A manifesto for the open book

A manifesto for the open book

"There needs to be further experimentation to develop sustainable publication models."  Mithu Lucraft could be referring to several parts of the industry. But the head of open research marketing at Palgrave Macmillan in her #FutureBook15 manifesto is focused on open access, OA, in the humanities and social sciences. And even as "more and more publishers," she writes, "are now investigating new models for open monographs," quality cannot be sacrificed: "Publishers have a commitment to offer the same high-quality standards of peer review, production and dissemination as they would for any other titles."—Porter Anderson


'A long way to go'

Open access is yet to come of age where the humanities and social sciences (HSS) are concerned.

Whilst the journals market is seeing significant growth for open access publication—43 percent growth in articles published in fully open access journals from 13,500 in 2013 to 18,000 in 2014, according to Scopus—it’s a much less certain future for monographs. And yet The Directory of Open Access Books (DOAB) lists 3,288 academic peer-reviewed books from 111 publishers, which is not an insubstantial number of titles.

We launched our own open access monograph offering in 2013 and we welcome the greater number of funders who are committing to provide support for book publication charges and anticipate that this will further increase with mandates expected in the future. More and more publishers, including new university presses, are now investigating new models for open monographs.

The likelihood is that open access will continue to become a more established part of the HSS publishing ecosystem, but one size cannot fit all. We’ve a long way to go before open long-form scholarship becomes mainstream.

Now is the time for experimentation

As noted, there are many publishers experimenting with new open-access book payment models, from publication charges to library memberships, subsidies and crowdfunding. All these models are in their infancy. Experimentation is key for this market to continue to develop.

Authors benefit

Making research open brings a multitude of benefits for scholarship, importantly enabling researchers to help tackle the world’s biggest problems. But for authors there are wider gains: higher visibility, greater readership, increased opportunities to collaborate, and an overall change in pace, facilitating faster research discoveries. Our open access books are some of the most highly accessed titles overall in our online collections, although their publication is recent.

Licenses need to support authors

Whilst more permissive licenses (e.g. CC BY) offer many benefits to scholarship, concerns remain for many authors. Publishers need to ensure that they communicate clearly with their authors, providing adequate information on what the usage restrictions are on any license offered. 

To date, Palgrave Macmillan open access books have all been published under CC BY without exception, but other licenses are available on request.

Open access must not come at the expense of quality

Authors choosing where to publish their long-form research should continue to make that decision based on which publishers they judge to be best placed to guarantee the greatest reach for their work. Publishers have a commitment to offer the same high-quality standards of peer review, production and dissemination as they would for any other titles.

In summary

There will be, and should continue to be, more open access monographs published, benefiting authors, readers and society at large. There needs to be further experimentation to develop sustainable publication models. The current environment is uncertain and authors and publishers need to communicate clearly to address concerns and grow confidence.

Publishers need to continue to deliver to the high standards their authors expect of them, and funders should make funds available for book publication charges.

Researcher attitudes towards open access suggest that in HSS we will see a further uptake of open access publication over time, which can only mean greater readership for HSS research.


This is another entry in our series of more than 30 "Five-Minute Manifestos" for The Future of the Book Business. In his article Those magnificent manifestos, The Bookseller editor Philip Jones revisited his call for the FutureBook community to reflect on five years of the digital dynamic, "to challenge the customs we have begun to adopt." The response has been robust, and we thank all our manifesto writers. See their articles here.

We're happy to announce that Emma Barnes and Alastair Horne have been chosen to present their manifestos at the FutureBook Conference.

Their presentations are two high points in an engaging range of perspectives from many parts of the industry.

  • Please plan to join us on 4th December at The Mermaid in London for the fifth-anniversary FutureBook Conference
  • And bookings now are going very fast for our inaugural Author Day (#AuthorDay) in central London, 30th November, the kick-off to a week of #FutureBook15 events.

As we add more in this series, our most recently published #FutureBook15 manifestos are:

Main image - iStockphoto: Mark Kabakov