Last week we blogged about new research published by our sister company PCG that showed Open Access (OA) monographs were gradually finding a place for themselves in scholarly and research libraries. While not yet a major part of research institutions’ collections, it appeared that librarians were taking this content seriously, adding it to their collections and in some cases funding the publication of institutional research through the library budgets.

In this week’s blog we turn our attention to scholarly publishers and a very different picture emerges. This is surprising to some extent, since the drive towards OA monographs seems to have been led by a small section of publishers alive to the possibilities of using OA business models to publish content that might otherwise be uneconomic. Yet according to PCG’s research the enthusiasm that some larger publishers such as Palgrave Macmillan or university presses like Manchester University Press have shown towards developing a new monograph publishing model is not uniform across the scholarly publishing industry.

PCG’s research indicated that only 35% of publishers currently published OA monographs. Of those publishers who did publish OA books, 34% said that it was a fast growing area for them, though two thirds said that it was a stable market or only growing very slowly. And of those who didn’t publish OA monographs it also appeared that this was unlikely to change in the near future. When asked how likely it was that their organisation would start OA monograph publishing, 54% of publishers said it was very or somewhat unlikely. Only 8% of those respondents said that it was very likely that the publisher they worked for would experiment with long form OA content.

Fig 1 – How Publishers promote Open Access Monographs

Publishers - promoting OA monographs

Another indication that the publishers questioned for this study were not prioritising what OA monographs they produced lay in how they promoted this content to potential buyers and readers. Two thirds (66.7%) of respondents said that they left the promotion of OA monographs to the authors themselves. The same proportion (66.7%) said that academic conferences were an important forum at which to promote OA monographs. Interestingly only 44.4% said that direct communications with librarians – historically the heaviest buyers of scholarly monographs – were an important market channel. This put library communications on a level pegging with social media (also 44.4%).

According to these results at least, it appears that the phenomenon of OA monographs will continue to be led for some time by the efforts of libraries, and perhaps specialist initiatives such as Knowledge Unlatched, rather than by traditional scholarly publishers. In the medium term, however, one respondent to the research did indicate that there was one factor that could change this situation. They said: If research grantors insist on book content being available, this could change the landscape.”