Viability of Open Access Books Remains Uncertain

Press Release
Aug 30, 2018
Rockville, Md. – August 30, 2018 – Two years after Simba Information first published a report on the subject of open access (OA) books, the collective business model remains unproven.

The latest edition of Open Access Book Publishing 2018-2022 found that despite multiple years of growth at more than 30% CAGR, total revenue generated from book processing charges (BPC) remains small, well under 0.5% of total book revenue, comparable in size to a single university press book publisher or a single open access journal publisher.

On the “glass half-full” side of the equation, growth by any metric remains strong. Every company, every program and the overall market continue to grow. The market is comparable to OA journal market sales in the early 2000s and while there are forces through mandates to accelerate progress on that path, OA books remain more than a decade behind journals.

An important difference between OA books and journals is that the overall market for journals, particularly life sciences, remained stable through OA’s development. The current book market is troubled, which will impact OA books’ ability to progress as OA journals did. OA books may become “a” response, not “the” solution, to a crisis in social science and humanities (SSH) monographs that preceded OA books.

A willingness to experiment has become established in OA book culture. New trials in search of a viable future business model continue to be launched. Cooperative ventures include Knowledge Unlatched and MUSE Open. uses advertising, but this only works for widely viewed topics such as textbooks or health titles directed at patients. punctum books calls for donations or subscriptions to gain early access. While journal publishers like MDPI and Frontiers depend on support for the original journal article, Australian National University Press relies on print sales. But, like journal APCs, most still rely on book or chapter charges. The business models are very diverse, particularly considering the relatively small number of titles involved.

Open Access Book Publishing 2018-2022 provides detailed market information for this segment of scholarly book publishing. It analyzes trends impacting the industry and forecasts market growth to 2022. The report includes a review of more than 20 notable OA publishers and programs, including InTechOpen,, Frontiers Media, SciELO, De Gruyter, Brill, Knowledge Unlatched and Springer Nature.

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