OAPEN-UK, a large research project funded by the AHRC and JISC, has published its Final Report. It aimed to examine attitudes towards publishing open access monographs and facilitate the making of informed decisions on the future of open access monographs.
In common with other research it found widespread support among authors and other “stakeholders”, especially because making a book available open access to all with Internet access offers the prospect of gaining many more readers and greater impact. Because of the typically high price of print monographs many are currently bought by only a small number of academic libraries and individuals.
A growing number of monographs are already available open access, although still a small proportion of the total. The Directory of Open Access Books now has over 4,000 peer-reviewed books published by 135 publishers, about twice the number in the DOAB eighteen months ago. (This month all the books in the DOAB have been added to iFind, our library catalogue.) The OAPEN Library, a repository of peer-reviewed books, allows us to do full text searching of many peer-reviewed books.
The OAPEN-UK report, together with earlier reports such as last year’s Monographs and Open Access Report by Geoffrey Crossick, finds that while there is strong support for making books open acces, there are more issues to be overcome than when making journals open access. It is also emphasized that it is not possible to advocate one single economic model to pay for open access books and there continues to be a need to experiment with different approaches. Many publishers allow authors to make books open access upon the payment of book processing charges akin to APCs charged for journal articles, but the cost of these is very high, especially for scholars in Arts and Humanities, and so it would be impossible to make most monographs open access in this way. Various approaches are being tried, such as the making of the basic online version free but charging for the publication in other forms. In the Directory of Open Access Books the books are free to read online but there is a link to Amazon where the book can be bought in print form. Other approaches being used include crowdfunding, payment by a consortium of libraries in order to make books online (as with Knowledge Unlatched), delayed open access publication following an embargo period and sponsorship.
Many reports emphasize the continued importance of monographs, especially in Arts and Humanities, and the likelihood that books published in open access format will also be available for purchase in paper form.
Will the REF require books to be open access?
There is no requirement at present for books to be made open access for the REF. However, HEFCE states that universities will gain extra credit in the research environment part of the REF by enabling more kinds of publications to be open access than the minimum requirement. In future REFs there is certainly a possibility that the REF will require monographs to be open access. Particularly since books often take much longer to complete than journal articles it may be worth considering whether it is possible to make a book open access.