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Business model: Freemium

Because under the open access model the reader can obtain the work for free, costs need to be covered in different ways. Many of the new initiatives offer a basic service where the monograph is available free online, but a premium is charged for advanced features and functionality.

This model is called Freemium, invented by OpenEdition. OpenEdition Freemium is an innovation in the domain of open-access academic publishing. It is based on a hybrid economic model combining open-access to information and paid services generating income for the producers of its resources.

Libraries and publishers fund the project to create a sustainable alliance to promote open-access in the humanities and social sciences. Two-thirds of income is allocated to those journals and partner publishers who adopt the freemium model. The other third enables us to develop the platform. All income created by OpenEdition Freemium is then reinvested in the development of open-access academic publishing.

Business model: crowdsourcing

Crowdsourcing is the practice of obtaining needed services, ideas, or content by soliciting contributions from a large group of people. This is usually from an online community, rather than from traditional employees or suppliers.

In the social sciences and humanities sphere the most widely known is kickstarter which sources funds for popular culture projects including books. The books may be print, online, audio or delivered in a variety of formats. While not all are made available openly they have a large following and have tapped into a significant market.

One crowdfunding e-book platform is which works with the publisher to agree a price at which a digital edition of the monograph will be published open access.

Innovative crowdsourcing for funding of research such as Petridish are likely to produce open access research outputs including monographs.

Business model: Library funded

The basic concept behind Knowledge Unlatched is a consortium where groups of libraries contribute to fund the publication of open access books. By sharing the cost the libraries also share the risk. The consortium pays a fixed upfront fee which the publisher incurs pays for the publisher to publish the book online under a Creative Commons license. Publishers are able to create enhanced versions of the books for sale. The cost to each library for a book depends on the size of the consortium. 

Cambridge University Library was participant in the Knowledge Unlatched pilot. The Knowledge Unlatched model depends on many libraries from around the world sharing the payment of a single Title Fee to a publisher, in return for a book being made available on a Creative Commons licence via OAPEN and HathiTrust as a fully downloadable PDF.The Title Fee represents the basic cost of publishing a book. Because the Title Fee is a fixed amount, as more libraries participate in Knowledge Unlatched, the per-library cost of ‘unlatching’ each title declines. Access to the Title Fee allows publishers to feel confident that they will not make a loss on a title if it is made Open Access. Publishers are willing to provide libraries with discounts and make books available on Open Access licences if they can be assured that their core costs will be covered. Once it has reached scale, this model is expected to be financially self-sustaining: the costs of operating Knowledge Unlatched will be covered by a very small percentage of each Title Fee.

During the Pilot, Knowledge Unlatched worked to secure pledges from more than 200 libraries in order to unlatch a collection of 28 front-list titles from 13 recognised scholarly publishers. Publishers agreed to recognise print and eBook purchases made by libraries during the Pilot as a contribution towards the Title Fee. As a result, if a library purchased a print or eBook copy of any of the titles included in the Pilot Collection, they were not asked to pay an unlatching fee for that title. The Pilot Collection consists of 28 new books from 13 recognised scholarly publishers. Full details of the books included in the Pilot Collection are available here. With 250 libraries participating, each book cost USD $50 per library. According to one Knowledge Unlatched tweet: ‘Almost 30k downloads of KU titles, average download of each book 1058!’

The report ‘Knowledge Unlatched: A Global Library Consortium Model for Funding Open Access Scholarly Books. Full Report on the Proof-of-Concept Pilot 2014’ Cultural Science Journal (Vol 7, No 2, 2014). provides information about the pilot between January 2012 and September 2014. 

Dr Frances Pinter explains the concept of Knowledge Unlatched in a You Tube clip “Libraries, Publishers, Consortia” – (8 mins)

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