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Open Access

Open Access monographs

Much of this unit has focused on making journal articles openly available as it is easier to apply the Open Access model to journal publishing. However Open Access books are becoming increasingly common, especially as they are likely to be included in future versions of the REF.

Open book graphicAlthough the model may be different, the advantages of publishing open monographs are the same as for journals - it increases the reach of a work and helps those who might not be able to access it otherwise. A Jisc report highlighted the fact that online books were 142% more discoverable to potential readers if they were openly available. One of the biggest barriers with traditional monographs is the cost to the reader. Scholarly texts cost a lot more than a novel - potentially hundreds of pounds for one volume. This means that few individuals are able to buy them and most are sold to libraries and other institutions which again offer another barrier to access.

The process of making monographs and chapters openly available is similar to working with journal articles.

  • The green route, like journals, involves publishing with a traditional publisher and making all or some of the manuscript freely available. Many publishers will let authors share at most one chapter of a finished work rather than the complete text but new rules are coming into force all the time. A community maintained list of publishers who offer a green option can be found here.
  • A gold option is also available. This involves publishing with a publisher who only produces open titles or who will at least offer this as a possibility. The costs for publishing with these firms can range from £3000 to £11000 per title – a lot of money for an author to find! University presses may offer reduced rates or waivers for their researchers such as the White Rose University Press (Leeds, Sheffield and York) which offers a sliding scale of fees and there are also a range of independent Open Access publishers which offer different models such as Open Book Publishers . However, some researchers are reluctant to publish with emerging firms and would prefer to go with perceived prestige publishers in order to make an impact.

Concerns about open monographs

Many researchers have expressed concerns about the current model for publishing books and chapters openly. As well as issues around cost they are concerned about having to apply an open licence to their outputs. This is especially true of the arts, humanities and social sciences which relies on interpretation rather than the just the statement of fact. Researchers are concerned that having an open licence (as often mandated by the funder) will result in the misinterpretation of their ideas. 

As well as cost, many researchers have expressed concerns about the current model for publishing books and chapters openly:

  • They are concerned about having to apply an open licence to their outputs. This is especially true of the arts, humanities and social sciences which relies on interpretation rather than the just the statement of fact. Researchers are concerned that having an open licence (as often mandated by the funder) will result in the misinterpretation of their ideas. Creative Commons licences include specific clauses which state that use of material does not imply the endorsement of the original author and other protections, although this is an understandable concern.
  • Many monographs rely on the use of third party copyright material (materials such as extracts of text and images where the copyright belongs to someone else. When including these in printed books researchers will (or should!) seek permission and will often have to let rights holders know projected print runs as part of this. This is not easy to predict with open monographs and may cause complications. As open monographs become increasingly common this is likely to become less of a problem.
  • Some researchers are worried about the quality of open monographs and the perception of them in the academic community. There are concerns around whether these texts will be subject to the same level of peer review and editorial input, especially with emerging publishers. It is important to reassure them that reputable publishers have an interest in carrying out the usual checks on scholarly material to ensure its quality and that this is not normally an issue. One resource to point them towards is the Directory of Open Access Books (DOAB) which maintains strict criteria for listing. If a publisher is featured on this database it is reputable although it is worth remembering that as with print publishers, it takes time to build a reputation.

Again, the most important thing that library staff can do is to reassure their research community and help to separate fact from fiction. Many of the concerns around open monographs are down to a lack of understanding about the reasons and process behind their publication and librarians are ideally placed to help counteract these misconceptions.

Think about ... Open monographs

Do the researchers you support publish their work in monographs or book chapters? Do you think that they share the concerns outlined above or are they more worried about other aspects of the process?

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