Dr. Charlie Piot: Publishing an Open Monograph

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In a continuing series featuring Duke authors who have worked with our TOME program to publish scholarly monographs openly, we spoke with Dr. Charlie Piot of Duke’s Department of Cultural Anthropology about his experience working with Duke Libraries and Duke University Press to make his book The Fixer: Visa Lottery Chronicles open access. The book is an examination of the U.S. Diversity Visa Lottery in the West African nation of Togo through the eyes of a visa broker, or “fixer,” as he helps his clients in the process of getting a visa to travel to the United States.

We asked Dr. Piot his feelings on open access as a movement and why he sought to work with TOME to make his book openly available. He replied with his characteristic enthusiasm, “I’ve been an OA [open access] warrior for 10 years—since becoming co-editor of the journal Cultural Anthropology and helping take that journal open access. I was thus thrilled when Duke Press and the Duke Libraries approached me about publishing The Fixer through the TOME initiative.” He elaborated: 

“The politics of OA is very straightforward for me. It means that anyone with Internet access can have free access to your work, which for an anthropologist who works in an area of the world where resources are scarce means that interlocutors can have access to a work they helped create. Second, it’s never seemed fair to me, perhaps especially in the case of journals but also with books, that publishing companies are making profits—in the case of journals, large profits—off the free labor of the academic commons (the community of reviewers, editors, and colleagues who contribute enormous amounts of time and largely unremunerated labor to the production of all academic work). Why should a commercial press be able to take that work, put it between covers, and walk away with enormous financial profit—at a time when university libraries and university presses are financially wanting and in many cases declaring bankruptcy?”

Dr. Piot found out about the TOME program through Duke University Press and was glad to report that working with both the press and the Libraries was “very smooth and easy.” In conclusion, we asked how he understands the book’s reception and he replied that, “I’ve heard from many in West Africa, in South Africa, in Europe and the US, that open access has been a godsend, enabling them wide and free access to the book.” That demonstrable power of open access is a unique contribution of Duke’s involvement with TOME. We were thrilled to make it possible to publish Dr. Piot’s book openly.

To download the full open access version of The Fixer from the DukeSpace repository, click here.

Learn more about Duke’s support for open monographs here: https://scholarworks.duke.edu/open-access/open-monograph-award/.