As regular readers of this blog will know, in 2019 the Center for Engaged Learning launched a brand-new initiative – the Open Access Book Series. We became part of the global movement to make research free and accessible to everyone, and we are so proud that Elon University has committed to funding high-quality books that explore learning and teaching in higher education.

As part of our series on the academic book publishing process, this post will explain what open access is and why CEL is pursuing it, as well as why you might want to consider publishing in our open access series.

What is open access?

Open access (OA) “is the free, immediate, online availability of research articles coupled with the rights to use these articles fully in the digital environment. Open Access ensures that anyone can access and use these results—to turn ideas into industries and breakthroughs into better lives” (SPARQ, n.d.). Our current systems for publishing research are still based on a print model, even though most research is now disseminated digitally. Most research is funded by governments and public institutions; researchers carry out their studies and write up the results without any expectation of being compensated. These same researchers act as editors and peer reviewers (again, without compensation). Then researchers and their institutions have to pay again to access the findings.

Even though research is largely produced with public dollars by researchers who share it freely, the results are hidden behind technical, legal, and financial barriers. These artificial barriers are maintained by legacy publishers and restrict access to a small fraction of users, locking out most of the world’s population and preventing the use of new research techniques.

(SPARQ, n.d.)

Open access has grown rapidly in the last twenty years. The Open Access Scholarly Publishers Association (OASPA) tracks the number of articles published with a CC-BY license, and they’ve found that almost 1.4 million articles were published during the period of 2000-2018 (Redhead 2019).

A 2019 report on OA monograph publishing (The State of Open Monographs) reports that book publishers are slowly beginning to adopt open access models, though not as quickly as journal article publishers (Grimme et al. 2019). The report describes several new open access book publishers and initiatives in Europe and North America that are changing the landscape of OA books. DOAB, the Database of Open Access Books, is a searchable index of open access monographs.

All open access publishers break with the traditional subscription-based model of academic publishing, but there are varying levels of open access. Three open access organizations (SPARQ, PLOS, and OASPA) published a guide called “How Open Is It,” which shows this spectrum, based on reader rights, reuse rights, copyright, posting, and machine readability.

Often these levels of open access are identified by the following types, depending on the funding model used:

  • Green – The manuscript (or a preprint) is made available in a repository; the final work can only be accessed with a subscription or through other fees.
  • Gold – The final article or work is made available for free; often this type of publication is funded by APCs (article processing charges), fees the authors or their institutions must pay.
  • Diamond – Complete open access publishing, free of fees for readers and authors. This type of open access is generally funded by institutions and governments.

The Open Access Academy identifies several additional types of open access, but these are the most common.

Why publish your work in CEL’s Open Access Book Series?

  1. It’s a great deal for you! Many open access publishers will offset some of the (quite substantial) costs of editing, producing, and hosting their books by charging fees to authors. However, we follow the rare diamond model of publishing, which means there is no APC, or fee, for our authors or their institutions. Elon University has committed to funding this initiative, as part of their mission to further excellent learning and teaching in higher education.
  2. Our books are freely accessible to a global audience. The books in our series are free to download from our website, and our analytics show that many scholars around the world are engaging with our books. Studies have shown that open access works are used and cited more frequently than traditionally published works (Piwowar et al. 2018; SPARC Europe 2016).
Map of the world with countries highlighted where people have accessed one of our open access books.

  1. We’re pushing the boundaries of traditional publishing about teaching and learning. Our open access books often experiment with genre or take advantage of the online format in unique ways. If your work doesn’t quite fit within the (rather strict) expectations of many journals and publishers, our series may be the perfect home for it!
  1. You’ll become part of the growing movement to liberate research from its paywalls, gifting your work to all scholars to be read, discussed, expanded upon, and acted upon. Your research makes a difference in the lives of students and teachers; make sure that anyone can engage with it.

We are now taking proposals for new books in the Center for Engaged Learning Open Access Book Series. Read more about the series and view the submission guidelines. If you have any questions, please contact me at

If you missed any of the other posts in our series on academic book publishing, check them out!


Grimme, Sara, Cathy Holland, Peter Potter, Mike Taylor, and Charles Watkinson. 2019. The State of Open Access Monographs: An Analysis of the Open Access Monograph Landscape and Its Integration into the Digital Scholarly Network. London: Digital Science.

Open Access Academy. n.d. “Types of Open Access.” Accessed November 25, 2020.

Piwowar, Heather, Jason Priem, Vincent Lariviére, Juan Pablo Alperin, Lisa Matthias, Bree Norlander, Ashley Farley, Jevin West, and Stefanie Haustein. 2018. “The State of OA: A Large-Scale Analysis of the Prevalence and Impact of Open Access Articles.” PeerJ 6: e4375.

Redhead, Claire. 2019. “Rate of Growth for CC BY Articles in Fully-OA Journals Continues for OASPA Members.” OASPA (blog). July 3, 2019.

SPARQ. n.d. “Open Access.” Accessed November 25, 2020.

SPARC Europe. 2016. “The Open Access Citation Advantage Service.”

Jennie Goforth is the Center for Engaged Learning’s Managing Editor. She works with authors to shepherd their work from proposal through production in the Center’s Open Access Book Series. She also manages production of book websites and supplemental materials for the Stylus Publishing/Center for Engaged Learning Series on Engaged Learning and Teaching.

How to cite this post:

Goforth, Jennie. 2020, December 1. “Academic Book Publishing: Why Publish Open Access?” [Blog Post]. Retrieved from