Is it important to you that your book reaches not only a large readership, but a broad and geographically diverse one?
If so, you’re not alone - as we know from our 2019 Future of OA Books survey, reaching readers in low-income and lower-middle income countries, and reaching non-academic audiences such as practitioners and policy-makers, are priorities for many academic book authors.
Written by Ros Pyne, Director, Open Access Books and Book Policies
Open access has long held the promise of broadening readership, but is it living up to its potential? We teamed up with the Collaborative Open Access Research & Development (COARD) team, based at Curtin University, to investigate, and we’ve recently released our findings in a new white paper, Diversifying readership through open access: A usage analysis for OA books. Thanks to Springer Nature’s extensive open accessbooks portfolio, our analysis is based on a large dataset, allowing us to explore this question in much more detail than has been possible before.
The short answer is - yes, open access will help your book to reach more readers, in more countries. Springer Nature open access books are being downloaded in 61% more countries than our non-open access books.
Open access books show higher usage in low-income or lower-middle-income countries, including a large number of countries in Africa, and achieve a greater geographic diversity of downloads.
We also explored how the title of a book affects how many times it is downloaded, and again we had a particular interest in the geographic impact. We found that books that include the names of countries and regions in their title generally have higher usage in those regions. The effect is more apparent in books that mention Latin American and Africa, or countries therein, and is much stronger for open access books than for non-open access books. If your research is based in one of these regions, open access could give you a big boost in both global and local readership.
Moving away from questions of geography, we also checked how downloads of open access books compared with those of non-open access books overall. On average open access books in the study received 10 times more downloads and 2.4 times more citations than non-open access books.
For every type of book (monographs, edited collections, and mid-length formats), for every discipline, and for each of the three years of publication in the sample, open access books showed more downloads than non-open access comparison groups. This held true for every month after publication.
Meanwhile, downloads of open access books from the open web were generally around double those from institutional network points, suggesting that open access may also be helping books to reach a more diverse readership beyond academia. Regardless of the topic or nature of your book, open access publication will help it reach more people, and have more impact.
If this has piqued your interest, visit our webpage to find out more and to download the white paper. If you’re interested in publishing an open access book with us, please take a look at our open access books hub or reach out to a Springer or Palgrave Macmillan book editor.
Ros Pyne is Director, Open Access Books and Book Policies at Springer Nature. She has worked in policy and strategy roles in open access (OA) since 2013 and is passionate about bringing OA to long-form scholarship and to the humanities. In her current role, she steers the strategic development of Springer Nature’s OA books programme.
Ros sits on the Universities UK OA Monographs group and the advisory boards for the Mellon-funded Exploring Open Access Ebook Usage project and the OAPEN OA Books Toolkit; she is co-author of several reports on open access.