Published 29 September 2020

Business models for open access book publishing

As open access ebooks are freely available for everyone to read, additional revenue sources are required to help cover the costs of publication. A variety of business models are used to support open access books, including, but not limited to, book processing charges, institutional subsidy, library membership and freemium models.

Publishers use a variety of different business models to support open access book publishing. Some of these models require a fee to be paid by the author’s funder or institution, but many do not.

Open access book models1

ModelDescriptionExample publishers / service providers
Book processing charge (BPC) / Open Access feeA fee is charged by the publisher in order for the ebook to be made open access; usually all ebook formats will be open access. The fee is typically paid by the author’s funder or institution.Bloomsbury, Brill, CUP, De Gruyter, Elsevier, InTechOpen, MDPI, OUP, Springer Nature (incl. Palgrave Macmillan), Stockholm University Press, T&F (incl. Routledge), University of California Press (Luminos)
FreemiumA version of the ebook is made open access or freely available at no charge to the author; the free access is subsidised by other revenue sources, such as sales of other e-formats, print sales, and/or library membership fees.OECD, Open Book Publishers, OpenEdition, Open Humanities Press, Punctum Books
Institutional subsidy / New University Presses (NUP)An institution subsidises publication at an open access press based at or associated with the institution. Fees may not apply or may be discounted; academics based at the institution may receive additional discounts or fee waivers.Lever Press, UCL Press, University of Huddersfield Press, White Rose Press
Library MembershipLibraries or other institutions pay an annual membership fee to a publisher that underwrites some costs of making books open access; the member institution and/or its authors may receive additional benefits such as discounts on book processing charges (BPCs).Open Book Publishers, Punctum Books, University of California Press (Luminos)
Library consortium (‘’Institutional crowdfunding’’)Libraries pledge a fee towards making a collection of books open access, covering some or all of the costs between them. Once enough libraries have confirmed participation and the target amount is achieved, the collection is made open access.Knowledge Unlatched, Transcript
CrowdfundingIndividuals pledge fees to make a book open access; once enough individuals have confirmed participation and the target amount is achieved, the book is made open access.Unglue.it (typically in collaboration with publishers, e.g., CUP, OBP), self-published authors

Publishing services will vary depending on the publisher you choose. However, regardless of any fee or subsidy, you should expect your book to be peer-reviewed and as a rule you should expect the same level of publishing service for your open access book as you would for a non-open access book.

If a fee is levied, the amount may depend on what other sources of revenue are available to the publisher to subsidise it. Publishers may receive financial support or resources that enable them to publish open access books at a reduced fee or free of charge to the author. For example, university presses may benefit from endowments or grant funding; some scholar-led presses work as cooperatives using volunteer labour (Speicher, 2018). Some publishers may also waive or discount fees for authors from low-income or lower-middle income countries, or for authors who do not have funding.

Owing to the diversity of scholarly books and book publishers, there is no single model that could support open access book publishing single-handedly, and it is likely that different publishers will continue to operate different models. There is no single business model that is ‘the best’. All models have their own strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (Collins et al, 2015).

Last edited on 29 September 2020, at 15:32 (+0000)