-interface. With the help of new developed plugin for the OJS,
readers now can order their personal book by a PoD-provider who is delivering
the book to costumers as well as the defined revenue to the publisher.
The advantages of this business model are manifold. For each party they are:
• Publisher: For the publisher of an open access journal this plugin offers
the possibility for a complete new revenue model. For the first time pub-
lishers can get revenue by printing their free available articles.
• Reader: The user can get a printed book as flexible and personal as pos-
sible. He/she defines which articles in which order are parts of the final
product. The possibility to combine articles of different volumes makes
it even more interesting. For example, with the aid of the recommender
plugin, articles of the same research field can be easily found and added
to the shopping cart. The reader only gets what he/she really wants to
• PoD-Provider: The provider benefits from an increased turnover and a
new market, due to the fact that open access journals are supposed to
have a big future.
On the other side, there also some critical facts:
• Very often, the open access journal editors did not ask for or simply got
the necessary rights to print and sell (!) the text delivered by the authors.
This is especially the case when licenses are used e.g. the creative com-
mons licenses CC BY-NC or CC BY-SA.
• The provided revenue model did not take care about the voluntarily work
of the authors and reviewers. Nevertheless this is an important task for
the future to think about how also these stakeholders can profit from sell-
ing their articles (authors) and giving valuable feedback (reviewers).
• Due to the fact that all articles are online available for free the number of
prints will be small compared to the number of downloads. Therefore it
can be expected that this revenue model will not revolutionize the open
access market, its impact is limited to a revenue model for parts of the
• For the reader there seems to be only one real disadvantage: Ordering a
personal book means definitely more work than just ordering a prede-
fined volume. Therefore the authors implemented a one-click-order of the
current issue, but nevertheless the necessary steps on the PoD-platform
still exist. We guess that this aspect is the key pro-argument for the ser-
vice and in the same way one of the hard challenges.
• In the launch phase of the plugin the idea of printing a personal book was
spread by an intensive marketing campaign. Short videos were produced
to explain the idea in general (http://youtu.be/JRzr8psJ840) as well as to
show the necessary steps that must be done by the customer. Anyway, in
personal interviews the authors recognized that the concept is hardly un-
derstandable to people who never got in touch with Print-on-Demand
• There is an arbitrarily effort for PoD-publishers, because they have to
provide a platform where the users (readers) can be managed as well as
an innovative API (Application Programming Interface) which allows da-
ta exchange between the OJS and the publisher’s system. In our particu-
lar case the young company epubli cooperated in the research work. An-
other PoD-publisher could not be convinced so far, mostly because of the
missing API and the arbitrarily effort to develop it.
Our research work aims to bring digital and traditional media together in a way
that both benefit from each other. Therefore a plugin for the worldwide largest
open source platform for publishing open access journal, the Open Journal Sys-
tem, has been developed that allows readers to select a number of articles and sent
the selection to a Print-on-Demand publisher for printing. Due to the fact that the
OA-publisher can define the revenue added by the plugin automatically to the
price of the PoD-provider a possibility to allocate money is given.
It can be summarized that the proposed plugin is able to close the gap between
open access journals and printed journals, with a new and an attractive possibility
to print a personalized book. On the other side, this idea needs time to establish,
due to the fact that readers have to see their benefits and recognize the power of
PoD solutions in combination with innovative web technologies. The provided
implementation can be seen as step towards convergence of media, but much more
research effort is needed to help open access to become a serious market competi-
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