Open Access Books Slowly on the Rise

Publishers and libraries are increasingly experimenting with Open Access (OA) books, according to a new survey by industry advisors, Publishers Communication Group (PCG).  Books published under the so-called “author-pays,” Gold Open Access model with no paywall for readers are expected to slowly grow in importance, with funding derived from a variety of sources including library budgets, the study reported.

Following on from PCG’s 2014 survey into library adoption and funding of OA journals, the Open Access Monographs Survey sought input from both publishers who are active in and considering OA book programs, and librarians around the world who contend with new institutional OA mandates and emerging acquisition models.

Among the key library findings are that within the 57% of institutions currently cataloguing OA books, 81% use established criteria in making selection decisions, including relevance to curriculum (68%), faculty request (67%), authorship within the institution (51%) and listing in the Directory of Open Access Books (DOAB, 33%).  Known funding sources for OA author fees were identified variously as outside grants (26%), the authors themselves (23%), academic departments (21%) and library funds (15%).  Of library funds supporting OA book publishing, 53% are taken from the existing materials budget, according to respondents.  On average, library OA funds are divided 26% toward book publishing with the remaining 74% covering article processing charges for OA journals.

The third of publishers stating that they publish OA monographs reported that such works currently account for less than 5% of their book collections, but 44% of them felt that the program was growing, albeit modestly. About 30% of those not yet publishing OA books felt that it is somewhat or very likely that their organization would begin doing so within the next five years.

Librarians and publishers perceive the benefits of the OA books movement differently.  While 20% of libraries report participation in OA funding initiatives such as Knowledge Unlatched, and many librarians feel they should advocate for OA publishing within their institutions, diversion of existing funds remains an issue.  Publishers, meanwhile, fear unrealistic funding expectations in the academic community, the resemblance to vanity publishing, and the inevitability of institutional mandates.

Melissanne Scheld, Managing Director of PCG commented: “After the surprising finding that 23% of libraries report paying author charges for Open Access journal publishing, PCG conducted this follow-up survey to quantify library and publisher involvement in the nascent OA books movement. While presently a very small part of the scholarly publishing landscape, OA monographs are being taken seriously by stakeholders across the communication chain with initiatives such as the DOAB, Knowledge Unlatched and Luminos at the University of California. It appears to us that the demand for OA books by researchers, librarians and institutions is pressing, held back only by the ever-present challenge of funding.”

PCG Managing Director, Melissanne Scheld will discuss the results of the survey during the session, Open Access 2.0: Monographs from the Perspective of Publishers and Librarians on Thursday, May 28 from 10:30-12:00 at the 37th SSP Annual Meeting in Arlington, VA.  The full report is available at