skip to content


Open Access and Monographs

In July 2018 the Universities UK Open Access Monographs working group released a report providing "an overview of the OA landscape for monographs, significant publishing activities, and recent reports that provide an insight into the transition to OA for academic books" (p. 1). Some headline findings are as follows:

  • The monograph holds a significant place in disciplines related to the arts and humanities, with scholars reporting that it is 'important' or 'very important' to publish an academic book.
  • Figures show that academic books that are made OA are more accessed than those that are not.

  • Contrary to journal articles, the transition to OA for monographs is happening at a rapid rate, with new innovative models emerging every year.

  • The movement towards OA for academic books is a global trend, with the USA, Australia and mainland Europe currently experimenting with various models.

  • The cost of OA for monographs can vary greatly from publisher to publisher, as are other (non-open access) charges. 

  • There are a number of challenges that exist around OA for monographs, including financial costs and issues around third-party copyright. There is a need for an open dialogue with key stakeholders to consider how these challenges can be addressed. 

Monographs and Open Access

HEFCE released the Monographs and Open Access report by Geoffrey Crossik in January 2015. The main findings of the report are as follows:

  • Monographs are a vitally important and distinctive vehicle for research communication, and must be sustained in any moves to open access. The availability of printed books alongside the open-access versions will be essential.

  • Contrary to many perceptions, it would not be appropriate to talk of a crisis of the monograph; this does not mean that monographs are not facing challenges, but the arguments for open access would appear to be for broader and more positive reasons than solving some supposed crisis.

  • Open access offers both short- and long-term advantages for monograph publication and use; many of these are bound up with a transition to digital publishing that has not been at the same speed as that for journals.

  • There is no single dominant emerging business model for supporting open-access publishing of monographs; a range of approaches will coexist for some time and it is unlikely that any single model will emerge as dominant. Policies will therefore need to be flexible.

Open access journals in the humanities and social science

The Royal Society published “Open access journals in the humanities and social science” on 17 April 2014

Some of the findings covered:

  • Research Councils compliance in the humanities and social sciences - While monographs are important in most of the Humanities and much less in many of the Social Sciences, journal articles are overwhelmingly dominant in some of the Social Sciences, notably Economics, Geography and Psychology, whereas they are of minor importance in Art and Design. The current rules for Research Councils grant-funded publication, by contrast, at present make non-UK journal publishing in the Humanities as a whole very difficult, and in literature/art/music-based disciplines almost impossible. This has serious dangers for the international standing of UK research in the Humanities, and we urge that these figures be properly taken into account in Research Council’s 2014 independent review.
  • Half lives - The project analysed usage (download-based) half-lives for eleven of our twelve disciplines. Usage half-lives do not vary very widely across HSS disciplines. The highest discipline figure was 56 months, the lowest 37, and most were between 40 and 50 months. The boundary does not lie between STEM and HSS; rather, it lies between HSS plus Physical Sciences on one side and Medicine on the other.

  • Library acquisition policies and the cost of publishing - The project found that libraries for the most part thought that embargoes for author-accepted manuscripts had little effect on their acquisition policies. If journal prices are unsustainable in library budgets, then there either have to be fewer journals or else journals have to be cheaper.

Knowledge Unlatched report

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)


OAPEN-UK - open access scholarly monographs in the humanities and social sciences (HSS) is a JISC Collections project focusing on open access scholarly monographs in the humanities and social sciences (HSS). The AHRC is supporting JISC Collections through funding and support specifically in relation to humanities monographs.The project is linked to the Open Access Publishing in European Networks (OAPEN) project. OAPEN-UK is attempting to determine whether OA titles achieve more usage and more sales than print titles. The project commenced in October 2010 and is due to run until summer 2015. Funded by JISC and the AHRC, OAPEN-UK is an innovative and highly consultative project – working in an area where little research exists and connecting with all the key stakeholders to identify and discuss concerns, challenges, perceptions and opportunities related to a transition to open access monographs. OAPEN-UK recognises that open access will require changes to current working practice as well as cultural change and that resistance to change is inevitable. By working with each stakeholder and sharing findings between stakeholders, the project promotes understanding and knowledge and enables stakeholders to make informed decisions based on evidence, rather than assumptions.


Cost estimates of an open access mandate for monographs in the UK's third Research Excellence Framework, Eve, M.P., Inglis, K., Prosser, D., Speicher, L., & Stone, G. (2017), Insights, 30(3), 89-102.

Guide to open access monograph publishing for arts, humanities and social science researchers, OAPEN-UK, August 2015. Available to donwload as a pdf, read on screen or order a free print copy.

"Open Access in the Humanities: Context, Controversies and the Future", Martin Paul Eve, CUP, November 2014  

The March 2014 (Volume 27 Issue 01) of Insights: The UKSG journal contains a Supplement on Open Access Monographs.

Publishers explore OA monograph models”, Research Information (15 August 2013)

Open access monographs in the humanities and social sciences conference“, hosted by Jisc Collections and OAPEN at the British Library, (1-2 July 2013)

On the Status of Open Access Monographs”, Mercedes Bunz (2 July 2013)

Innovative approaches to publishing open access monographs” Jisc Inform (Summer 2013), Issue 37

Open Research Newsletter sign-up

Please contact us at to be added to the mailing list to receive our quarterly e-Newsletter.

The Office of Scholarly Communication sends this Newsletter to its subscribers in order to disseminate information relevant to open access, research data management, scholarly communication and open research topics. For details on how the personal information you enter here is used, please see our privacy policy