Accelerating open access to academic books
cOAlition S has just issued its statement on Open Access (OA) for academic books. With this statement, cOAlitition S sets a clear direction for academic books to become OA. It recommends that “All academic books based on original research that was directly supported with funding from cOAlition S organisations should be made available open access on publication”. This is great news!
The OA Books Network (OABN), steered by OAPEN, SPARC Europe, OPERAS, and ScholarLed) salutes this clear support from cOAlition S for OA to books. While OA policies for journal articles have been developing rapidly for years, progress on the OA book side has been rather slow. However, this cOAlition S statement combined with the recently launched UKRI open access policy indicates that there is great potential for things to accelerate for OA books, too.
Next to the clear vision for OA academic books, we welcome specific aspects of the statement and its recommendations. Firstly, it clearly acknowledges the diversity of book publishing practices, also referred to as bibliodiversity. Book publishing practices differ widely across geographical regions, language areas, and disciplines. Recent workshops held by the OA Books Network (OABN) highlight this most starkly, showing that policy and local publishing traditions and markets influence how OA books deal with quality assurance, metadata, transparency, open licensing and business models.
Respecting the diversity of the OA books community is essential for any OA book policy to become successful. cOAlition S responds to this by inviting the larger OA books community to get involved in the development of implementation guidelines. Linked to this, we welcome the recommendation to retain the rights to publish OA and to allow for reuse which will for example enable more translations of the scholarly work and increased access to it worldwide.
During a series of events named “A Plan S for Books: Voices from the Community” organised by the OA Books Network (OABN) for the OA books community (including authors, researchers, publishers, librarians, infrastructure providers and others), we explored many of the aspects of OA book publishing that need to be considered when developing OA book policies. The summary of these events was delivered to cOAlition S to inform the funders about aspects that authors, researchers, publishers, librarians, infrastructure providers and others deem important and would like to explore further before settling detailed implementation guidelines for aligned OA book policies. These events involved more than 400 participants and proved that the OABN is a very suitable platform for international OA book community discussions. We therefore very much welcome that the cOAlition S statement recognizes the OABN’s ability to serve as an open forum for community input during the implementation process by naming it explicitly.
Furthermore, it is commendable that the statement acknowledges the position paper “Investing in Open Access Books Infrastructure” which raises concerns about gaps in the OA book infrastructure and calls for investment both in technical infrastructure and community infrastructure, like the OABN. We therefore also applaud the statement that “cOAlition S funders should financially support Open Access of academic books”, and the fact that the policy recognises that there are alternative business models evolving to enable OA book publishing. This will clearly accelerate open access to scholarly work.
The statement also highlights the OAPEN OA Books Toolkit which was launched last year containing and collecting valuable information of all aspects of OA book publishing. It is community-governed and could serve the implementation process well by hosting, structuring, and distributing descriptions, examples, use cases, and references of the many aspects of OA book policy making that the community has identified as critical aspects.
Finally, we are happy to see that cOAlition S acknowledges the need for existing technical infrastructures, like the Directory of Open Access Books. This is the world’s most comprehensive directory of academic OA books providing access to more than 44,000 OA books and chapters.
The absence of a deadline for the implementation of the cOAlition S recommendations does signal an understanding that considerable time will be needed to properly realize them although defining one might help accelerate progress further. There is still a long way to go, and we believe that this can only be done in partnership with the OA books community.
The Statement explains that the technical standards on OA books should mirror the technical requirements that cOAlition S has set for OA journals and repositories. The issue of technical requirements for OA books, and where these differ from OA journals, was discussed in some detail at one of the “Voices from the Community” sessions.  From this discussion it was quite clear that although book publishers do pay much attention to good quality metadata and output formats, open infrastructures are needed to generate, aggregate, organize and distribute any new metadata and output formats required – in particular for the smaller and medium-sized presses. This is not a trivial task, and we look forward to discussing how infrastructures for OA books can be further developed to enable publishers to comply with these technical requirements.
We consider this new cOAlition S statement on OA books as a welcome signal that cOAlition S intends to take a collaborative approach, with the view to bringing together both funders and practitioners in fruitful discussion resulting in clear action points. This is a great opportunity to begin a process leading towards sustainable policies based on constructive discussions, engagement, and investment from the whole OA books community. We embrace this approach and are keen to help accelerate open access to academic books together with the whole research funding community and all those who practice OA book publishing, authors, researchers, publishers, libraries, infrastructure providers and others.
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Co-authored by: Lucy Barnes (Open Book Publishers), Eelco Ferwerda (independent), Rupert Gatti (Open Book Publishers), Agata Morka (SPARC Europe), Tom Mosterd (DOAB), Pierre Mounier (OPERAS), Vanessa Proudman (SPARC Europe), Jeroen Sondervan (Utrecht University), Niels Stern (OAPEN) and Ronald Snijder (OAPEN)