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University and Independent Publishers Increasingly Integrate Open Access into their Books Programs and Business Models

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OpenEdition Books, License CC BY, May 19, 2016 | © Marin Dacos and courtesy of marin.

As scholarly publications in Open Access meet with grassroots interest and demonstrate significant visibility statistics, beyond the Directory of Open Access Books, initiatives in this publishing sector maintain model distinctiveness, encourage alternative impact metrics and remain marginal to publishing house output.

A Blog Article by Pablo Markin.


As De Gruyter celebrates the expansion of its Open Access book roster to over 1,000 scholarly publications in English, German and other languages in both PDF and ePub formats across its various imprints, e.g., De Gruyter, De Gruyter Open, De Gruyter Oldenbourg, De Gruyter Mouton, and transcript Verlag, this indicates the maturation of this format, especially since its model relies on book processing fees and institutional partnerships, such as that with the Institute of Contemporary History (Institut für Zeitgeschichte) this publishing house has. However, despite the high quality, academic relevance and growing presence of Open Access offerings in the book publishing sector, it remains balkanized.

More specifically, the diversity of Open Access book initiatives both within and across publishers, their underlying business models and end-user file formats and license terms may pose barriers to the discoverability of their content. Thus, on January 19, 2018, the Directory of Open Access Books (DOAB) indicates that De Gruyter offers 397 publications in Open Access under its 5 imprints, 5 Creative Commons license types, in English (244), German (166), French (31), Arabic (3) and Chinese (3) languages and across its back-list and more recent catalogues. In contrast, De Gruyter’s website indicates a much more extensive presence of Open Access books across different subject areas, such as 297 in Social Sciences.

In other words, partnerships between academic publishers and Open Access portals have as yet unrealized potential for increasing the discoverability of Open Access content. This is illustrated by the partnership between Press Universitaire de Rennes and OpenEdition Books to make accessible 600 of its titles in the digital format of Open Access. Yet Open Access encompasses only a share of the books that are distributed via acquisition and subscription agreements for this publisher by the platform OpenEdition. Moreover, as OpenEdition equally deploys the business models of Freemium, exclusive access and Open Access. As in the case of De Gruyter, this coexistence of different publishing models also involves the relative marginality of Open Access to the book offerings of scientific publishers.

As recent data from Springer show, between 2013 and 2017, the monthly download performance of a single Open Access book from this publisher has expanded from close to 0 to over 23,000, which widely exceeds the average performance of books in the scientific publishing industry. Given that downloads can involve both entire books and book chapters, alternative metrics, such as Bookmetrix, may need to be, and are, developed for this relatively small, but growing publishing market sector. In August 2017, the Open Access book catalogue of Springer Nature, across its various imprints, such as Palgrave, has included 300 titles.

Therefore, even though publishing monographs and edited volumes in Open Access has been demonstrated to make a significant contribution to publication visibility and citation levels, multiple book publishing, platform access and impact tracking models continue to exist in this sector, which can both stem and boost its growth.

By Pablo Markin


Featured Image Credits: OpenEdition Books, License CC BY, May 19, 2016 | © Marin Dacos and courtesy of marin.

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