'Tangible benefits to OA books' – Springer Nature report

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There are clear benefits to publishing academic books using immediate, or ‘gold’, open access (OA) models, according to a report from Springer Nature. 

The research found that such books are:

  • Downloaded seven times more: On average, there are just under 30,000 chapter downloads per OA book within the first year of publication, which is 7 times more than for the average non-OA book;
  • Cited 50 per cent more: Citations are on average 50% higher for OA books than for non-OA books, over a four-year period; and
  • Mentioned online 10 times more: OA books receive an average of 10 times more online mentions than non-OA books, over a three-year period.

A sample of 216 Springer Nature OA books and 17,124 non-OA books was included in the download analysis (using SpringerLink data), and 184 OA books and 14,357 non-OA books in the citations and mentions analysis (using data from Bookmetrix). The report also contains qualitative analysis from authors and funders.

Carrie Calder, business development and policy director at Springer Nature, said: ‘Our report goes further than previous research by presenting the first major comparative analysis of usage data. Now for the first time, we can show that the ‘open access effect’ is real for books.

‘We see the rise of open research, across books and data as well as journal articles, as important to advancing discovery, but the landscape for open access books is still evolving, with funders and publishers experimenting with different models. We encourage others to build upon the foundation of this report by continuing to assess metrics and authors’ and funders’ perceptions of OA over a longer period.’

The report finds that increased visibility and a wider dissemination of research are the most popular motivations behind both publishing and funding OA books. There is widespread agreement that readers should not only be able to read publicly-funded research, but should also have equal access to knowledge.

Interviewed authors also stated that a benefit of OA is the ease in sharing books via direct links to encourage a wider readership, especially in regions where readers would not be able to afford a traditional print edition of the book.