An Academic’s Guide to Open Access

Academic Publishing Oct 11, 2018

For Open Access Week 2018, we’ve put together a series of blog posts that cover the basics of Open Access for academic researchers. We hope they give you the tools to navigate this vital subject with confidence.


What OA is

Open Access works are freely available on the public internet for unrestricted use and reuse: no paywalls.

What OA isn’t

It’s not a single thing: there are many types of Open Access and different ways to publish your work on an Open Access basis.

It’s not internet-only: many Open Access publishers produce paperback and hardback editions as well as digital editions in various formats (HTML, XML, PDF, epub, mobi…)

It’s not journal-only: Open Access monographs exist too, and Open Access book publishers are growing in number and size.

It doesn’t have to involve author-side fees (charges paid by the author, their institution or their funder): while some Open Access publishers charge such fees, many do not. Some (like us) fund their costs in other ways and never make publication dependent on the payment of a fee.

There are many more myths and misunderstandings about Open Access that will be tackled in these posts.

Why you should care

There are plenty of administrative reasons to care about Open Access, to do with the requirements of funding bodies and the REF (see below*). More than this, though – Open Access means more readers. A printed monograph will sell 200-400 copies in its lifetime, primarily to university libraries. At OBP, on average our titles receive 400 views per month. UCL Press, an Open Access university publisher, achieved 1 million downloads in three years. Open Access book chapters on JSTOR are downloaded 20 times more than closed-access book chapters.[1]

More readers mean more citations; an increased profile for your writing and your discipline; and more colleagues, more students, more interested members of the public who are able to access your books and articles without hitting price barriers. It means your work will be doing more work in the world. Digital publication also allows new and exciting forms of research. You can add sound and moving images to the written word, embed archival materials, and engage directly with fellow scholars or students, thereby improving the quality of your work.

*For these reasons, more and more funding bodies require that work they have financed is made available on an Open Access basis. Likewise, for a publication to be admissible for REF 2021, an author’s final peer-reviewed manuscript must be made publicly available in an institutional repository within three months of acceptance, while REF 2027 is likely to mandate that monographs must be published OA. There are also Europe-wide movements, such as the recently announced Plan S, to ensure that research is published via an Open Access route.

Different types of OA

There is not one way of doing Open Access. There is not one type of Open Access publisher. There is not one form of Open Access. We can’t emphasise this enough. To participate purposefully in the Open Access publication of your work – rather than just ticking the boxes an institution tells you to tick – you need to arm yourself with some knowledge about the basics.

We hope these posts give you the tools you need to understand Open Access. For more information about Open Book Publishers (or to read our books) take a look at our website or follow us on Twitter.

[1] According to a talk given by Charles Watkinson at the British Academy on 11th September 2018 at an event called ‘Open Access Monographs: An Event for Learned Societies and Subject Associations’.

Photo by Álvaro Serrano on Unsplash

Lucy Barnes

Lucy Barnes is Senior Editor and Outreach Coordinator at Open Book Publishers.