Friday 31 January 2014

Is Open Access Harming Book Sales?

(Image: The Guardian)
A common concern over Open Access book publishing is that it harms book sales, with potential buyers simply opting to read the content online for free rather than actually purchasing a physical copy.

In answer to this concern, in October 2013, the OAPEN Foundation published a study on the effect of Open Access on the sale of academic monographs in the Netherlands. The project was supported by the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research and was undertaken in collaboration with nine academic publishers.

The OAPEN-NL report found no evidence that Open Access has an impact on monograph sales. Indeed, books with Open Access had similar sales to those without Open Access in the experiment's control group. There was, however, a clear effect on online accessibility. By making books available online, the study showed that average book discovery through Google Books increased by 142% and that full-text usage (in terms of Google Books page views) increased by 209%. On average, each e-book within the study attracted 144 sales as against 2800 downloads.

The report also makes several recommendations for different groups including authors, funders, publishers and libraries on how to improve Open Access for monographs.

The full OAPEN-NL report can be found online.

Neil Waghorn
Steve Smith

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