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Library becomes first supporter of the Open Book Collective

09 Mar 2023

On Monday the Open Book Collective thanked the Library for becoming its first supporting member. So what is the landscape for open access (OA) books, what are Book Processing Charges (BPCs) and why should we support alternative funding models like the Open Book Collective?

The OAPEN Open Access Books toolkit defines a BPC as a fee “charged by the publisher in order for the e-book to be made open access; usually all e-book formats will be open access. The fee is typically paid by the author’s funder or institution”. Evidence of the unaffordable, unsustainable and inequitable nature of many BPCs is widespread and Jisc has been warning since 2018 of a ‘significant threat to bibliodiversity’ if this becomes the dominant model.

The new UKRI OA policy - which includes a requirement that UKRI-funded monographs, book chapters and edited collections that are published after 1/1/2024, are made open access within 12 months of publication – marks a critical point in the OA monographs landscape.  Whilst UKRI has ring-fenced approximately £3.5 million annually to support research institutions to implement open access monographs it is clear that, if institutions exclusively utilise Book Processing Charges (BPCs),  this funding will be insufficient.

In terms of alternative funding models, Lucy Barnes and Tom Grady recently urged libraries to “support what they can in order to make collective funding models the predominant way of producing OA books, rather than allowing BPCs … to become established as the default” suggesting that two good places to begin are COPIM’s Open Book Collective platform (OBC), and the Opening the Future funding programme”.  

OBC is an example of a library membership model. Uniquely, the OBC enables libraries to “compare different OA book initiatives, to discover and explore the range of OA book content and services they provide, and to see how different initiatives align with their own values, aims, and mission”. We have signed up to membership of a consortium of six “academic-led, non-profit, born open access book publishers” and also to membership of two publishing service providers (OAPEN & DOAB, Thoth) that “provide the platforms and software solutions that help open access books to be found, read and engaged with … the often unseen but vital backbone of the open access publishing ecosystem”.

Opening the Future  is an example of a ‘Subscribe to open’ model, established by work package three of the COPIM project, in which libraries take out a subscription to backlist content (content restricted to subscribers only); once the level of library support for backlist content reaches a set financial threshold, the publisher then uses these funds to publish new titles on an open access basis. Our Library subscribes to the two schemes that use this model: currently CEU Press have published ten frontlist books as open access with more to follow soon; in November, LUP announced their third OA book published under this scheme.

Barnes and Grady’s article also lists Manchester amongst the short list of UK libraries that are “implementing innovative strategies to enable ethically-aligned support for OA that mesh with budget constraints”. This commitment will be fully articulated within work package four of the Library’s Open Access Monographs Project, which will develop a framework for assessing OA monograph initiatives and establish an acquisitions strategy for these OA monographs and schemes. We wholeheartedly agree with the summary to the MIT white paper on D2O (another ‘Subscribe to open’ model that we participate in) that ‘the success of D2O and other open monograph models will largely depend on academic libraries acting with enlightened self-interest to pursue collective support approaches that provide viable alternatives to conventional market models”.

To find out about other innovative and sustainable OA funding models that the Library supports via the Content Budget Management Group (such as the Library Consortium model via schemes such as Knowledge Unlatched and De Gruyter’s Purchase to  Open) and for an outline of the vital part played by the Metadata Content Management Team in making OA monographs discoverable and accessible to all (and the challenges involved therein), please see the following opinion piece on the Office for Open Research website.