In books, the most established model for funding publication of Open Access (OA) titles is still the gold model, in which an author and/or a funder pays an upfront fee known as a Book Processing Charge (BPC). Open publication means the title is freely available for anyone with an internet connection to access and view, wherever they are in the world.
Most Academic publishers currently offer the gold route in one form or another. We offer it ourselves at Cambridge University Press. We have published, to-date, almost 100 books through the Gold OA model and we are very proud of our established Gold Open Access publishing program, which subjects our OA books to exactly the same publishing, vetting, quality control and approval processes as all our other books. We are also keenly aware of the limitations of the model; it is a route to OA, but it cannot be the only route. Funding for Gold OA Books is scattered and complex, is often not well-understood, and inevitably favours certain subjects, author affiliations or book types. We want to launch a program and funding mechanism which is broader, scalable, and very importantly more inclusive and equitable.
All of this has led us to launch our exciting new Open Access books initiative, Flip it Open. We will publish and sell a selection of 25+ books through our regular channels, treating them at the outset in the same way as any other book; they will be part of our library collections for Cambridge Core, as well being sold as hardbacks and ebooks. The one crucial difference is that we are making an upfront commitment that when each of these books meets a set revenue threshold we will make them available to everyone Open Access via Cambridge Core.
At the point where titles go OA, we will also be releasing an affordable paperback edition. Both the digital and paperback new editions will contain a page calling out and thanking the institutions who have bought the book at the outset, thereby funding the flip to Open Access.
We want to find a model which is more fundamentally geared towards demand, and this point is very important. By making selective books OA directly in response to their being purchased, we are flipping the traditional publishing model upside down. Publishers have historically been most proprietorial about their most popular and most-used titles. With our model, we are saying that those sought-after titles are the books that should be freely available first, because they are the ones that most people are likely to want to access.
The model means that libraries know upfront that they are buying a title that might flip, and this is our way of asking our customers, mostly institutional libraries, to become actively involved in the funding to flip them to Open Access. Libraries are paying to get the book early, and to fund a wider program that will benefit them, their customers and the wider Academy directly.
There are a few important things which our program is not. It is not a program in response to any particular government, funder or society mandate. Rather, it is the implementation of the core OA principles of availability, inclusivity and dissemination because we believe in them. It is also not a mechanism for funding all our publishing. We are asking our customers and partners to buy what they would want to buy anyway, in the knowledge that by doing so they will have the additional bonus of helping those books to reach a wider audience.
We have had extremely positive feedback from our library partners, and we very much hope to be in a position to start flipping these books soon. So watch this space, and check in for updates.