A landscape study on open access and monographs
Policies, funding and publishing in eight European countries
This report was supported by: Knowledge Exchange, Austrian Science Fund (FWF), Current Research Information System in Norway (CRIStin), Couperin.
Some overall observations and context for our study:
- We are cautiously optimistic about the prospects for a significant amount of European long-form scholarship to be published as OA, despite well-known obstacles
- There is substantial funding that could be re-routed in various ways to pay for the publishing of books more efficiently, although we recognise that this involves complex operational changes
- Countries in the study are similar in many ways, however, there are huge differences in population size, book markets, OA policies, funding streams and publishers’ approaches to OA
- No single model will fit all and there is no scenario for a perfect transition. Indeed, we do not expect all monographs to go OA, but we see a number of ways in which OA for books can be encouraged further
- Monograph sales are steadily declining, destabilising academic book publishers, raising barriers for early career authors, undermining the monograph as a valuable form of scholarly output and thereby reducing scholars’ choice of output
- Academic book publishers in many continental countries continue to rely on “print” subsidies from public and private funds that could in theory be rechanneled to pay for OA publishing
- Successful pure OA monograph publishing initiatives in various countries are demonstrating clear benefits, though scaling will require further support
- OA for monographs is becoming an accepted publication model, offered by leading book publishers. Authors are increasingly becoming aware of the benefits of increased exposure
- Stakeholders are working towards greater OA in the countries in this study at varying speeds
The report looks at OA and monographs in eight countries and presents information on the following key issues:
- Inclusion of OA monographs in OA policies
- Funding streams to support OA monographs
- Business models for publishing OA monographs
Our conclusions are summarised here and followed by our main recommendations for Knowledge Exchange.
Inclusion of OA monographs in OA policies
National policies on OA for books are not consistent across the eight countries despite encouragement in policy statements from a number of EU and European level agencies.
Austria is the only country that has a coordinated, more or less country wide, approach to OA with an OA mandate that includes monographs.
Some research funders have begun mandating that books and book chapters are available in OA and are providing funding. An example at the European level is the ERC and the independent foundation in the UK, The Wellcome Trust, operates its policy on a global level. At the national level we have FWF in Austria and NWO in the Netherlands.
The transition to OA books will benefit from the connection to research assessment programmes (in particular the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) and the REF in the mid 2020s).
Although the benefits of OA are similar for all countries, the context of the transition in the case of books varies from one country to the next. Countries with small, domestically oriented academic book industries have different needs to those that have a very large book publishing industry.
Funding streams to support OA monographs
The extent of state support for scholarly publishing is an important factor in how OA for monographs is perceived, as well as funded.
There are many different book publishing models that co-exist, ranging from commercial publishers and non-subsidised university presses to subsidised (and in some cases fully funded) publishing operations within institutions. There are different divides in different countries. For instance, in the UK there are commercial and highly profitable university presses alongside library-based, fully funded new university presses, and in Germany there are commercial publishers requiring print subsidies also alongside library-based university presses. The way these publishers can develop OA publishing models is influenced by national economic structures and traditions.
Libraries in many countries support OA monographs either directly or indirectly, through activities as varied as supplying information on funding opportunities to managing publication funds. New library initiatives in some countries are establishing pure OA publishers.
Ad hoc funding for BPCs is a less recognised, but significant funding source in some university departments and research institutions.
Libraries also support OA monographs through crowd-funding initiatives like Knowledge Unlatched (KU sources funding from over 400 libraries in 25 countries).
Despite varying levels of support for OA monographs, the chief obstacle in moving forward is funding, and the re-routing of existing funds is especially challenging. A key to moving forward will be support from university administrators, including top-level librarians.
Business models for publishing OA monographs
From the publisher perspective, obstacles to moving to OA for monographs include the changes that will be required in publishing business models and workflows, as well as authorial understanding and acceptance of the benefits.
Publishers of all kinds in all countries are experiencing issues around covering the costs of monographs – whether through subsidies or sales. Therefore, publishers are becoming increasingly interested in OA options – if sufficiently funded.
It is unlikely that any single, overarching business model will gather much traction as the solutions will be multifaceted and different within different types of publishing operations and within each country – though learning from each others’ experiences would be very helpful going forward.
There are some experiments in university and academic-led publishing that are dotting the landscape – providing some interesting alternative business models, though scaling will be a challenge. These tend to rely on mixed funding sources, such as grants, memberships, free labour, in kind support and print and e-book sales.