Our Vision

Open Access: the future of academic publishing
Researchers, authors and funding bodies are realising that the high price of access to academic books and journals means that only a select few can read their work. Open Access (that is, making texts free to read and reuse) helps spread research results and other educational materials to everyone, globally, not just to those who can afford it or have access to well-endowed university libraries able to pay the high prices required by commercial 'legacy' publishers. Scholars are realising that participation in a system that confines the readership, and therefore the intellectual engagement, to the affluent few is not only morally questionable but a potential drag on the progress of their subject, and indeed of their academic careers.

It is becoming a requirement for publicly-funded research to be made available in Open Access format and we are able to achieve this quickly and effectively. However, the debate as it stands today revolves around the proposition that Open Access is desirable provided that somebody pays the extra cost clearly this is not a sustainable model. The choice has been misleadingly presented as one between more public expenditure and the (non-Open Access) status quo in which readers pay for access. In many countries including the UK public expenditure is already ingrained in the whole system, not only in the grants and tax advantages enjoyed by private charitable funding bodies, but also in the public financing of universities, including meeting the cost of books and journal subscriptions by university libraries. Despite 'market' appearances, taxpayers' money feeds into the income of legacy publishers, especially of journals. Since any increase in public expenditure would translate in a further transfer from the financially disadvantaged to the wealthy few, from the culturally deprived to the culturally privileged, more public expenditure is not attractive to any democratic government.

Open Access academic publishing is financially more efficient and intellectually more inclusive, responsive, and therefore more effective. Open Access publishing can sustain itself from a mixed range of modest income streams, and quickly built a reputation for excellence, as we have demonstrated (for more information on our business model please read our blog here).

Some academic societies and promotion committees, however, are still wedded to the old publishing ways. Young scholars especially are being unfairly urged into publishing their work into an undemocratic, financially unsustainable and technologically obsolete environment rather than opting for a more dynamic future that many see coming and would prefer to join. It is time that academics prioritize dissemination and cease contracting out their work to legacy publishers whose corporate aims and practices include non-academic considerations.

Watch the video Open Access Explained by
PHD comics

Open Book Publishers, is a signatory of the Budapest Open Access Initiative (on this initiative and its aftermaths see Jean­-Claude Guédon's Open Access: Toward the Internet of the Mind), participant in the OpenEdition project, and founding member of the Pure Open Access Alliance.

New forms of publication
In the old system, created by the enlightenment, knowledge was produced, disseminated, and engaged within the close world of universities, libraries and museums, learned societies and clubs, books and periodicals. In the age of paper and moveable type, with its associated costs and limited access, this was all that was possible. The digital age, on the other hand, provides us with the opportunity to break free of such constraints. We can have short books, long books, books that consist mostly of illustrations, books with moving images and audio material, books that are replete with links and books which interact with readers. Indeed we are now seeing a number of experiments ranging from participatory writing, interactive books, and works where links to primary sources add a new dimension to the research output: we are now free to think more in terms of the content we wish to convey, rather than of preconceived formats based on length, genre, category.

At Open Book we welcome proposals that engage with knowledge in new ways, and we are willing to help individuals and institutions develop new ways of disseminating research to better inform and interact with readers and researchers. For example, our award-winning Denis Diderot’s ‘Rameau’s Nephew’: A Multi-Media Bilingual Edition incorporates specially-recorded musical pieces into the body of the text, making Diderot’s work uniquely accessible and engaging for a general audience. A Musicology of Performance harnesses the possibilities of digital publishing through a wealth of embedded audio examples, tables, and graphs, and offers both a sensory and a scholarly account of musical performance. Our World Oral Literature Series, centered on marginalised and endangered oral traditions across Africa, Asia, and the Americas, promotes the integration of primary source material such as recordings and videos into the scholarly text. Two volumes published in this series, Searching for Sharing and Storytelling in Northern Zambia, allow readers to watch the videos that the authors have taken on the field. They can verify and participate in the academic discussion and scholars can make further use of the primary material in their academic research while also promoting the sharing of cultural heritage with the people who are represented by and in it.

Setting the research agenda
Since academic jobs and promotions are often based on publishing record, this means that academic presses have a huge amount of power in setting our research agenda. With Open Access academics need no longer contract out their work to organizations whose corporate aims and practices include non-academic considerations, but can communicate directly with their readers.

Open Access increases the longevity of academic work, making it accessible to a greater number of readers over time. A university-level book typically sells 200 copies during its entire lifetime, but our books are read by an average of between 300-400 readers per title every month from over 200 countries. In total, we have received over 1 million book visits, with about 20% of our readers based in developing countries.

While sales figures for each title drop off in the years after publication (as is typical across publishing), viewing statistics do not. As OBP has grown, the readership numbers for many of our titles have increased even while the sales figures have dropped. We have also noticed that, while the average number of readers we attract has remained high, our median viewer statistics have risen: meaning that we are attracting more readers to our titles across the board, and not just to our most popular titles.


Independent review process
We take the refereeing process very seriously to ensure that our publications are of the highest academic standard. All our book proposals and final manuscripts are peer-reviewed by at least two specialists in the relevant field. Open Book Publishers' non-profit ethos means that we are able to choose titles based on quality grounds alone

After a first screening of the book proposal (with the help of our Advisory Board if appropriate) authors are invited to submit the complete or near-complete manuscript for assessment. We then ask at least two experts in the field to produce a detailed report within three months. We invite peer-reviewers to be highly selective and choose only manuscripts of excellence. On the basis of the referees' reports the three directors decide whether to approve the manuscript for publication. Once the manuscript is accepted we ask authors to consider referees' recommendations. Depending on how substantial these revisions are, we may ask the peer-reviewers to read the final manuscript for any additional comments or questions.

Printed editions
Besides our digital and online editions, with their many advantages, such as ability to search, we also offer printed books that provide the many other traditional advantages which readers rightly value. In our experience, the two media, that are designed for the convenience of different kinds of readers, complement one another and are able to prosper together. We use print-on-demand technology to provide top quality paperback and hardback editions of each monograph at affordable prices. Our books are printed in the UK and the USA and can be ordered from any country. Any revenue we generate goes back into publishing more high-quality monographs.

Our future
Having established that an Open Access publishing model is sustainable, we are looking to expand our operations. While continuing to produce high-quality academic books, our experience and expertise in Open Access formats allow us to help publishers, universities, academic groups and journals move to an OA model. Ultimately we are aiming to become the primary hub for free peer-reviewed research in the Humanities and Social Sciences.

Environmental policy
All paper used by Open Book Publishers is SFI (Sustainable Forestry Initiative), and PEFC (Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification Schemes) Certified. Book jacket paper is dual certified by FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) and SFI. All paper used for jackets is manufactured using electricity generated by renewable wind power. All books are printed on acid-free paper.