Business models for open access book publishing
As open access ebooks are freely available for everyone to read, additional revenue sources are required to help cover the costs of publication. A variety of business models are used to support open access books, including, but not limited to, book processing charges, institutional subsidy, subscribe-to-open, library membership and freemium models.
Publishers use a variety of different business models to support open access book publishing. Some of these models require a fee to be paid by the author’s funder or institution, but many do not. As an author, you should be particularly aware of whether a fee will be charged, whether your book is guaranteed to be made open access, and whether your book will be made open access immediately on publication or at a later point.
Open access book models1
|Model||Description||Example publishers / service providers|
|Book processing charge (BPC) / Open Access fee||A fee is charged by the publisher in order for the ebook to be made open access immediately on publication; usually all ebook formats will be open access. The fee is typically paid by the author’s funder or institution.||Bloomsbury, Brill, CUP, De Gruyter, Elsevier, InTechOpen, Manchester University Press, MDPI, OUP, Springer Nature (incl. Palgrave Macmillan), T&F (incl. Routledge), University of California Press (Luminos)|
|Embargoed/delayed BPC||A book is initially sold as a non-open access title, and a fee is charged by the publisher to make it open access at a later point. The fee is reduced as it is off-set by the initial sales period.||Bloomsbury, Brill, Manchester University Press, T&F/Routledge|
|Freemium||A version of the ebook is made open access or freely available at no charge to the author; the free access is subsidised by other revenue sources, such as sales of other e-formats, print sales, and/or library membership fees.||OECD, Open Book Publishers, OpenEdition, Open Humanities Press, Punctum Books|
|Embargoed/delayed freemium||A book is initially sold as a non-open access title, and is later made open access at no charge to the author if agreed criteria are met, for example after a sales target has been achieved or after a specified embargo period.||Cambridge University Press, JSTOR/Path to Open|
|Institutional subsidy / New University Presses (NUP)||An institution subsidises publication at an open access press based at or associated with the institution. Fees may not apply or may be discounted; academics based at the institution may receive additional discounts or fee waivers.||Lever Press, Scottish Universities Press, UCL Press, Universitätsverlag Göttingen, University of Huddersfield Press, University of London Press, University of Westminster Press, White Rose University Press|
|Library Membership||Libraries or other institutions pay an annual membership fee to a publisher that underwrites some costs of making books open access; the member institution and/or its authors may receive additional benefits such as discounts on book processing charges (BPCs).||Open Book Collective, Open Book Publishers, Punctum Books, University of California Press (Luminos)|
|Library consortium (‘’Institutional crowdfunding’’)||Libraries pledge a fee towards making a collection of books open access, covering some or all of the costs between them. Once enough libraries have confirmed participation and the target amount is achieved, the collection is made open access.||De Gruyter, Knowledge Unlatched, Transcript, KOALA, Jisc’s Open Access Community Framework, LYRASIS’ Open Access Community Investment Program|
|Subscribe to Open||Libraries subscribe to or purchase specified collections of closed-access books, which may include backlist titles. The subscription fees are used to fund open access for newly published books.||Bloomsbury, Central European University Press, Liverpool University Press, MIT Press, University of Michigan Press|
|Crowdfunding||Individuals pledge fees to make a book open access; once enough individuals have confirmed participation and the target amount is achieved, the book is made open access.||Unglue.it (typically in collaboration with publishers, e.g., CUP, OBP), self-published authors|
Publishing services will vary depending on the publisher. However, regardless of any fee or subsidy, you should expect OA books to be peer-reviewed and the publisher to offer the same level of service as you would receive for a non-open access book.
If a fee (BPC) is levied, the amount may depend on what other sources of revenue are available to the publisher to subsidise it. Publishers may receive financial support or resources that enable them to publish open access books at a reduced fee or free of charge to the author. For example, university presses may benefit from endowments or grant funding; some scholar-led presses work as cooperatives using volunteer labour (Speicher, 2018). Some publishers may also waive or discount fees for authors from low-income or lower-middle income countries, or for authors who do not have funding.
With the exception of the BPC models, the table above describes different types of Diamond OA models (used to describe open access where publication is made freely available on the publisher platform and there is no fee to the author or their research organisation). These models are new to many libraries and publishers.
Owing to the diversity of scholarly books and book publishers, there is no single model that could support open access book publishing single-handedly, and it is likely that different publishers will continue to operate different models. Indeed, individual publishers may themselves offer more than one model for open access books. There is no one business model that is ‘the best’: all have their own strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (Collins et al, 2015).
This article is made available under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.