Guest post: Overcoming the challenges of open access books – part 2/2
Thu 16 Sep 2021
Leila Moore is Open Access Books Lead at Taylor & Francis. After graduating from the University of Reading with a BA honours in English Leila went on to a career in publishing, working across a variety of disciplines and publishing formats. A keen interest in the emergence of the open access model encouraged Leila to take the leap into open access publishing. Leila now specialises in open access books.
Overcoming the challenges of open access books – part 2/2
In part one of this series, we explored some of the challenges around policies and funding for OA books, that were highlighted by authors and editors who were kind enough to participate in interviews about their experiences with OA publishing.
In part two we will explore how we can better support researchers during the OA publication process and how the wider OA books community are collaborating to tackle the wider issues.
‘It was a bit weird that we had to do all the work for this OA publishing then as editors we would lose out on royalties.’
Although it was clear from speaking to authors and editors that financial incentives are not high on the list when it comes to the benefits of publishing monographs, the majority of the authors and editors I interviewed did mention the reduction in royalty payments as a negative outcome from OA publishing. It is worth noting that if print copies of OA books are available authors will receive royalties from these sales and studies have shown that there is minimal effect on print sales for OA books. For example, the OAPEN-CH report published in 2018 indicates that making books available open access does not significantly affect print sales, these results are also in line with the OAPEN-NL report published in 2013. Many authors believe the benefits of OA publishing far outweigh the financial incentives of keeping monographs behind a paywall, but for the OA community this raises some key questions about what can be done to incentivise authors to publish OA if the incentives are not financial. How are authors being recognised and rewarded for publishing OA by their academic institutions? Can publishing OA have a positive impact on academic career progression? How can publishers track and convey the impact of OA publications to better support researchers?
‘The overall situation with permissions and understanding how things go is still very complicated for all of the authors.’
Authors noted that the permissions process is complex even before you bring OA into the picture. There was a consensus that standardising the permissions process to reduce complexity and confusion would be very well received. Publishers and funding bodies need clear policies in place for managing third party material in OA books to ensure that authors can effectively comply with funder mandates and permissions rules set by third parties. This was a particularly relevant issue for authors and editors working in certain Arts, Humanities and Social Science subject areas where third party content can play an important role in the context and understanding of the work. Having to leave third party content out due to complex and expensive permissions issues can have a detrimental effect on the quality of the work.
‘I would have liked the Publisher to be more active in promoting the volumes as freely available.’
Authors noted that often OA books content is difficult to find on publisher websites and publishers could do more to make OA content more discoverable. They were also unsure about where their OA content would be available, which repositories their work would be added to and whether their work would be discoverable via the major retailers’ websites. Authors felt that sometimes they were lacking the key information that would enable them to proactively promote their work.
Working together to overcome the challenges of OA book
To overcome these obstacles, we need to work together as a community; academic institutions, research funding bodies and publishers all play an integral role in shaping the future of OA books. Book authors are looking for more consistent OA policies from academic institutions and research funding bodies. There is a need for a shared infrastructure and simpler processes that remove some of the confusion and complexity from the OA process and reduce the administrative burden on authors and editors. Authors would benefit from more consistent guidelines around how to navigate the permissions process, ensuring authors of books with a large amount of third-party content are not prohibited from publishing OA. Clear and transparent explanations about the benefits of OA publishing backed up by impact metrics from publishers and incentives from academic institutions would help to remove some of the uncertainty around OA publishing, as would providing a central place to help authors find funding and navigate the complex funding ecosystem. Open access publishing should be an option for all, irrespective of geographical location or circumstance.
The good news is that as a community we are already responding to these needs and we have been able to begin creating some shared infrastructures for OA books, such as the Directory of Open Access Books which serves as a central hub for OA books and helps to improve discoverability, the OA Switchboard which has been created to remove some of the administrative burden around APC and BPC funding and the OA eBooks Usage Data Trust project is working to improve the measurement and analysis of OA books. We may not have solved all of the problems yet, but these initiatives show that we can come together as a community to ensure the sustainability of OA books.
My thanks go out to the authors and editors who took the time to speak to me about their OA publishing experiences. Particular thanks go to:
Dr Ir Rianne Appel-Meulenbroek is an associate professor at Eindhoven University of Technology,Netherlands.
Dr. Sc. Vitalija Danivska is a lecturer and researcher in the Academy for Hotel and Facility at Breda University of Applied Sciences, Netherlands.
Rianne and Vitalija are co-editors of the OA book
Rick Szostak is a professor at the University of Alberta, Canada.
Jürgen Runge is a Professor of Physical Geography and Geoecology at the Goethe-University Frankfurt, Germany. He is the director of the Centre for Interdisciplinary African Studies (ZIAF).
Jürgen is series-editor for the OA book Quaternary Vegetation Dynamics: The African Pollen Database
Joshua C. Gellers is an Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of North Florida, Research Fellow of the Earth System Governance Project, and former Fulbright Scholar to Sri Lanka.
Joshua is the author of the OA book Rights for Robots: Artificial Intelligence, Animal and Environmental Law
Kirsten Drotner is Professor of media studies at the University of Southern Denmark and director of two national R&D programmes DREAM and Our Museum.
Kirsten is the co-editor of the OA book Experimental Museology: Institutions, Representations, Users
Discover open access books from Taylor and Francis here
 OAPEN-CH – The impact of open access on scientific monographs in Switzerland: A project conducted by the Swiss National Science Foundation (2018) https://www.snf.ch/SiteCollectionDocuments/OAPEN-CH_schlussbericht_en.pdf
 OAPEN-NL – A project exploring Open Access monograph publishing in the Netherlands (2013) https://oapen.fra1.digitaloceanspaces.com/0cdef1a177b6470ea5257240682b38e3.pdf