Cambridge University Press is trialling a pilot Open Access scheme that it said will "turn conventional publishing models on their head" by making academic monographs that sell the most copies available online for free.
The pilot, Flip it Open, will see monographs published and sold through normal channels, primarily to academic institutions and libraries. But once a title meets a set amount of revenue, CUP said it will make it available online for free. When the monograph reaches Open Access status, CUP will also publish it in an affordable paperback edition. Both the digital and the paperback editions will contain a page thanking those institutions that bought the book to "flip" it to OA.
Twenty-five books will be made available in the pilot, across classics, politics and history. Those that are flipped to OA will be available through Cambridge Core, the press' journals and books online platfrom.
CUP director of books publishing Ben Denne said: “Publishers have historically been most proprietorial about their most popular and most-used titles, in order to protect their revenues. We are saying that those sought-after titles are the books that should be freely available first, because they are the ones that most people are likely to want to access.
“We want to find a model which is more fundamentally geared towards demand. By making selective books OA directly in response to their being purchased, we are flipping the traditional publishing model upside down.”
Denne said that Flip it Open removes the need for authors or their funders to pay an upfront fee or processing charge to cover the cost of publishing a book OA, which heavily favours certain subjects and author affiliations. Therefore, he argued, the new model can be "something fairer and more inclusive".
Denne added: “We passionately believe in the OA principles of availability, inclusivity and dissemination. They chime perfectly with our own mission and that of our university. The challenge is to ensure any move to OA is sustainable and allows us to continue investing in high quality content. The OA movement started with academic research journals, and books are still catching up, with funding scattered, complex and not always clearly understood. This initiative is an attempt to see if we can offer a solution that provides revenue for publishers and a simple route to OA for authors across the globe and in all fields of study."
The launch list includes Khalid Mustafa Medani's Black Markets and Militants, Lorenza Gazzotti's Immigration Nation, Bright Nkrumah's Seeking the Right to Food and Katrina F McNally’s Representing the Disadvantaged. Flip it Open will be featured on the CUP virtual stand at this year’s online London Book Fair.