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I am currently working on my second book and I want to make it open access this time. I know there is many way to put the book online (github, bookdown, etc.), but I am worried on how it will be perceived by colleagues to not have the book officially published by a publisher.

Update

I am specifically refering to scientific book targeted primarily for scholars. My book is actually on how to use the R software in french, but the answer can have broader range.

Questions

Is it okay to put a book online without a publisher online?

How will it be perceived by other academics?

Should I be better to try to publish the book with a known publisher and pay the open access fee?

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    Please clarify your specific problem or provide additional details to highlight exactly what you need. As it's currently written, it's hard to tell exactly what you're asking.
    – Community Bot
    Nov 4 '21 at 20:55
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    What specifically do you mean by "How will it be perceived by other academics?" - will they read it? will they be impressed by it on your CV? something else? What is "better"? Costly less money can be better, bringing more fame can be better, taking less time can be better, a better quality work can be better...
    – Bryan Krause
    Nov 4 '21 at 21:43
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    You might be interested: academia.stackexchange.com/questions/63951/…
    – Allure
    Nov 5 '21 at 2:02
  • "How will it be perceived by other academics?" This is field-dependent. In my field a book would have almost no impact on your reputation, except if it becomes the standard textbook. Unless you are a senior researcher, some colleagues might wonder why you waste your time with writing books instead of publishing peer-reviewed papers.
    – Roland
    Nov 5 '21 at 8:20
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The perception will be based on the quality and usefulness of the product, not on where or how you publish it. But that assumes that it can be found.

Quality is an issue, since it is difficult to produce error free work that is also well written without the feedback and editorial assistance provided by a publisher. This is a serious concern, though it can be handled if you have some help. It is, in particular, very difficult to properly proof read your own work. There is even some research that suggests this.

Another big issue is that for a work to be useful it has to be found. Publishers have a way of doing this (for a while, at least). Some people can make it work for some things provided that everyone that might want to see your work knows about you and how to find your web page or whatever. Otherwise you will find you have few users.

I once published (not open access but self publishing) a series of textbooks. But I was known already to just about anyone who might have been interested so my university page was enough to make the works public.

But those are the serious issues, not the perception of the venue. Make it high quality. Make it visible.

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There is no one-size-fits-all answer here. Accessibility, quality, polish, competition, perceived credibility, timing and sheer luck all play a role, to name only a few factors.

I know several free online textbooks and resources that have become very popular in their field (e.g. Sutton and Barto's "Reinforcement Learning"). From my experience, they tend to be in emerging fields with a lack of good resources, and I think a combination of easy access, lack of competitors and periodic updates all contributed to the success of these examples.

How it will ultimately work out in your case depends on many factors. Most books have little impact, and the impactful ones successfully address some gap(s) in the literature. Whether it finds an audience, would do better with publisher support, etc is very hard to answer without specific publishing experience and understanding of your work in the context of your field.

As for perception, it's common enough in programming contexts that I don't think you have much to worry about. Admittedly, in older fields with established classic textbooks it's not quite as common (so this answer might not apply there) but specialized open-access programming books with GitHub repos are not inherently suspicious. I've used several and have seen them used in courses with no affiliation to the author.

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