Published 14 December 2021

The difference between an open access book and an open access journal

Although the process of open access is similar for both books and journal articles, the two formats are arguably very different, making the publication of open access books a more complex process than that of producing journals.

Open access for journals has been an established practice for more than two decades. However, this convention is still emerging with regard to open access books (Crossick, 2015). This is most likely due to the complex nature of book publishing compared to journal articles. The term ‘open access book’ covers a wide range of long-form academic publications, including monographs, edited collections, handbooks, textbooks or reference works (Crossick, 2015). While a journal article averages 15 pages, a book tends to have around 300 pages (Snijder, 2019). This longer format is better suited for the thorough exploration and discussion of a subject. As such, books are recognised as having a longer period of influence compared to primary research articles. This is one reason why publishing open access is advantageous for books, since there is much less danger of your open access book becoming inaccessible over time. The longer format of books means there remains a demand for print from readers, whereas journal articles are now predominantly digital (Snijder, 2019).

In terms of output, open access books tend to undergo a much more intensive publication process which results in a smaller number of open access books produced per publisher. While the number of open access book publishers far exceeds that of open access journal publishers, the output for journals is far greater, with millions of open access articles being published by a small selection of publishing houses.

Due to the complexities noted, and with no dominant business model for open access books, there are fewer open access book policies from funders and institutions and fewer dedicated funds to support open access book publication compared with journals (Universities UK, 2019). There is also less standardisation in identifiers for books compared with journals (Snijder, 2019), with some persistent identifiers applied at chapter level and others for a complete book.

The costs of publishing an open access book are also much higher compared with journals. This accounts for the length of the document but also the more significant investment in these longer works (Snijder, 2019). Book editors typically work full-time for publishers, working closely with authors on the development of their book (Springer Nature, 2018). As such, a book does not necessarily have a preprint stage, and use of preprint services is much less common than for journals. Archiving also tends to be more frequently applied to journals than books (Crossick, 2015), although archiving for open access books is an area that is receiving increasing support (see the COPIM project). The precise characteristics of green open access will vary by publisher and discipline.

Despite these differences, open access publishers, of both books and journals, will typically apply a Creative Commons (CC) licence, which enables authors to retain copyright, whilst allowing readers to redistribute, re-use and adapt the content in new works under the terms of whichever licence is chosen. Both formats, when published open access, have been found to benefit considerably from increased usage and citations (Springer Nature, 2018).

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Last edited on 14 December 2021, at 11:04 (+0000)