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Five years of open access books at Palgrave Macmillan

In this article Christina Emery, marketing manager, open access books, discusses authors’ expectations and experiences of how open access can help them.

January 2018 marks the fifth anniversary since we launched our open access books programme here at Palgrave Macmillan. We were one of the first publishers to offer an open access option for the humanities and social sciences, and the first major publisher to offer a CC BY licence for open access books. But what is open access, and why are more and more book authors choosing to publish open access?

What is open access?

Open access, or OA, refers to free, unrestricted online access to research outputs such as journal articles, books and chapters. Open access content is open to anyone with an internet connection, with no access fees.

Why do authors choose open access?

In January 2018 we asked some of our open access book authors about their motivations for publishing an open access book. They named three main reasons:

  • To reach the largest possible and most diverse audience

Some of our authors believe that publishing their book open access would help their career, as their peers would be able to easily read their research, they hoped to receive more citations, and they felt that they would “develop a better public engagement profile”.

 “[I hope] that it reaches a wider readership (including the people I worked with/my research partners in Bosnia-Herzegovina).”

- Anonymous anthropology author

  • Ethical reasons

“All scholarly books should be published open access, should be promoted as a public good like clean air and water […] and the costs should be shared by the entire population.”

- Geoffrey R. Skoll, Assistant Professor of Criminal Justice at Buffalo State College, USA

  • Funder compliance

“We had to publish it open access because the funding body of the research projects demands that. But we would have done it anyway – if we had the resources – because of the wider reach of OA books and because knowledge should be freely available.”

- Gottfried Schweiger, Centre for Ethics and Poverty Research at the Paris Lodron University of Salzburg, Austria

Did open access deliver any of the expected benefits?

Some of our authors definitely observed benefits from publishing open access, finding that their open access books were downloaded and cited more than their non-open access books, and that the wider dissemination led to new opportunities.

“I was amazed by the high number of downloads in the first weeks/months (many more readers than for books published as paper copies only).”
- Anonymous anthropology author

“I have been asked to participate in several conferences and thematic courses; many researchers cited the book in their works.”
- Mario La Torre, Professor of Banking and Finance at The Sapienza University of Rome, Italy

The ease of sharing a link to their open access book was also mentioned by most respondents as a benefit, as well as their research being open to a wider audience.

“Students are very happy to be able to download it for free. I have also received feedback from readers on other continents, who are interested in the topics from the book.”
- Anonymous

The OA effect

This echoes the findings from author interviews conducted for the recently published Springer Nature report The OA effect: How does open access affect the usage of scholarly books? In the report, Helen Louise Ackers, Chair in Global Social Justice, University of Salford, describes her experience with open access book publishing. 

Helen Louise Ackers 250x250Helen is author of two Palgrave political science open access books:

Healthcare, Frugal Innovation, and Professional Voluntarism: A Cost-Benefit Analysis (2017)

Mobile Professional Voluntarism and International Development: Killing Me Softly? (2017)

"I work with issues that have to do with inequality, so for me publishing a book that wasn’t OA on the impact of international development would be quite unethical, because I know that people in Uganda would not be able to read the book. For me it was an absolute critical component to the ethics of publishing.

“[…]For me this is so important to disseminate important policy information in low-resource countries. For me it has been a massive, massive success. I can’t express how important it is to be able to disseminate what I see as a cutting-edge work and to know that colleagues can read it in Uganda without having to pay for it.”

As well as presenting the findings from author and funder interviews, the report presents the first major comparative analysis of usage data for OA and non-OA scholarly books. It found that publishing an OA book with Springer Nature leads to 7 times more downloads, 50% more citations and 10 times more online mentions than publishing a book through the traditional closed route. Read the report here.

Facts about our open access books

  • Palgrave Macmillan has published more than 75 open access books and over 35 chapters in hybrid books to date. In total, Springer Nature has published over 450 open access books. Check out our open access books here.
  • The first open access book we published was also the first monograph to be funded by the Wellcome Trust: Fungal Disease in Britain and the United States 1850-2000 by Aya Homei and Michael Worboys.
  • We accept monographs, edited volumes, proceedings, protocols, and short-form books (Palgrave Pivots). We also offer authors the option to publish individual chapters open access within otherwise non-open access edited collections (‘hybrid’ publishing).
  • Springer Nature offers a free open access support service to make it easier for authors to discover and apply for open access funding. Learn more here.

Learn more about your open access book publishing options here.

Submit a proposal today and join our community of open access book authors.