The OA Effect: How Does Open Access Affect the Usage of Scholarly Books?

by | Nov 15, 2017 | 0 comments


Sarah Beaubien and Ros Pyne

Sarah Beaubien (L) and Ros Pyne (R)

Ros Pyne, Head, Policy and Development, Open Research, Springer Nature, reported on the findings from a report by Springer Nature on OA books. The OA books program was launched during 2012 and 2013, and so far, over 400 OA books on a wide range of subjects have been published. Print on Demand is offered at reduced price. The same processing procedures and marketing are used for both OA and non-OA books. Springer wanted to determine whether OA makes a difference to authors and what they get from it. The research project consisted of both quantitative (benchmarking of metrics) and qualitative (author and funder interviews). The results were significant:

  • There was 7 times more usage for the average OA book on SpringerLink than for a non-OA book, with a huge advantage in first 6 months.
  • Citations were 50% higher for an OA book than non-OA. An OA book is cited on average 12 times in the first 4 years of its life, and a non-OA book 8 times. The OA benefit is immediate.
  • There was no correlation between downloads and citations. OA books are mentioned an average of 30 times, 10 times more than a non-OA book.

Motivations for publishing OA are that it provides easy access to research worldwide, wider dissemination, and it brings content to people who need it. It also helps research results to be replicated, verified, and reused for both scholarly and practical applications.

Authors and funders felt insufficiently informed about OA’s effects and were reluctant to attribute high downloads solely to OA, but they were still very positive. They felt that it is difficult to attribute the book’s popularity to OA alone, but they are also convinced that OA is the way to publish in the future.

The data met Springer’s expectations; they had not realized that authors and funders feel uninformed about the effects of OA. Methods of improvement include providing metrics for OA books, better communication and support for authors, libraries, and funders to help them understand the impacts of OA books, and collaboration with libraries in establishing discovery routes.

Next steps:

Next Steps

Click here to download the full report.

Sarah Beaubien, Head, Collections and Scholarly Communications, Grand Valley State University, read letters that she wrote to three audiences soliciting opinions on OA books:

  • Librarians (are they adding OA books to their collections?),
  • Publishers (are there things you wish librarians knew about your OA books?),
  • Book jobbers (are you building OA into existing collections practices, making it easy to identify books as OA, and providing access to data on OA purchases).



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