Where does the money go? Explaining our Library Membership Programme

Libraries and Open Access Feb 23, 2024

Open Book Publishers is a non-profit, open access press. All our books are open access from the date of publication, as well as being available to buy in print and EPUB formats. Any author can publish with us without payment of a fee, provided their book passes our peer review processes.

Libraries can support Open Book Publishers by joining our Library Membership Programme, contributing a small annual fee (£300-£700pa in the UK, depending on the size of the institution) in return for benefits including free access to over 300 scholarly publications in EPUB formats that we would usually charge for, discounts for hard copies, high-quality metadata and more.

But most importantly, by joining the programme, libraries and their users support authors to publish open access books without being charged a fee.

Library Membership Programme: How it works

The Library Membership Programme is not a read-and-publish deal. It is a collective library support programme. Any author can publish with OBP without paying a fee, and the Library Membership Programme is a crucial aspect of making that happen.

We keep each individual library contribution low, and collectively they add up. The average cost to us to publish a book is £5,500.

A table showing a breakdown of costs as follows: Final proofreading and indexing: £2,100; Typesetting: £1000; Cover design: £150; Generating digital editions & website maintenance: £350; Distribution and retailing: £300; Marketing: £500; Overheads: £1,100; Total: £5,500
OBP: average book production costs

The highest level of Library Membership contribution in the UK is £700 – a small fraction of the cost of publishing one book. Yet, collectively, the Library Membership Programme helps to support us in publishing (last year) 49 open access books without charging authors a Book Processing Charge (BPC).

We think this is a much better system than charging authors expensive fees.

Does the Library Membership Programme cover all of OBP’s costs?

Succinctly: no.

Below is our revenue for the year 2022-2023 – and you can see that the Library Membership Programme makes up a little over a third of our total revenue.

A graph showing OBP's revenue in 2022-2023 in GBP. It roughly breaks down into thirds: Library Membership Programme: £120,000; Sales: £155,000; Title grants and donations: £112,000
OBP revenue 2022-2023

You can also see that around one-third of our income is made up of title grants and donations. If authors are able to apply for funding to defray the costs of the publication of their book, we ask them to do so. This also enables us to continue publishing the work of authors who have no access to funding.

If you are an author who is not able to apply for funding, no problem – we will publish your book if it passes peer review, thanks to a) the Library Membership Programme, b) grants from authors who are able to apply for them, c) sales from print and EPUB copies of our books.

Our library members are a vital part of enabling any author to publish with us without a fee. So are the funders who can afford to support some of our authors. So are the people who buy our books.

How many of OBP’s books get title grant funding?

In 2022-2023, we published 49 titles (35 monographs, 15 edited volumes and 2 textbooks. Of these:

  • 35 of the books we published had no funding attached;
  • 4 had partial funding;
  • 10 were fully funded.

Without the Library Membership Programme and our income from sales,[1] we would have been able to publish 10 books last year – those 10 books that could attract full funding. Instead, we were able to publish 49 books. The Library Membership Programme is an incredible engine for powering open access book publishing. But – at the moment – it doesn’t cover all of our costs.

This is why we ask all authors to apply for funding to defray the costs of publishing their book, if they are able to do so – even if their institution is already a part of our Library Membership Programme.

If an institution belongs to the Library Membership Programme, do their authors get special benefits?

All our authors get the best service we can offer them. Authors whose institution belongs to our Library Membership Programme don’t get bumped up the queue, they don’t get their book published if it doesn’t pass peer review, and we don’t turn authors down from publishing with us if they don’t belong to an institution that’s a library member.  

This is because we believe there should never be financial barriers to authorship, just as there should never be barriers to readership. The Library Membership Programme is designed to help dismantle those barriers, not to create new ones based on an institution’s ability to pay.

Thank you to all our Library Members

Finally, a huge thank you to all of our Library Members! Libraries that join our Library Membership Programme are helping to do something amazing: to enable any author, from anywhere in the world, publish an OA book with us without having to pay a fee. So far, that is 330 books and counting. We thank you all!

[1] Our income from sales is, of course, higher if we can publish more books – so by enabling us to publish more books, the Library Membership Programme also has the effect of increasing the amount we can earn from sales, which further increases the number of books we can publish without charging authors.

Lucy Barnes

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