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The Directory of Open Access Books’ Growth Accelerates Despite Download Format and License Heterogeneity

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The Last Bookstore, Los Angeles CA, USA, January 6, 2013 | © Courtesy of Omar Bárcena.

As the Directory of Open Access Books has reached 10,000 titles in its catalogue in late 2017, it reflects an accelerated pace at which publishers join this Open Access initiative and make available their books and chapters to international audiences. Yet, only a minor share of these electronic publications is scientific, they entail a wide variety of licensing conditions, and are accessible in a variety of digital formats.

A Blog Article by Pablo Markin.


In its press release published on November 24, 2017, the Directory of Open Access Books (DOAB) has celebrated the increasing speed at which it has added new titles the total of which rose from circa 4,000 in 2015 to 6,000 in 2016 and from over 6,000 to more than 10,000 in 2017. In recent years, this accelerating expansion of the DOAB’s catalogue has been matched by the increasingly growing ranks of its supporting publishers that climbed from approximately 130 in 2015 to over 160 in 2016 and from the latter level to almost 250 in 2017, which represents one of its most significant membership growth spurts since 2011. More specifically, in no small part this development is owed to OpenEdition’s addition of approximately 40 Open Access book publishers from its partner network to the DOAB, which has contributed over 2,000 new titles to its directory.

This impressive yearly growth of the DOAB of over 65% and 40% in titles listed and participating publishers for the 2016-2017 period respectively is, thus, a result of the growing adoption of Open Access by scholarly book publishers, such as De Gruyter. As one of DOAB’s sponsors, De Gruyter, whose activity in the Open Access sector dates to 2005, has made available over 1,000 books that either it or its partners publish in Open Access by December 2017. In a whitepaper on the effect of Open Access on the usage of scholarly books authored by Christina Emery, Mithu Lucraft, Agata Morka and Ros Pyne that Springer Nature, another partner of the DOAB, published in November 2017, it is argued that books published in Gold Open Access demonstrate significantly higher performance than non-Open Access publications in terms of chapter downloads, book citations and online mentions.

Moreover, as qualitative empirical results also published in the whitepaper indicate, both book authors and funders particularly prize the visibility and dissemination benefits Open Access affords as not only a publishing model, but also a means for ensuring the universal accessibility of knowledge. Nevertheless, in their research paper on scientific e-books in the DOAB published in May 2017, Vanita Khanchandani and Moveen Kumar indicate that this directory contained only 1,057 scientific books in various digital formats by May 2016. In other words, in 2016 only slightly less than 1 in 6 electronic books in the DOAB have been published in health sciences, biology, life sciences, technology, engineering, earth and environmental sciences, agriculture and food sciences, mathematics and statistics, and physics, chemistry and astronomy. Additionally, in 2016 the books that the DOAB catalogues were accessible via 11 different access licenses with circa 50% published under the Creative Commons BY (attribution alone) license, which can restrict the licensing terms under which their contents are redistributed or shared.

Likewise, the formats in which these Open Access books can be accessed via the DOAB vary significantly, such as from links to their Google Books versions, PDF file downloads, and HTML chapter access, which can limit the extent to which some of these books can be read on electronic readers, e.g. in the Epub format.

While the DOAB makes a growing contribution to the distribution of Open Access books, enjoys the growing support of publishers and funders and benefits from the increasing preference for Open Access by scientific authors, it remains marked by book access and license heterogeneity as a consequence of its growth.

By Pablo Markin


Featured Image Credits: The Last Bookstore, Los Angeles CA, USA, January 6, 2013 | © Courtesy of Omar Bárcena.

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