Because Open Access (OA) is a dominant paradigm in scholarly publishing, publishers with an eye to the future should further expand their OA involvement.

Publishers play an important role in the supply of scientific and scholarly information. By offering science-friendly conditions, they can significantly support their authors in communicating research results. OA publishing models offer superior possibilities in this respect, and they now belong to the standard repertoire of scholarly publishers. Many publishers have successfully integrated OA into existing business models, and new publishers who rely entirely on OA have appeared on the scene.

Essential information on publishers’ OA-related activities can be found on our web pages devoted to OA journals, books, and business models.

Publishers who offer OA models range from large commercial scholarly publishers, through large and small non-commercial publishers, to small university presses.

In principle, publishers can also earn money in an OA environment – be it to cover costs or to make a profit. At the same time, however, OA publishers’ business models are subject to close scrutiny and they are urged to demonstrate transparency with respect to their role and the added value they bring.

Open access can become a decisive marketing instrument. Scientific and scholarly authors are primarily interested in visibility. Publishers whose restrictive handling of exploitation rights renders the free distribution of publications on the internet difficult or impossible come into conflict with the wishes of their authors and with the OA requirements imposed on authors by funding bodies and university managers. If publishers wish to hold their own in a scientific culture that is fundamentally shaped by the internet and the enormously accelerated digital exchange of information, they should offer OA options.

OA publishers have joined forces in the Open Access Scholarly Publishers Association (OASPA). Members from Germany include Copernicus Publications and PsychOpen, which is operated by the Leibniz Institute for Psychology Information. Sorted according to publisher size, the list of members provides a good first impression of the field of OA publishers who have committed themselves to common principles relating to publishing ethics, transparency, etc.

The largest publishers in terms of OA turnover include the traditional publisher Springer (as a result of the acquisition of the OA publisher BioMed Central, among other things) and PLOS (Public Library of Science), a non-commercial publisher who, with its mega-journal PLOS ONE, has successfully established a new concept for scholarly journals that has since been emulated by several other publishers.

Open Access journals

OA journals publish their articles under OA conditions – that is, they are readable free of charge and usually made available under an open licence. More so than in the case of many small independent journals, the liberal CC-BY variant has become the licence of choice of journals published by publishing houses. This licence allows extensive kinds of re-use by the public (both the OASPA membership list and the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ) offer the possibility of displaying the licence models used). A possible – but not the only possible –OA business model[interner Link] is to finance the journal by means of article processing charges (APC) payable by the authors.

Conversion of established journals

In many cases, publishers have converted established closed-access journals to OA. One example in Germany is the GIGA Journal Family, a suite of formerly closed-access journals that was converted to OA in collaboration with the Hamburg University Press.

Some commercial publishers opt for the so-called hybrid model: rather than converting their closed-access journals to OA, they offer authors the possibility of providing OA to individual articles in these journals against payment of a fee (cf. business models). Hence, these journals forgo OA conversion and expose themselves to the accusation that they are “double-dipping” because they earn revenue from publication fees as well as subscription revenue. One large commercial hybrid publisher is Springer Open Choice. However, by now almost all of the large scholarly publishers offer optional OA in this way.

Open Access clauses

Even in areas where OA is not a primary object of negotiation, the topic can be meaningfully included. Examples are the inclusion of OA rights in Alliance of German Science Organisations licences (so-called “Alliance licences”) and in other licences. As a rule, such clauses grant the authors of the subscribing institution certain rights to self-archive articles published in a closed-access journal in a repository. Advantages for authors of the subscribing institution when publishing in OA journals of the same publishing house can also be agreed.

Book publishers

Open Access for books is a growing area in which publishers are also involved. Business models that could play a special role here include so-called “freemium” models and other models in which the text of the book is available under OA conditions but a print edition or an electronic edition that is page-for-page identical to the print edition must be paid for (although it may still be made available under an open licence). Initial experience with making a text-only version freely available online has shown that sales figures have not dropped as a result, but rather have sometimes increased. This is explained by the fact that the online presence of the work has an important advertising function but that, in the case of lengthy texts, readers prefer a print edition. However, many books are available only as ebooks, and existing print-on-demand services can cover demand for small numbers of books.

The Directory of Open Access Books lists numerous OA books. The European Commission also supports OA in scholarly book publishing. For example, the OAPEN network has developed an OA publishing model for scholarly monographs in the humanities and the social sciences.

Repositories

Another way of facilitating access to journal articles and books is to self-archive them in OA repositories. Publishers can give their authors clear and general permission to self-archive their works. Some publishers now cooperate directly with repository operators (e.g. with the German repositories pedocs and SSOAR).

Publishers should clearly set out their self-archiving policies on their websites and in the publishing agreements they conclude with their authors, and they should ensure that their entries in the SHERPA/RoMEO database of publishers’ self-archiving policies are accurate and up-to-date.

Fair treatment of authors' rights

Authors are not expropriated by OA; nor does it limit their freedom to publish. On the contrary, they retain much more freedom to grant rights of use in their works. Under a standard publishing agreement, the publisher acquires the exclusive rights of use in a work, whereas an agreement that provides for publication under an open licence merely grants non-exclusive rights of use to the publisher. Hence, authors are free to grant anyone a non-exclusive right of use, thereby increasing the reach and visibility of their publications.

In this connection, publishers have made various attempts to portray the strong support for OA on the part of research funders and scientific organisations as a tendency that limits freedom and is directed against authors. These attempts on the part of publishers to win the support of authors for their own concern over falling profits and pressure to change their own business models has, to a large extent, failed.