Keep trade books out of open access policy, says Universities UK

New report also calls for policy to consider embargo periods

October 8, 2019
woman reading in a bookshop
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Trade books should be exempt from future policy on open access monographs while embargo periods should also be considered, Universities UK has recommended.

A report published by UUK’s Open Access Monographs Group says “immediate open access for all monographs may not be feasible” and instead endorses a “mixed-model policy that offers various routes to compliance”. This could include one that “offers a suitable period for delayed open access”, it adds, claiming that this may result in “lower costs” for publishers.

UUK also calls for trade books – titles for a non-specialist adult audience – to be “exempt from a future OA policy on monographs”, adding that “OA policy should be clear about who or what decides the validity of a trade book, taking into account publishers’ professional assessment, as well as other factors such as the retail price point and print runs”.

It says funders should “consult with the community regarding the policy approach to academic books that are marketed towards a primarily scholarly audience, but cross over to the trade market and/or generate more individual unit sales than anticipated, after first publication”.

UUK would like the recommendations to be considered as part of the reviews of open access policy being conducted by UK Research and Innovation, and for the research excellence framework.

Open access advocates are openly opposed to green open access models – under which authors must wait a specific time after publication to share their work on open repositories – but some commercial publishing groups and learned societies argue that embargoes are necessary to protect business models.

The UUK report was published alongside a data analysis of open access books in the UK, carried out by consulting firm Fullstopp and supported by UKRI, Jisc and the British Academy.

The analysis found that about 26 per cent of books submitted to the 2014 REF panels on social sciences and arts and humanities were trade titles, while some 9 per cent were trade titles priced at £20 or less.

Meanwhile, 70 per cent of publisher sales take place in the first two years after publication and 80 per cent take place in the first three years, which could inform decisions on embargo periods for a non-immediate open access model for books, it says.

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