Diversifying readership through open access: A usage analysis for OA books

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Open access (OA) books are reaching more countries and have greater usage and higher citation numbers than non-OA books. A new analysis collaboratively produced by Springer Nature and COARD (Collaborative Open Access Research & Development) presents these and other key findings in a new white paper that explores how OA affects the geographical diversity of readers. 

It shows that OA books have substantially more readers in low-income and lower-middle-income countries and that OA also helps to increase attention to scholarship about these countries. The study is to date the largest and most comprehensive of its kind; the underlying dataset is based on 3,934 books published by Springer Nature, including 281 OA books.

Confirming previous research looking at the potential usage benefits of OA, this analysis shows more downloads and more citations for every type of book, in every discipline, in each of the three years of publication (2015, 2016, 2017) included in the sample. The report finds that OA books on average achieve ten times more downloads and 2.4 times more citations than non-OA books. Furthermore, download numbers from the open web are generally around double those from institutional network points. 

Ros Pyne, Director Open Access Books at Springer Nature, said: “The analysis reveals clear benefits for OA books, demonstrating that immediate OA increases and diversifies the readership of scholarly books. We hope the findings of this collaborative project will help encourage greater support for OA books among authors, institutions, funders, and all those involved in scholarly communications.”

About the white paper 

·         Title: Diversifying readership through open access: A usage analysis for OA books

·         DOI: 10.6084/m9.figshare.12746177

·         Link: https://www.springernature.com/diversifyingreadership

The report builds on previous work by Springer Nature in this area, providing a broader and more nuanced picture of the impact, visibility, and strengths of OA books. Previous white papers in this series include The OA Effect (2017), which explored the effects of OA on the downloads and citation of scholarly books. The Future of OA Books (2019) provided a global view of book authors’ attitudes towards OA and explored the factors that influence academics’ decisions about whether to publish their books OA.