The OA effect on scholarly books

Springer Nature report demonstrates positive impact of OA on usage and citation.

This report presents a comparative analysis of usage data for OA and non-OA scholarly books, and provides an informed view of how a book benefits from OA publication.

It also highlights the challenges involved in measuring the impact of OA on scholarly books and suggests that there is much to do across the whole scholarly communications network in supporting authors and their funders. 

The report finds that increased visibility and a wider dissemination of research are the most popular motivations behind both publishing and funding OA books. There is widespread agreement that readers should not only be able to read publicly-funded research, but should also have equal access to knowledge.

The report finds that scholarly books published OA are:

  • Downloaded seven times more than the average non-OA book
  • Cited 50% more than non-OA books over a four-year period
  • Mentioned online ten times more often than non-OA books over a three-year period

Interviewed authors state that a benefit of OA is the ease in sharing books via direct links to encourage a wider readership, especially in regions where readers would not be able to afford a traditional print edition of the book.

Both authors and funders acknowledged feeling insufficiently informed about the implications of publishing books OA, and about how to measure impact, despite bibliometrics tools being at their disposal. There is a clear need for publishers to better communicate the effect of OA on their books.

The report finds a positive correlation between OA books and higher downloads, but acknowledges that causation cannot conclusively be proved. OA is a relatively new business model for books, and there is at this stage insufficient data to give a complete overview of an OA book’s life. As books have a much longer lifespan than scientific articles, and because citations build up over time, it is not possible to say what the definitive trends are, such as when the overall citation and usage peaks occur during an OA book’s entire lifespan, until further research and analysis has been carried out.

The report can be downloaded here.

The report also features an infographic summarising the major finding of the report.

A sample of 216 Springer Nature OA books and 17,124 non-OA books was included in the download analysis (using SpringerLink data), and 184 OA books and 14,357 non-OA books in the citations and mentions analysis (using data from Bookmetrix). The report also contains qualitative analysis from authors and funders.