The benefits of publishing research open access are numerous and well-known. Allowing a paper to be available to all can increase citation rates and drive public engagement. But is the same effect seen when the open access model is applied to academic books? Springer Nature has published over 400 freely available books on their SpringerLink platform. In a recent press release, the publisher announced results of a major comparative analysis which demonstrated that the ‘open access effect’ appears to be real for scholarly books as well.
The analysis compared usage data of a selection of books that were open access with those that were not. This revealed that for open access books, there were seven times more chapter downloads, 50% more citations and ten times more online mentions than for books that were not freely available. Authors and funders were also interviewed to investigate their motivations for publishing their books open access and their experiences in doing so. Their responses suggested that publishers may need to do more to communicate the effects of open access to these groups.
This research suggests a positive open access effect for academic books. However, Springer Nature acknowledges that, as this model has only relatively recently been applied to books, further research is needed to determine trends over a longer time span.