Until recently most discussion about Open Access was concerned with journal articles, but this year an increasing amount of attention has been paid to the publishing of research in open access books.
A large number of books are already made available to all through Open Access. The Directory of Open Access Books already links to over 1,500 academic peer-reviewed books from over 50 publishers. The OAPEN Library is another excellent site for those searching for freely available academic books. Most of the books provided by these websites are in the arts, humanities and social sciences, fields in which a high proportion of research is published in books.
OAPEN-UK is undertaking an extensive project seeking to find and explore a model for open access publishing which suits the needs of researchers, research funders, learned societies and other key groups. It is considering what changes are needed to facilitate the open access publication of monographs. It will investigate whether (or to what extent) open access publishing has an effect on print sales of books. A recent OAPEN report from the Netherlands has concluded that Open Access publishing has had no negative effect on sales of books published in the Netherlands and that it increases online usage and discovery considerably.
Proponents of open access publishing of monographs point out that sales of books have declined hugely in recent years, as journal and book prices have increased and libraries have been unable to buy so many books . Open access publishing can provide a means for research outlined in books to be much more widely read about , used and cited than it would otherwise be.
Much debate continues about the future of open access books, especially in the Arts and Humanities. An essay by Nigel Vincent entitled The Monograph Challenge, one of eight papers in the British Academy’s publication Debating Open Access, thoughtfully explores the issues surrounding open access books in the humanities and social sciences.
Caren Milloy in a recent interview with JISC Inform Innovative approaches to publishing open access monographs gives a brief summary of various possible business models for open access publishing of monographs in the humanities and social sciences.
While there is no general agreement yet about the most appropriate model for publishing of open access monographs, the opportunity to disseminate research within books very much more widely through Open Access is attractive.