Why publish an open access book?
Publishing open access means your book or chapter can be read, reviewed, shared and cited without depending on readers buying it or libraries stocking it. Open access therefore greatly increases the opportunities for your work to be read widely and to have an impact on the world.
An open access book or chapter can be accessed more easily upon publication and over time, therefore attracting a much wider audience. Open access publications fulfil a broader range of funder mandates and can be readily shared, discussed and debated, thus providing more opportunities for peer and public engagement.
Increased readership, usage and citation
Open access books are available to anyone with an internet connection, anywhere in the world which greatly increases the opportunities for your work to be read, discussed and cited.
Sales of academic monographs are declining (Jubb, 2017) while in contrast, open access books are accessed and downloaded in large numbers and there is some evidence to suggest they receive more citations than non-open access books. Publishers often make their usage data available to authors, allowing you to track how often your book is read and cited around the world.
Wider and more diverse audiences
As open access books can be more easily discovered and shared, publishing your work as an open access book can lead to audiences outside of your usual networks finding your research. Not only do open access books reach a larger audience but they have the potential to reach a more diverse one, including academics from other disciplines, independent researchers, policymakers, industries and the general public. This could lead to greater awareness of your research, more conference invitations and more collaborative opportunities. Open access work is also more accessible for institutions and individuals who might lack the resources to purchase it otherwise, and for people with disabilities who struggle to access a library easily (Eve, 2019).
Real-world impact and public engagement
As open access books can be widely read and shared, they can more easily receive public notice. For example, the open access anthology Tolerance: The Beacon of the Enlightenment (Warman, 2016) received considerable media attention (Chester, 2016; Coughlan, 2016; Flood, 2016; Provata-Carlone, n.d.; Reisz, 2016) in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo shootings in France, and has received over 41,000 views and downloads to date (OBP b, n.d.). Open access work can also be discussed and shared easily on social media.
Altmetrics can be used to track these types of public impact, which can be integrated into the usage data that the publisher shares (University of Pittsburgh Library Guides, n.d.).
Open access work can also be more easily used in areas such as policy development, school education and citizen science (Tennant et al., 2016) while events such as the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic have demonstrated the value of open access in the humanities as well as the sciences, particularly in times of crisis (Van Gerven Oei, 2020).
Quicker and more lasting impact
Open licences and digital distribution allow swift access to newly published material. Open access work is also much more likely to remain accessible over time, as it does not rely on the publisher printing more copies in order to circulate.
Open research, better research
Open access creates more possibilities for readers to engage with and improve your research. For example, depending on the licence chosen, textbooks can be made available in interactive editions with teacher annotations; chapters can be easily extracted for course packs; bibliographies can be uploaded to Wikiversity for continual updating; and there are particular disciplinary benefits for certain subjects, such as anthropology (Miller, 2012).
Greater author control
Authors usually retain copyright and reuse rights when publishing open access, giving you much greater control over your own work. Effective promotion and sharing of your own work are more easily achieved when you can send readers a link to access the book freely.
Compliance with funder mandates
An increasing number of major funders, particularly in the UK and Europe, have an open access policy for the work they support.