Scholarly Publishing and Open Access blog

The latest news and answers to your questions about scholarly publishing and open access.

Open book publishing: The landscape of scholarly monographs

Published by Alison Moore

Conversations around open access publishing often focus on open access journals and journal articles. But what about open access books?

While scholarly monograph publishing has been slower to adopt open access due to a number of factors, proponents of open access recognize the importance of expanding Open to include book publishing.

Benefits of open book publishing

Publishing open access increases the visibility, accessibility, and geographic reach of your research, whether for books, book chapters or journal articles. A report published by Springer Nature found that “OA books have 10 times more downloads than non-OA books and 2.4 times more citations on average” (Pyne et al., 2020, p. 7). This was true across all five disciplinary clusters examined in the report (Humanities; Social Sciences; Business and Economics; Medical, Biomedical and Life Sciences; and Physical Sciences, Engineering, Mathematics and Computer Sciences).

OA books were also accessed from 201 countries, compared to 125 for non-OA books. Most of the additional countries accessing OA books are located in the Global South, where access to expensive subscription-based scholarly literature is more limited. Open access has the possibility to extend academic research to researchers and communities historically underserved by traditional academic publishing.

Challenges in open book publishing

One of the challenges associated with open book publishing is the longstanding use of ISBNs in print book publishing and retail. Unlike DOIs, ISBNs may be different for different editions of a book (Grimme et al., 2019). This can make discovering open access books difficult for readers (and libraries planning their collections). For example, if there is a print book available for sale with one ISBN and an open access ebook version with a different ISBN, it is not always clear or easy to find the alternate version.

In addition, in comparison to journals, academic books cost more to produce and rely more on sales of physical versions for cost recovery or profit. In order for books to be published open access, publishers need to find alternative models to cover production and distribution costs. Article Processing Charges (APCs) have been one successful option for publishing journal articles; however, Book Publishing Charges (BPCs) are often substantially higher than APCs. Many publishers, universities, libraries, and funders are working on options to make publishing open access books more sustainable.

Open access initiatives

TOME (Towards an Open Monograph Ecosystem) is one initiative that provides grants to university and college presses to support publishing open monographs.The original 14 participating institutions each agreed to fund 15 total books over the 5 year pilot period. These books are licensed under a Creative Commons license and deposited in an open access repository, such as the Open Research Library, OAPEN, the Directory of Open Access Books, or the HathiTrust Digital Library.

Athabasca University Press was the first open access press established in Canada. All of their books are free to read online or as a PDF download, and readers can choose to purchase physical copies or ebook copies. They note that their “commitment to access also influences our pricing of the print edition and other digital editions.” More recently, MIT Press announced that they are moving to a model called Direct to Open. In this model, funds from partner libraries will go to making all new releases open access, rather than purchasing individual titles for a single collection.

Open Book Publishers, Open Humanities Press and punctum books are all monograph publishers that publish fully open access books with no book processing charges for authors. Or if you’re interested in trying your hand at publishing, the Public Knowledge Project supports the Open Monograph Press, an open-source platform for managing and publishing scholarly books.

Open textbooks is another area that is seeing some traction. We have written about open educational resources before on the blog. Check out BCcampus to learn more about open textbooks

What if I’m just writing a book chapter?

Even if the entire book is not going to be open access, if you are contributing a chapter to an edited volume, ask your editor about submitting your chapter manuscript to a repository, like SFU’s Summit. Many publishers will allow you to post the accepted manuscript version of your chapter to an institutional or subject repository. This method is called green open access or self-archiving.

For more open book publishing options, contact


Grimme, Sara, Cathy Holland, Peter Potter, Mike Taylor, and Charles Watkinson. “The State of Open Monographs: An Analysis of the Open Access Monograph Landscape and Its Integration into the Digital Scholarly Network.” Digital Science, June 2019. https:/ m9.figshare.8197625.

Pyne, Ros, Mithu Lucraft, Christina Emery, Cameron Neylon, Lucy Montgomery, and Alkim Ozaygen. “Diversifying Readership through Open Access: A Usage Analysis for OA Books.” Springer Nature, 2020. 10.6084/ m9.figshare.12746177.


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