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Supporting open access monographs without the costs of book processing charges

This is a blog post by Caroline Mackay, licensing manager.

Unlike journals, funder support and models for publishing monographs open access (OA) have been slower to proliferate. However, the announcement of the new UKRI Open Access Policy on 6 August details requirements for in-scope monographs, book chapters and edited collections published on or after 1 January 2024.

Jisc welcomes the policy as a significant driver in the delivery of open access (OA) research in the UK. While we wait for further information on the policy, one of the main challenges Jisc is working on is how to fund OA publishing in monographs without incurring high book processing charges (BPC) in access of £11,000. Jisc’s 2018 briefing paper on OA monographs in the UK suggests the over reliance on models that involve book processing charges is a weakness. Institutions need sustainable models that better reflect their budgets – we hope they can provide a cost effective and open alternative to BPC based models long term, and reflect the diversity of OA publishing for books.

What sort of models are available?

In 2020, an exhaustive guide to OA monograph revenue models was published on behalf of the Research England and Arcadia funded COPIM project. In our discussions with publishers, three models in particular are beginning to surface.

  • Library crowdfunding where an intermediating platform connects many purchasers with the option to “unlock” or “unlatch” a title. Similar to crowdfunding where the “crowd” is comprised of institutions.
  • Membership fees in which a group of institutions form a consortium to support the cost of publishing of OA books. In return, the publisher or publishers’ collective may provide a range of reader-targeted benefits for members.
  • Subscribe-to-Open. This model is a version of the journals model. In the OA book space, libraries subscribe to the whole, or a subsection of the backlist, with the revenue then used to make the front-list openly accessible, either once a threshold is met or on a title-by-title basis.

Jisc agreements

We are working with academic-led and medium-sized university presses to develop sustainable non-BPC models, such as those outlined above. A growing number of these models and agreements are offered via on Licence Subscriptions Manager and includes the long-standing Knowledge Unlatched programme allows libraries to crowdfund titles, which are then “unlatched”.

In addition, Jisc members can participate in “library membership” or cooperative models with “born open access publishers”, such as Open Book Publishers and Punctum Books in which institutions can commit their annual support via a small fee, which will go towards the publishing of monographs without any external funding. Under these agreements, Open Book Publishers aim to publish at least 20 new open access monographs per year, with Punctum publishing 35 OA monographs per year.

“Subscribe to open” models include Opening the future, from the Research England and Arcadia funded COPIM project now offer agreements with two presses, Central European University Press and Liverpool University Press. Both presses are offering institutions the opportunity to subscribe to an archive collection for three years, with perpetual access after three years. Payment will go towards funding new monographs on an OA basis as they are published. MIT Press are offering their “Direct to Open model”, which provides subscribed access to their back file of book titles, which will fund new OA monographs. Once sufficient funding has been met globally, MIT will flip the whole of their monograph front-file to open.

Infrastructure to support the discovery of open access monographs is critical. This provides a trusted repository for open access content and uses its metadata to maximise dissemination, visibility and impact, making it easier for scholars and students to discover content. Jisc recently added its signature to an OA books position paper calling for action to invest in the Open Access Book infrastructure. Members can also participate via Jisc in OA infrastructure projects such as DOAB/OAPEN.

Next steps – supporting publishers and institutions

We are in currently in discussions with another three academic-led, small to medium sized university presses. We anticipate these agreements being a mix of supporter memberships and subscribe to open agreements, which will provide a greater choice to institutions wishing to find a cost-effective way of supporting OA monographs.  Jisc hopes to gain additional interest with further academic-led and new university presses to create a critical mass of OA monograph agreements leading up to the implementation of the UKRI policy in 2024.

We congratulate these presses for their initiative and early commitment in transitioning to open access for monographs.

We are developing guidance and briefings for libraries looking to participate in such supporter membership agreements plus a range of briefing papers, use case studies and data baseline details to help Presses in developing their own OA Monographs publishing strategy. In addition, we released the New University Press toolkit in March 2021, which is aimed at supporting institutions that are looking to start up their own publishing initiatives.

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