Open Access Business Models

The Open Access Business Models Special Interest Group looks into business models currently used by open access publishers, with a particular focus on the situation of European publishers in the social sciences and humanities (SSH), especially journals and monographs, in light of the Plan S guidelines. 

Objective of the SIG

The primary objective of the SIG is to focus on sustainable business models for open access SSH publishing. This includes understanding the costs of running an OA publishing operation as well as price transparency and revenue infrastructure models required to support open access funding. 

Much work has been undertaken in the area of business models for journals, particularly the OA Diamond Journals Study. However, up until recently, OA books have had a relatively slow start. In the area of policy, there are now a number of existing and emerging OA monograph policies, which are leading to an increased focus on business models. 

In addition, new business models are also being explored. For example, ‘Opening the Future’, a collective subscription model for open access books from the COPIM project, MIT Press’ Direct to Open, a collective action open access business model for scholarly books, and the Sustainable History Monograph Pilot (SHMP) at the University of North Carolina Press funded by Andrew W Mellon foundation.

Given this dynamic landscape, it was felt that a more in-depth understanding was needed of European monograph publishers’ current business models for open access, their challenges, and their views on how infrastructure for open access monographs could be improved. 

Therefore, since 2021, the SIG has been concentrating its efforts towards OA books. In particular, the SIG wishes to understand more about how the SSH publishing community applies or could apply collaborative models for open access books, and what issues it encounters when dealing with them. We further want to understand what challenges publishers faced when engaging with or thinking about engaging in collaborative models for OA books. Are there enough funds, enough human resources? Are relevant infrastructures in place? What kind of support is needed?

A survey was held in 2021 with two core aims:

  1. To further our understanding of the scholarly publishing landscape and of the challenges that publishers face in the context of publishing OA monographs
  2. To identify main trends (including opportunities and challenges) and the knowledge of collaborative funding and infrastructure models in OA publishing in SSH.

We were pleased to receive 77 responses from publishers in 14 EU countries. Our 2021 white paper presented some early observations from the preliminary analysis of the findings, and the SIG is now working on a more detailed analysis around a set of specific questions outlined in the early analysis.

In the longer term, the OA Business Models SIG hopes to provide a more comprehensive insight into how OPERAS can make a tangible change and best support the community in building sustainable paths of transition towards collaborative models for open access. 

We hope that the work of the SIG will also be relevant to the recently announced DIAMAS project.

A brief history

In 2018, the OA Business Models Special Interest Group published a white paper on Business Models for Open Access. The report described the landscape of open access publishing at the time, and identified multiple approaches to open access publishing. It looked at the business models adopted by OPERAS members as well as emerging models in the USA and at a national level in some European countries. The paper identified a large range of models, often particular to individual countries, institutions or circumstances, and with little overall cohesion and no central sources of funding. 

The 2018 white paper has since been cited in a number of recent reports. For example, the Research England and Arcadia Trust funded Community-led Open Publication Infrastructures for Monographs (COPIM) report on open access revenue models (Penier, Eve & Grady, 2020). The SIG also fed into the COPIM/OPERAS landscape study on academic libraries and open access books in Europe (Morka & Gatti, 2021).

Publications

The white paper on Business Models for Open Access proposes that there is no single ideal business model for Open Access that can be adopted as standard. It describes the current landscape in which there are multiple approaches to OA publishing, many of which are adopted by OPERAS members to suit their particular circumstances, although the APC and BPC models still predominate especially among commercial publishers. The paper describes the business models adopted by members both from the point of view of publishers, and of service providers such as Knowledge Unlatched, as well as looking at models emerging elsewhere such as in the USA and at national level in some European countries, where interesting collaborative approaches are being undertaken. The paper analyses the pros and cons of different models, and concludes with some suggestions for ways of bringing greater stability and sustainability to Open Access publishing models.

Lara Speicher, Lorenzo Armando, Margo Bargheer, Martin Paul Eve, Sven Fund, Delfim Leão, Max Mosterd, Frances Pinter, & Irakleitos Souyioultzoglou. (2018). OPERAS Open Access Business Models White Paper. Zenodo. https://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.1323708

This white paper gives a first analysis on the challenges that European presses see ahead regarding collaborative models for funding and infrastructure. It outlines a number of observations for further work and gives a clear direction for further analysis of the survey data.

Stone, Graham, Błaszczyńska, Marta, Lebon, Chloé, Morka, Agata, Mosterd, Tom, Mounier, Pierre, Proudman, Vanessa, Speicher, Lara, & Melinščak Zlodi, Iva. (2021). Collaborative models for OA book publishers (1.0). Zenodo. https://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.5494731

Contact Point

Frank Manista, Jisc, UK

Graham Stone, Jisc, UK

Special Interest Group Members

Graham Stone – Jisc, OA Business Models SIG Coordinator

Graham Stone is Jisc’s subject matter expert for OA monographs. He is the lead for communications on OA monographs within Jisc and with members and stakeholders and is responsible for developing and managing strategic relationships in the UK and internationally. Before joining Jisc, he worked in the university sector for 23 years managing library resources budgets, OA services and a University Press.

Frank Manista

Agata Morka – SPARC Europe, Coordinator Open Access Books Network

Agata Morka holds a PhD in Architectural History from the University of Washington, where she completed her dissertation on contemporary French train stations. For the past ten years she has been working with OA books. She is currently working as Communications Specialist at SPARC Europe.

Vanessa Proudman – SPARC Europe

Vanessa Proudman is Director of SPARC Europe, where she is working to make Open the default in Europe. Vanessa has 20 years of international experience working on Open Access, Open Science, Open Culture and Open Education with many leading universities and libraries worldwide from over 20 countries. She is working to increase and strengthen international, national and regional OS and Open Education policy-making and practice in Europe. Research and knowledge exchange are her vehicles to inform, connect and advocate for change in these areas. Prior to SPARC Europe, she worked at Tilburg University on various national and international projects, was programme manager at Europeana and led a dept on information and IT at a UN-European region research institute in Vienna for over 10 years.