Barricading an open access website – reflections on the attack on DOAB

As many of you might have noticed, last week the Directory of Open Access Books (DOAB) website was unavailable for several days. Sadly, the reason for this was not a technical glitch as we first suspected, but an actual attack on DOAB.

During the weekend of 21 January, someone decided to flood the Domain Name Server (DNS) of our registrar with requests for the DOAB record – a DDoS attack.

A short explanation: when you type in www.doabooks.org, your browser looks up this address in a Domain Name Server, which translates it to an IP address (that looks like, e.g., 123.123.123.123). However, when an attacker overloads the DNS with these lookups, this does not work any more. The result is that the website is working fine, but it can’t be reached.

Sadly, we were not immediately able to understand what was happening, as we did not have any previous experience with this kind of situation. Once the reason was clear, we could take measures. We moved our domain name registration to Cloudflare, a company that specialises in the protection against these kind of attacks. At the same time, we have done this for the OAPEN and the OA Books Toolkit websites as well.

Thank you for your patience with us as we navigated these new circumstances and please accept our apologies for the inconvenience caused. We hope that our explanation was clear, but of course, please contact us if you have any questions or remarks.

Open access books – measured in a context

For over a decade, there have been open access books platforms. Each of those platforms share usage data and when you are an author of an open access book, you would find that it has been downloaded a certain amount of times. But how should you interpret that number? Unfortunately, the answer is not straightforward. The usage is influenced by the language of the title, its subject, but also by the platform: not all platforms reach the same audiences; furthermore, there might be seasonable differences. For instance, usage of the OAPEN Library is lower in the months of June to August, compared to September to November.

So, it would be helpful to have some clarity. A possible solution is a new metric – the Transparent Open Access Normalized Index (TOANI) score. It is designed to provide a simple answer to the question of how well an individual open access book or chapter is performing. The transparency is based on clear rules, and by making all of the data used visible. The data is normalized, using a common scale for the complete collection of an open access book platform and – to keep the level of complexity as low as possible – the score is based on a simple metric: the usage is either average, below or above average.

How does it work? As a proof of concept, we analysed the usage data of over 18,000 books in the OAPEN Library. Each book was assigned one high level subject, and the language was categorized as either English, German or Other languages. Each book was placed in a group that combined one subject and one language. Within those groups, we looked at the usage data, and determined whether a book was having average, more or less downloads.

Between groups, there are large differences: for instance, a German-language book on Humanities with 300 downloads is doing better than average, while an English-language book on Humanities would need to have reached at least 652 downloads to reach the same level. Another example is the difference between titles on Language in German versus other languages. Here, German-language books downloaded more than 250 times are scoring better than average. For books in other languages the bar is much higher: 385.

In this way, we can see how well a book is performing, compared to similar titles. In other words: when we consider the context of a book, we can actually say if its usage is better than expected.

Read more in the newly published article by Ronald Snijder, “Measured in a context: making sense of open access book data,” Insights, 2023, 36: 20, 1–10; DOI: https://doi.org/10.1629/uksg.627

PRISM & Peer Review Week: building trust in OA books through transparency of peer review procedures

What comes to your mind when you hear the words peer review? Perhaps it’s a group of academics evaluating manuscripts and papers, or maybe it’s a specific type of peer review, like open, double-anonymised, or collaborative. Some of you might even think of DOAB’s Peer Review Information Service for Monographs, or PRISM, as we like to call it.  

If you’ve never heard of PRISM or need a little reminder, for this year’s Peer Review Week (25-29 September), we at DOAB thought we’d tell you (especially you publishers out there) all about it! 

So, what exactly is PRISM? Good question! PRISM is a standardised way for academic publishers to display information about their peer review processes across their entire catalogue through DOAB. And the best part about it? It’s completely free!  

How does it work? you may ask. Well, first and foremost, participating publishers send us their peer review information. As well as displaying each publisher’s peer review processes, we also show which process applies to which individual publication from that publisher, for complete transparency. 

PRISM is recognisable through the handy logo visible next to a publisher or the title of a publication (all you need to do is click the logo to display more information). You can also use the search query ‘peerreview.id:*’ to find all DOAB publications with linked PRISM records (of which there are over 5,200). Last but certainly not least, the PRISM API, which includes peer review metadata, allows application developers to seamlessly incorporate peer review information into other applications. 

PRISM benefits the academic publishing community by: 

  • giving librarians confidence in recommending open access publications to their patrons 
  • allowing funders and users to see key details about quality control processes of open access books, and 
  • providing publishers with the opportunity to showcase their best practices

PRISM has been around for about a year now, and we’d love for more publishers to join us as we grow and expand this free service. We’re even developing a widget for publishers to use on their websites! You can participate following these simple steps: 

  1. Check you’re a member of DOAB and join us if you’re not 
  1. Agree to the T&Cs of PRISM
  1. Provide DOAB with your peer review process(es) as described in our documentation for publishers
  1. Log in to DOAB and create a PRISM peer review submission. When it’s accepted, your submission becomes a record. If it’s rejected, the information is deleted
  1.  Attach your PRISM record to the applicable publication(s).

Don’t forget that the OAPEN Library’s participating publishers’ peer review policies are also listed on OAPEN’s website for anyone to access.  

Please reach out to us with any questions, comments, feedback, or to participate in the PRISM service at info@oapen.org

DOAB celebrates its 10th anniversary!

This year, the Directory of Open Access Books (DOAB), led by OpenEdition and OAPEN Foundation, celebrates its 10th anniversary. Since its inception, DOAB has evolved from an idea for indexing high quality peer-reviewed open access books and chapters to a globally used and open directory serving not only researchers and the wider scholarly community, but also the public. 

Back in 2009, following the successful example of the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ), the OAPEN project leaders thought to create a similar resource for open access books and chapters. Discussions first took place at the Open Access Scholarly Publishers Association (OASPA) conference in Lund in 2010.  

DOAB was officially launched at the First International Conference on OA Monographs in the Humanities and Social Sciences in April 2013. The difference between the OAPEN Library and DOAB is that DOAB is a directory linking to open access books and chapters on other platforms and publishers’ websites to increase discoverability, whereas the OAPEN Library is a digital library where you can access the full text. They both share a mission to increase trust in open access books and book publishing. 

DOAB becomes and independent not-for-profit organisation 

DOAB was established as a Foundation in March 2019 under Dutch Law, jointly managed and governed by the OAPEN Foundation and OpenEdition, the French national infrastructure dedicated to open scholarly communication in the SSH. The creation of DOAB as an independent, not-for-profit legal entity ensures its sustainability to continually serve the needs of the academic community, including libraries, publishers, researchers, funders, and the public. 

Marie Pellen, Director of OpenEdition, says: “DOAB is a successful example of European cooperation across borders. We are delighted to see DOAB becoming more mature and recognised as a crucial infrastructure for open science. We are grateful to CNRS, Aix-Marseille University and the French Ministry of Research for their constant support.  This common effort enables us to create a resource that serves the research community worldwide and promotes bibliodiversity in scholarly publishing.”  

In 2020, DOAB was jointly chosen alongside OAPEN for the SCOSS second funding cycle which aims to help infrastructures become more sustainable and financially independent. SCOSS encourages universities who are invested in open science and open access to support the non-commercial services on which it depends; DOAB and OAPEN are crucial infrastructures that support the transition to open access book publishing and increase trust in the industry. 

DOAB today 

DOAB is an open infrastructure committed to open science. Its main mission is to increase discoverability of open access books and maximise their dissemination, visibility and impact. All DOAB services are free of charge and all data is freely available.  

At the time of the launch, DOAB contained 750 books from 20 publishers. Today, DOAB includes over 68,000 open access books and book chapters from over 600 publishers in more than 60 languages.  

DOAB created the Trusted Platform Network to enhance the discoverability of open access books and enable a more seamless process for publishers to list their open access books by allowing them to check whether their content meets the DOAB criteria and automatically list books and chapters.   

In November 2022, the Peer Review Information Service for Monographs (PRISM) was launched to further build trust in peer review and open access academic book publishing. PRISM is a standardised way for academic publishers to display information about their peer review processes across their entire catalogue. The PRISM logo is included on title level and at metadata level.  PRISM is now integrated in the OPERAS portfolio of services and, thanks to this, is exposed in the EOSC marketplace.

Looking to the future 

DOAB is designed to improve transparency around the quality assurance practices in open access book publishing by further developing the PRISM service and intend to continue to build trust by partnering with more publishers and aggregators globally to expand the directory for researchers, the wider scholarly community, and the public to discover.  

DOAB is still mainly populated with publishers from Europe and North America, so it aims to prioritise being more globally inclusive in the coming years, supporting bibliodiversity. An important part of DOAB’s mission is to enable equitable access to global distribution for book publishers and authors, in the same way that open access books are already provided to libraries and readers globally. DOAB seeks to serve open and equitable scholarly publishing in the best possible ways. 

Explore the collection today! 

Le DOAB fête ses 10 ans !

Le DOAB (Directory of Open Access Books), piloté par OpenEdition et la fondation néerlandaise OAPEN, fête cette année ses dix ans d’existence. Né de l’idée d’indexer des livres et des chapitres de livres en accès ouvert évalués par les pairs, le DOAB est aujourd’hui devenu un répertoire ouvert utilisé dans le monde entier, non seulement par la communauté scientifique, mais aussi par le grand public. 

En 2009, s’inspirant du succès du Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ), l’équipe d’OAPEN a l’idée de créer une ressource similaire pour les livres et les chapitres de livres en accès ouvert. Les premières discussions ont eu lieu à la conférence de l’Open Access Scholarly Publishers Association (OASPA) tenue à Lund en 2010.  

Le DOAB est officiellement lancé à l’occasion de la première conférence internationale sur les monographies en accès ouvert dans le domaine des sciences humaines et sociales en avril 2013. Le DOAB est différent de la plateforme OAPEN, car il s’agit d’un répertoire qui renvoie vers des livres et des chapitres de livres en accès ouvert se trouvant sur d’autres plateformes et sur les sites Web d’éditeurs afin d’accroître les possibilités de découverte. OAPEN est quant à elle une bibliothèque numérique qui donne accès au texte complet. Les deux ont toutefois pour mission commune de renforcer la confiance dans les livres et l’édition de livres en accès ouvert. 

Le DOAB devient une organisation indépendante à but non lucratif 

En mars 2019, la fondation DOAB de droit néerlandais est créée. La Fondation OAPEN et OpenEdition, infrastructure nationale française dédiée à la communication scientifique ouverte en sciences humaines et socialees, en assurent conjointement la gestion et la gouvernance. Doter le DOAB d’un statut juridique à but non lucratif assure sa viabilité pour continuer de répondre aux besoins de la communauté académique, y compris les bibliothèques, éditeurs, chercheurs, organismes de financement et le grand public. 

Pour Marie Pellen, directrice d’OpenEdition, le DOAB « est un exemple réussi de coopération européenne par-delà les frontières. Nous sommes ravis de voir le DOAB évoluer et s’imposer en tant qu’infrastructure incontournable pour la science ouverte. Nos remerciements vont au CNRS, à l’université d’Aix-Marseille et au ministère de la Recherche pour leur soutien sans faille. Grâce à cet effort commun, nous pouvons créer une ressource au service de la communauté de recherche mondiale qui favorise la bibliodiversité dans l’édition universitaire. »  

En 2020, le DOAB a été retenu avec l’OAPEN pour le deuxième cycle de financement de SCOSS, dont le but est d’aider les infrastructures à devenir plus durables et indépendantes financièrement. L’initiative SCOSS encourage les universités investies dans la science ouverte et l’accès ouvert à soutenir les services non commerciaux dont elle dépend ; le DOAB et l’OAPEN sont des infrastructures essentielles qui soutiennent la transition vers la publication de livres en accès ouvert et renforcent la confiance dans ce secteur. 

Le DOAB aujourd’hui 

Le DOAB est une infrastructure ouverte engagée dans la science ouverte. Il a pour mission d’accroître les possibilités de découvrir des livres en accès ouvert et de maximiser leur diffusion, leur visibilité et leur impact. Tous les services du DOAB sont gratuits, tout comme l’accès à l’ensemble des données.  

À son lancement, le DOAB contenait 750 livres provenant de 20 éditeurs. Aujourd’hui, il inclut plus de 68 000 livres et chapitres de livres en accès ouvert de plus de 600 éditeurs dans plus de 60 langues.  

Le DOAB a créé le Réseau des plateformes de confiance pour favoriser la découverte de livres en accès ouvert et faciliter la tâche des éditeurs dans le référencement de leurs livres en accès ouvert. Ils ont ainsi la possibilité de vérifier si leur contenu correspond aux critères du DOAB et de référencer automatiquement les livres et chapitres de livres.   

En novembre 2022, a été lancé le service PRISM (Peer Review Information Service for Monographs) afin de renforcer la confiance dans l’évaluation par les pairs et l’édition de livres académiques en accès ouvert. Le service PRISM permet aux éditeurs académiques d’afficher des informations standardisées sur leurs processus d’évaluation par les pairs pour l’ensemble de leur catalogue. Le logo PRISM figure au niveau du titre des ouvrages et des métadonnées. PRISM fait maintenant partie du catalogue de services d’OPERAS, ce qui lui permet d’apparaître sur la marketplace de l’EOSC.

Nous préparons l’avenir

Le DOAB doit permettre d’améliorer la transparence sur l’assurance qualité dans l’édition de livres en accès ouvert. Cela passera par la poursuite du développement du service PRISM et une confiance accrue grâce à des partenariats avec des éditeurs et des agrégateurs du monde entier pour étendre le répertoire et le faire connaître à la communauté scientifique ainsi qu’au grand public.  

Le DOAB regroupant surtout des éditeurs d’Europe et d’Amérique du Nord, l’objectif dans les prochaines années est de l’ouvrir davantage au reste du monde afin de favoriser la bibliodiversité. Offrir aux éditeurs et aux auteurs et autrices de livres un accès équitable à la diffusion mondiale, de la même façon que ont déjà fournis des livres en accès ouvert aux bibliothèques et lecteurs et lectrices à travers le monde, est une partie importante de la mission du DOAB. Le DOAB a pour ambition de répondre de la meilleure façon possible aux besoins d’une édition scientifique ouverte et équitable. 

Explorer la collection

Books in a bubble

Nowadays, we refer to “bubbles” as online places where no information from outside is allowed in. But in this instance, the opposite is true: the bubbles are a tool to help visualise how well one set of books is performing, compared to other sets of books. The OAPEN Library is an open online platform, and recently we have audited ourselves, based on the POSI principles. However, apart from an infrastructure, it is also a library.

When our collection passed the 20,000 titles milestone, we felt it was time to assess our collection: how well does it perform? That is not a simple question to answer: assessments of libraries and their collections are taking place within a certain context. OAPEN is not a ‘traditional’ library with a mixed collection of physical and digital publications, and our collection criteria are perhaps a bit different: books should be peer reviewed and have an open license, but we welcome all languages and subjects. We are not linked to one ‘parent organisation’, but try to serve everybody.

Three types of stakeholders support the OAPEN Library: publishers, funders and libraries. Both publishers and funders contribute to the collection by making publications available. They will be interested in the dissemination of the books and chapters. For libraries, the composition of the collection will be paramount. How do the titles on offer fit within the information needs of their patrons?

The evaluation of the OAPEN collection should consider these two aspects. The dissemination of books and chapters is measured through the number of downloads – based on COUNTER R5 conformant data. The composition of the collection is measured among two axes: subject and language. Both dissemination and the content-related aspects are paired to the number of publications. So, we have to take into account three dimensions: number of titles, number of downloads and average downloads per title. On top of that, we need to look at the differences between languages and subjects. All in all, a complex mix.

Our solution was to use three-dimensional pictures: the bubbles.

Usage of social sciences books depicted as three-dimensional bubbles
Social sciences in the OAPEN Library collection

The bubbles display the composition of the collection and how its readers make use of it. Visualisations like this help to tell a complicated story in a simple way; a powerful instrument to guide the further development of the OAPEN Library.

More details can be found in this open access article:

Snijder, Ronald. ‘Books in a Bubble.: Assessing the OAPEN Library Collection’. JLIS.It 14, no. 2 (15 May 2023): 75–92. https://doi.org/10.36253/jlis.it-498.

Open Access Books – Helping small libraries think big

Over the last couple of years, the OAPEN Library and Directory of Open Access Books (DOAB) collections have grown significantly. We have seen more open access (OA) books being added, and welcomed new publishers from around the world. Much of the continued momentum for OA books has been made possible thanks to the support of a growing library community: investing in OA book programmes, infrastructures and services that enable not only the availability of these books in an OA format, but also their discoverability, preservation and integration into everyday workflows. 

Today, we are speaking with David Dusto, Electronic Resources Librarian at the Elizabeth City State University to learn more about their engagement with OA books.

David, thank you for agreeing to share your story with us. Libraries worldwide increasingly include our collections in their library catalog. These range from large academic libraries to specialized libraries attached to research institutes as well as smaller colleges. For those unfamiliar with Elizabeth City State University, could you share a bit more about the University and its library?

Elizabeth City State University (ECSU) is a public university that is part of the University of North Carolina system. With just over 2,000 students, ECSU is one of the smallest universities in the system, and it is also a Historically Black College or University (HBCU) and approximately ⅔ of the enrolled students are minorities. Historically, ECSU started in 1891 as a teaching college, and still has a large education school. Today, ECSU is also known for its innovative aviation program. The largest U.S. Coast Guard base in the United States is also located in Elizabeth City, so we have many military students as well. The G.R. Little Library is the campus library. We have a small staff of 5 full-time librarians and two other permanent staff, and we work to meet the research and information needs of all the student body.

Could you share more about your role in the library and how you first became familiar with open access books?

I am the Electronic Resources Librarian, but my predecessor held the title “Serials Librarian”, which shows how rapidly academic libraries are changing. I first became familiar with open-access books while I was a graduate student at the University of North Carolina School of Library and Information Science over a decade ago, and have been avidly interested in the subject of both open access books and journals since then. I am also involved with the university’s institutional repository (NCDOCKS), which serves as an open-access collection for material published by students and employees at the university.

To what extent are OA books a part of your library’s strategy today?

ECSU is a small university and our budget for collection development is limited, but I have found that I can supplement our existing eBook collections by locating high-quality open-access collections and adding them to the library website and discovery system. This has been enormously helpful – usage statistics indicate that a considerable percentage of eBook views through the library website are from open-access items. Therefore, despite the small size of the library and its resources, I have been able to build a large and useful online collection for our students and faculty.

How can OA books further support your library and the institution’s mission?

It’s important for institutions such as DOAB to exercise quality control in what they add to their collection, in order for it to be as useful and relevant as possible. Ensuring that links are working correctly in OA directories will save librarians like me a lot of time and aggravation in the long run, as we won’t have to deal with authentication issues and access limits that we are often confronted with when working with subscription-based collections.

In recent years open access for books has gained momentum, yet starting from a small base with a long road ahead still. Do you have any particular expectations or wishes for the open access book community and how this may evolve in the coming years?

I hope to see more institutional support for open-access book publishing. The focus for OA materials that I have seen from universities is primarily focused on journals rather than books, and I would be pleased to see increased support from both university presses/publishing houses and also from smaller institutions that may not have their own press. This would give authors from smaller universities the opportunity to publish and raise the prestige of their own institution, rather than going through a central system press. Similarly, I would like to see increased support for open course materials, such as open-access textbooks. As textbook costs continue to rise, having open course materials not only available but also adopted by instructors would go a long way towards easing the financial burden for students while simultaneously increasing access to materials.

 

Providing transparency and building trust: the Peer Review Information Service for Monographs (PRISM) 

In the summer of 2021, DOAB started a new service in beta phase: PRISM (Peer Review Information Service for Monographs). PRISM’s goal is to provide transparency about the peer review process that applies to the books in DOAB. Services such as PRISM can support research integrity and help build trust in open access academic book publishing. 

From beta to launch 

DOAB (Directory of Open Access Books) is a community-driven discovery service that indexes and provides access to scholarly, peer-reviewed open access books and helps users to find trusted open access book publishers. PRISM, provided by the DOAB Foundation as part of the OPERAS Service Catalogue, was tested in 2021. Several open access academic book publishers participated in the testing phase. We are very grateful for their feedback, which resulted in fine-tuning of the service, and preparing the aimed launch of PRISM in the last quarter of 2022. 

How does PRISM serve our different stakeholders (publishers, libraries, funders, and researchers)? 

PRISM is a standardised way for academic publishers to display information on DOAB about their peer review processes across their entire catalogue. At the publisher level, all their peer review processes are visible (as they may have more than one process in use across all their series and titles). At the level of an individual publication, the peer review process applied to that work is displayed. 

  • If you’re a publisher, PRISM helps you display the peer review process that has been applied to works in your collection. This helps you showcase how you apply best practices in peer review.  
  • If you’re a librarian, PRISM allows you to see the quality control process that applies to a given work. This will give you confidence in recommending the work as a reliable source to your researchers and students.  
  • If you’re a funder, PRISM gives you fuller information about the research outputs you’ve funded.
  • If you’re a researcher or a general reader, PRISM allows you to see the quality control process that applies to a given work. This will give you more information about the publisher. 

How to participate in PRISM 

Currently, we are preparing the launch of PRISM. This launch will be phased, where we will gradually invite publishers of open access academic books to join us. Stay tuned for more details.  

In anticipation of the launch, publishers can prepare by gathering information about their peer review process(es), as this information will needed to create a PRISM record: 

  • The title for the peer review (in order to differentiate between peer reviews) 
  • Is the document peer reviewed? Yes/No  
  • What is being reviewed? Proposal/Full text/Section  
  • What is the level of openness/anonymity between author(s) and reviewer(s)? Double-anonymised/Single-anonymised/All identities known
  • Who conducts the review? Internal editor/Editorial board member/External peer reviewer/Crowd or open review  
  • At what stage is the peer review being conducted? Pre-publication/Post-publication 
  • Are the review comments published? Yes/No  
  • Who takes the decision to publish? Publisher/Books or series editor/Scientific or Editorial Board 

Keep up-to-date with the development of the PRISM service by subscribing to our newsletter or following us on Twitter: @DOABooks (and look out for #DOABPRISM!). 

By Laura J. Wilkinson, Tom Mosterd and Lotte Kruijt

Big in Japan, Zimbabwe or Brazil – global reach and national preferences for open access books

To many the internationalisation of academic publishing may mean: a strong focus on global issues, written in English only. However, many academic books are written in other languages than English. We tend to link non-English publications to regional issues, so there is a tension between English as the ‘lingua franca’ enabling a global reach, versus local languages that provide a better cultural ‘fit’.

M. Adiputra, CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Now from theory to practice: if you give a global audience free access to (nearly) 20,000 freely accessible books and chapters in several languages, spanning many subjects, will they all choose books in English?

In a newly published paper, we have systematically researched the preferences of readers originating from one hundred countries. By looking at the ten most downloaded books from each country, we can measure the focus on regional topics by counting the books written in languages other than English.

Books, popular in multiple countries

The outcomes of this study do not fit in a story of English language publications as the only or the main source of scholarly communication. There is a demand for regionally focused titles, countering the narrative of the dominance of English as the language of scholarly communication. Instead, this study supports the value of bibliodiversity.

Read the paper here:

Snijder, Ronald. 2022. “Big in Japan, Zimbabwe or Brazil – Global Reach and National Preferences for Open Access Books”. Insights 35: 11. DOI: http://doi.org/10.1629/uksg.580

Guest post: Overcoming the challenges of open access books – part 2/2

We are pleased to share the second part of this guest blogpost by one of our DOAB Gold Sponsors, written by Leila Moore, Taylor and Francis. Part one is available here.

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[1] 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[2] 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

A Handbook of Theories on Designing Alignment Between People and the Office Environment

 

 

Rick Szostak is a professor at the University of Alberta, Canada.

 

 

 

Rick is the author of the OA textbook Making Sense of World History and the forthcoming OA title Making Sense of the Future

 

 

 

 

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

[1] 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

[2] OAPEN-NL – A project exploring Open Access monograph publishing in the Netherlands (2013) https://oapen.fra1.digitaloceanspaces.com/0cdef1a177b6470ea5257240682b38e3.pdf

Guest post: Overcoming the challenges of open access books – part 1/2

We are pleased to share this guest post (published in two parts) by our latest DOAB Gold Sponsor, written by Leila Moore Open Access Book Lead at Taylor & Francis.

Overcoming the challenges of open access books – part 1/2

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.

Benefits versus challenges

When I first started thinking about this article my aim was to focus on the benefits of open access (OA) books, but as I had more conversations with book authors and editors, the focus began to shift. One thing became clear to me; the benefits of OA publishing are obvious, but the challenges are more complex and varied and need to be tackled before any real progress can be made.

In part one of this two-part series, we’ll explore 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.

Each of the authors and editors I interviewed named wider dissemination and a more equitable research ecosystem as the main benefits of OA publishing. But they also highlighted a number of challenges which we will delve into below.

‘Dealing with different academic institutions, what are their requirements for books/book chapters/journal articles. Everybody is trying to understand the policy at their own academic institution, can they get funding or not. I think that was very complicated.’

Many of the researchers that I spoke with noted that it was not always easy to understand their own academic institution’s OA policy. It was not clear where enquiries to find out this information should be directed, or if it was at all likely that they would be able to get funding, particularly when it came to OA funding for book projects. For edited collections or multi-authored projects this is even more complex to navigate. There are differing rules for what constitutes lead author status, payments may need to be split between different academic institutions, and there may be different rules and processes to follow. For those authors who did manage to secure funding from their academic institutions the processes varied dramatically; some even varied for different book projects within the same academic institution.

‘Because authors would be expected to pay a certain amount of money for the ability to publish OA it does limit who could potentially serve as an author.’

Equitability for published authors was highlighted as an issue in OA publishing. Are the opportunities to publish OA limited to the chosen few? If an author is at a well-funded academic institution with a clear and robust OA policy, they are far more likely to apply for OA funding.  How do we ensure that authors without grants or funding still have the option to publish OA? Authors and editors did note that there are policies in place to try to combat this inequality, for example, book publishing charge (BPC) waivers for authors in low and lower middle-income economies are available, but there is still a clear inequality in OA outputs from authors in these regions that needs to be addressed. Who can afford to pay the OA fee is not something that authors or editors want to consider when making their publishing decisions.

‘The money. For most arts and humanities scholars, it is much too expensive to publish a new volume OA from the start. Our programme, which is the world’s largest of its kind, only had the option because of COVID. Our funders would probably not agree to the amounts spent under normal circumstances.’

All of the authors and editors that I spoke to mentioned funding as a major obstacle for OA books. Many of the authors received funding as a one off or acquired funding due to exceptional circumstances. For example, because of COVID authors were able to divert funds that may have been spent on conference attendance. Some authors resorted to crowd funding or donations from corporations to cover the cost of OA. Innovative and new approaches are underway that seek to address, in part, the issue of funding for OA books such as the COPIM project, and publishers such as Taylor & Francis are actively engaging with innovative new approaches such the Knowledge Unlatched initiative to enable more authors to publish OA books. However, there is still work to be done to address a funding ecosystem for OA books that is not yet fully fit for purpose. Much of the additional work that is taken on by authors/editors relates to funding; trying to find funding and trying to navigate complex and diverse processes and requirements. Some of the authors that I spoke to talked about article publishing charges (APCs) and how, particularly in the Science, Technology and Mathematics subjects, it is becoming the norm for researchers to request OA funding as part of their initial research grant application, making it much easier to manage when they do eventually get an article accepted in a journal. When we talk about Humanities and Social Sciences subjects and monograph publishing, it is not that simple. A large proportion of this research isn’t funded, so who picks up the book processing charge (BPC) bill? If it is the author’s academic institution, then we need to see a more robust approach to OA policies and for OA funding for books to be more widely available.

Coming up in part two we will explore how we can better support researchers during the OA books publication process and how the wider OA books community are collaborating to tackle the wider issues.

 

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