Open-access books slowly on the rise, says PCG

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Publishers and libraries are increasingly experimenting with open access (OA) books, according to a new survey by Publishers Communication Group (PCG). 

Books published under the gold open access model with no paywall for readers are expected to slowly grow in importance, with funding derived from a variety of sources including library budgets, the study reported.
Following PCG’s 2014 survey into library adoption and funding of OA journals, the Open Access Monographs Survey sought input from both publishers who are active in and considering OA book programs, and librarians around the world who contend with new institutional OA mandates and emerging acquisition models.
Among the key findings are:

  • Within the 57 per cent of institutions currently cataloguing OA books, 81 per cent use established criteria in making selection decisions, including relevance to curriculum (68 per cent), faculty request (67 per cent), authorship within the institution (51 per cent) and listing in the Directory of Open Access Books (DOAB, 33 per cent).  
  • Known funding sources for OA author fees were identified variously as outside grants (26 per cent), the authors themselves (23 per cent), academic departments (21 per cent) and library funds (15 per cent).  
  • Of library funds supporting OA book publishing, 53 per cent are taken from the existing materials budget, according to respondents. On average, library OA funds are divided 26 per cent toward book publishing with the remaining 74 per cent covering article processing charges for OA journals.
  • The third of publishers stating that they publish OA monographs reported that such works currently account for less than 5 per cent of their book collections, but 44 per cent of them felt that the program was growing, albeit modestly. About 30 per cent of those not yet publishing OA books felt that it is somewhat or very likely that their organisation would begin doing so within the next five years.
  • Librarians and publishers perceive the benefits of the OA books movement differently. While 20 per cent of libraries report participation in OA funding initiatives such as Knowledge Unlatched, and many librarians feel they should advocate for OA publishing within their institutions, diversion of existing funds remains an issue. Publishers, meanwhile, fear unrealistic funding expectations in the academic community, the resemblance to vanity publishing, and the inevitability of institutional mandates.

Melissanne Scheld, managing director of PCG, said: 'After the surprising finding that 23 per cent of libraries report paying author charges for open access journal publishing, PCG conducted this follow-up survey to quantify library and publisher involvement in the nascent OA books movement.

'While presently a very small part of the scholarly publishing landscape, OA monographs are being taken seriously by stakeholders across the communication chain with initiatives such as the DOAB, Knowledge Unlatched and Luminos at the University of California. It appears to us that the demand for OA books by researchers, librarians and institutions is pressing, held back only by the ever-present challenge of funding.'