We’re very proud to be celebrating the recent publication of our 2000th gold open access (OA) book here at Springer Nature. Our 1000th OA book published just 2 years ago in 2020, a testament to how OA for books has really begun to take off in this new decade. As of this writing, the Directory of Open Access Books is now home to over 60,000 OA titles coming from more than 600 publishers in over 90 languages. We’re excited to be a part of this rapid and diverse growth, and this feels like an appropriate moment for us to reflect on where we started, recent developments, and where OA for books may lead us as it continues to come into its own.
Back in 2011, Springer piloted its first OA book, which published in its leading Lecture Notes in Computer Science series. In 2013, Palgrave Macmillan partnered with the Wellcome Trust for its first open access book. When the two companies merged in 2015, becoming part of Springer Nature, it was only natural that we would continue to build on this shared foundation.
Over the past decade, we’ve continued to look for sustainable ways to advance OA for books under our Springer, Palgrave Macmillan and Apress imprints.
One of the reasons we’re most proud of our thriving OA books program is that it supports our wider commitment to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Springer Nature has one of the largest SDG portfolios of any book publisher, and OA innately enables the kind of collaborative cross-sector and cross-disciplinary work that helps researchers, policy makers, business leaders, and other stakeholders to address the complex global issues the SDGs represent in real time. The appeal of harnessing open access to facilitate this type of important work is reflected in the fact that topical areas like Climate Science, Sustainable Social Development, and Education make up the largest portions of our OA books portfolio. Notable recent titles include Consensus or Conflict?: China and Globalization in the 21st Century and The Palgrave Handbook of Positive Education.
We’re delighted to showcase our 2000th open access book as a representative example of the type of SDG-supportive titles our OA program champions. Authored by members of the Research Group on Development Strategy of Earth Science in China, Past, Present and Future of a Habitable Earth: The Development Strategy of Earth Science 2021 to 2030 offers a roadmap for how to achieve harmony and sustainable development between human society and nature through the lens of exciting recent advances in geoscience. It offers concise summaries of cutting-edge research and practical applications across a wide spectrum of fields.
While OA and the SDGs work hand-in-hand to foster global solutions, the impressive impact and reach of OA books isn’t limited to these areas of scholarship. Research we’ve conducted has found that, across the wide array of disciplines we publish in science, technology, medicine, and the humanities and social sciences, choosing OA on average leads to 10 times more downloads and 2.4 times more citations. In total, our portfolio of 2,000 titles has seen over 200 million individual chapter downloads/accesses. We’ve also found that our OA books have a more geographically diverse readership, reaching on average 61% more countries than our non-OA books, with most of those additional countries being amongst those classed as LIC or LMIC by the World Bank. In addition to enhancing usage in countries underrepresented in global scholarship, OA also enhances the global usage of scholarship about underrepresented countries.
This type of hard evidence of impact and reach is one of the reasons why we remain committed to driving growth for immediate OA for books, and maintaining CC BY, the most open CC licence, as our default. We’re truly able to help the authors of a wide array of high-quality scholarship reach a larger and more diverse audience.
We know that one of the key factors in sustaining the growth we’ve seen so far for OA books and satisfying the appetite from authors for more, will be funding. Much of the funding for OA books remains what we’ve termed ‘wild’, meaning it stems from funding streams that fall outside of centrally managed library or institution budgets. Despite this varied landscape, there has been a noticeable recent upswing in the number of large national and international research funders directly engaging with OA for books. In 2021, UKRI and Plan S both released their plans to enact OA mandates for book research outputs.
We’re interested to see how these policies develop, whether other major funders follow suit in some form, and whether, like UKRI, they establish dedicated OA funds for books. We’ve also seen more interest from funders in establishing partnership agreements with publishers for OA books, leading us to diversify our offerings on this front. We’re pleased to include UNESCO, LYRASIS, the University of California, Berkeley, and the Max Planck Society among our partners.
We believe demystifying the sources of funding for book processing charges (BPCs) and developing more transparent and centralised funding infrastructures are essential to empowering book authors to achieve the maximum reach and impact from their research by publishing OA. To that end, we’re committed to providing collaborative input on new policies, cooperations, and research in this area. As the number of OA mandates and funding opportunities for OA books increase, we also know that authors and other stakeholders in the research ecosystem will need better resources for navigating them. In addition to our Funding Support Service, we continue to support research community-driven initiatives like the OAPEN-led OA Books Toolkit that attempt to provide stakeholder-neutral information and standards around OA books.
In short, we believe that a collaborative spirit is at the heart of what has brought OA books this far, and that it will be just as essential to how we approach working with stakeholders across the research ecosystem going forward.
Find out more about some of Springer Nature’s other open initiatives.
Katie Laurentiev is Open Access Books Program Manager at Springer Nature. She’s been involved in OA for books since 2017, and is passionate about supporting policies and programs that contribute to the sustainable growth of OA for long-form research.