Open access (OA) is important for all scientific and scholarly publications. While OA-related discussions and initiatives have hitherto focused mainly on scientific and scholarly journals, increasing attention is now being paid to OA for books.

In the past, funding models for scientific and scholarly books have differed from those used for journal publications, and often included a payment on the part of the author (“printing cost subsidy”, “obligation to purchase”), which is quite similar to the article, processing charge (APC) models now common in the journals sector. At the same time, in contrast to journal articles, authors sometimes hope to be able to earn money from book publications – be it in the form of royalties or a share in the profits.

The importance of the role played by scientific and scholarly books differs from discipline to discipline. The great importance of books in some disciplines is frequently cited as a barrier to OA. In some cases, this relates to the less pronounced shift to digital forms of publication. However, it also reflects reservations about open licences for books.

Despite certain differences between journal publications and book publications, the questions that authors should clarify in relation to their book publications are similar. They include the openness of the product, the costs for the authors, and the possibilities of self-archiving the work in a repository. Many publishers negotiate such possibilities; some offer authors the option of publishing their books under an open licence against payment of a fee or are amenable to expanding possibilities for self-archiving. A number of publishers offer standard book models under conditions comparable to those offered by OA journals, including the use of open licences. However, in this case the fees that the authors are charged are usually considerably higher than those levied for individual journal articles.

Projects such as OAPEN (Open Access Publishing in European Networks) or DOAB (Directory of Open Access Books) list OA books, thereby facilitating accessibility. Many publishers now offer their authors the option of publishing books in OA. Examples include Springer and De Gruyter. However, even the portfolios of smaller publishers – for example Barbara Budrich Publishers – include individual OA titles. The range of business models is broader and many approaches are more experimental than in the scholarly journals sector. One prominent consortium-based model is Knowledge Unlatched.

In any case, negotiations with publishers about possibilities of publishing in OA may prove worthwhile and will help to pave the way for OA-compatible book models. If the author achieves only the right to make an electronic version of the work publicly available elsewhere under an open licence, references to the freely accessible version will probably not appear in the print version of the book or on the publisher’s website, which reduces the OA advantages somewhat.

For university publishers and other publisher-like services offered by institutions of higher education, OA for books may also be an important topic, especially when there is no obligation to make a profit. Two projects aimed at developing business models and publishing modes for OA monographs at universities (Freie Universität Berlin and the University of Heidelberg) are currently being funded within the framework of a German Research Foundation (DFG) funding programme (“Open Access scholarly monographs and monographic series” funding measure). Both projects are committed to using open licences and they use the open source software platform Open Monograph Press. In principle, the production, publication, and administration of OA books is possible with various tools, for example repository software and software for the collaborative production of publications.