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Open Access Toolkit: Publishing an OA book

Why make your book Open Access?

Publishing your book open access greatly increases the opportunities for your work to be shared, discussed and debated, thus providing more opportunities for peer and public engagement. The Open Access Publishing in European Networks (OAPEN) Open Access Toolkit lists the following as some of the benefits of publishing open access:

  • Increased readership, usage and citation: Open access books are available to anyone with an internet connection, anywhere in the world, which greatly increases the opportunities for your work to be read, discussed and cited. Publishers often make their usage data available to authors, allowing you to track how often your book is read and cited.
  • Wider and more diverse audiences: As open access books can be more easily discovered and shared, publishing your work open access can lead to audiences outside of your usual networks finding your research. Not only do open access books reach a larger audience but they have the potential to reach a more diverse one, including academics from other disciplines, independent researchers, policymakers, industries and the general public. This could lead to greater awareness of your research, more conference invitations and more collaborative opportunities.
  • Real-world impact and public engagement: As open access books can be widely read and shared, they can more easily receive public attention. For example, the open access anthology Tolerance: The Beacon of the Enlightenment (Translated by Caroline Warman, et al.) was released on the anniversary of the Charlie Hebdo attacks and has received over 42,000 views and downloads to date (as at July 2021), according to the Open Book Publishers readership report. Open access works can also be discussed and shared easily on social media, and altmetrics can be used to track engagement. 
  • Greater author control: Authors usually retain copyright and reuse rights when publishing open access, giving you much greater control over your own work. Promotion and sharing of your own work can be more easily achieved when you can send readers a link to access the book freely. 
  • Compliance with funder mandates: Many authors need to meet open access requirements set by their funding body; for example, the NHMRC and ARC policies on open access.

A Springer Nature white paper into the performance of open access books found "that OA books perform better than those published via the traditional, non-OA route, based on downloads (7 times more), citations (50% higher) and mentions (10 times more)."

Screenshot of the key statistics from the Springer Nature OA effect white paper

(Emery, C., Lucraft, M., Morka, A., & Pyne, R. (2017). The OA effect: How does open access affect the usage of scholarly books? [White paper]. Springer Nature. https://resource-cms.springernature.com/springer-cms/rest/v1/content/15176744/data/v3. Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY 4.0) licence.) 

How to publish an OA book

Publishers use a variety of different business models to support open access book publishing. Some of these models require a fee to be paid, but many do not. Publishing services will vary depending on the publisher you choose. However, regardless of any fee, you should expect your book to be peer-reviewed and as a rule you should expect the same level of publishing service for your open access book as you would for a non-open access book.

Model Description Example publishers
Book processing charge (BPC) / Open access fee A fee is charged by the publisher in order for the ebook to be made open access; usually all ebook formats (i.e. PDF, XML, EPUB) will be open access.  Bloomsbury, Brill, CUP, De Gruyter, Elsevier, InTechOpen, MDPI, OUP, Springer Nature (incl. Palgrave Macmillan), Stockholm University Press, Taylor & Francis (incl. Routledge), University of California Press (Luminos)
Freemium A version of the ebook is made open access or freely available at no charge to the author; the free access is subsidised by other revenue sources, such as sales of other e-formats, print sales, and/or library membership fees. OECD, Open Book Publishers, OpenEdition, Open Humanities Press, Punctum Books
Library consortium ("Institutional crowdfunding") Libraries pledge a fee towards making a collection of books open access, covering some or all of the costs between them. Once enough libraries have confirmed participation and the target amount is achieved, the collection is made open access.

Knowledge Unlatched*, Transcript

(*Note: UWA Library is a member of Knowledge Unlatched. See the "Funding an OA book" section below for more information.)

Library membership Libraries or other institutions pay an annual membership fee to a publisher that underwrites some costs of making books open access; the member institution and/or its authors may receive additional benefits such as discounts on book processing charges (BPCs). Open Book Publishers, Punctum Books, University of California Press (Luminos)
Crowdfunding Individuals pledge fees to make a book open access; once enough individuals have confirmed participation and the target amount is achieved, the book is made open access. Unglue.it (typically in collaboration with publishers, e.g., CUP, OBP), self-published authors.

This table has been adapted from the "Open access book models" table from the Business models for open access book publishing article in the OAPEN OA Toolkit.

How to choose an OA book publisher

When choosing a publisher for your open access book you should consider whether they publish high-quality work in your subject area, but also explore important issues including licensing, fees and discoverability. Some considerations include:

  • Is the publisher a member of the Open Access Scholarly Publishing Association (OASPA), listed in the Open Access Australasia Open Book Publishing directory, or a partner in the the Knowledge Unlatched consortium? These lists are not exhaustive but can provide a useful starting point.
  • Does the publisher's website clearly list any fees associated with OA publishing? 
  • Will your book undergo a rigorous peer review process? Peer review details should be clearly provided on the publisher's website or provided upon request. 
  • Who will own copyright in the book, and what reuse rights will the author have? What licence will be applied to the book? Ensure the publisher has clearly explained the copyright and licensing options. 
  • What format will your OA book be made available in? Some publishers only make an open access PDF (Portable Document Format) version of the book, while others produce formats such as HTML (Hypertext Markup Language) or XML (Extensible Markup Language), which are more easily searchable and reusable. Publishers may also offer an EPUB, compatible with most e-readers and work together with Amazon to provide a MOBI format for e-readers. Many open access publishers will also sell a print copy in addition to the digital version. 
  • Are other OA books from the publisher widely available in stores and libraries? Are they featured on large open access platforms such as OAPEN and the DOAB

These considerations have been adapted from the How to choose a publisher for your open access book article in the OAPEN OA Toolkit. The Toolkit also contains guidance on finding open access book publishers

Funding an OA book

The cost of publishing an OA book varies between publishers and Australian funding sources for OA books are limited compared to those available for OA articles. See the resources below for information about OA book funding sources. 

  • The OAPEN OA Toolkit provides a list of mainly European and US-based OA book funding sources.
  • SpringerNature have compiled a list of research funders and institutions that fund open access books.
  • Ask your publisher to make your book available to the Knowledge Unlatched consortium. Knowledge Unlatched was established in September 2012 by publisher and social entrepreneur Frances Pinter and acts as a coordinator of the Global Library Consortium supporting open access books in response to a prolonged crisis in monograph publishing and the opportunities presented by digital technology and open access. Check here to see which publishers are already involved. UWA Library is one of the KU supporting libraries which contribute funds towards ‘unlatching’ the books and journals. 

Support for OA book publishing

Directory of Open Access Books (DOAB): "DOAB is a community-driven discovery service that indexes and provides access to scholarly, peer-reviewed open access books and helps users to find trusted open access book publishers."

Open Access Publishing in European Networks (OAPEN) online library and publication platform: "OAPEN promotes and supports the transition to open access for academic books by providing open infrastructure services to stakeholders in scholarly communication. We work with publishers to build a quality-controlled collection of open access books and provide services for publishers, libraries, and research funders in the areas of hosting, deposit, quality assurance, dissemination, and digital preservation."

Knowledge Unlatched (KU): KU was established in 2012 and acts as a coordinator of the Global Library Consortium, providing libraries and institutions worldwide with a central place to support OA collections. The KU Open Research Library contains 14,000+ OA titles from various disciplines. 

Open Access Australasia open book publishing directory: This directory is limited to Australian and New Zealand open access book publishers. 

OAPEN Open Access Toolkit: "The OAPEN OA Toolkit aims to help book authors to better understand open access book publishing and to increase trust in open access books. You will be able to find relevant articles on open access book publishing following the research lifecycle, by browsing frequently asked questions or by searching with keywords."

Open Access Australasia (OAA): Previously known as the Australasian Open Access Strategy Group (AOASG), OAA are committed to advocating for and raising awareness of open access in Australia and New Zealand through collaboration regionally and internationally. Their major focus is on open access to research publications – preprints, peer reviewed scholarly manuscripts, books, monographs and theses.  

Source acknowledgements

Information on this page has been used, with permission, from the Open Access Publishing in European Networks (OAPEN) Open Access Toolkit: https://oabooks-toolkit.org/. The OAPEN content is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial (CC BY-NC 4.0) licence.

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 Except for logos, Canva designs or where otherwise indicated, content in this guide is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International Licence.