A New, Collective Action Open Access Business Model for Scholarly Books
The MIT Press has announced the launch of Direct to Open (D2O). A first-of-its-kind sustainable framework for open access monographs, D2O moves professional and scholarly books from a solely market-based, purchase model where individuals and libraries buy single eBooks, to a collaborative, library-supported open access model.
D2O gives institutions the opportunity to harness collective action to support access to knowledge. Beginning in 2022, all new MIT Press scholarly monographs and edited collections will be openly available on the MIT Press Direct eBook platform. Instead of purchasing a title once for a single collection, libraries now have the opportunity to fund them one time for the world through participant fees.
Amy Brand, director and publisher of the MIT Press, sees the model as a way to increase the impact and accessibility of high-quality scholarship. “Direct to Open brings libraries and the Press together collaboratively, stepping outside market models, to open up our high quality professional and scholarly works. Comprehensive access to OA scholarship will increase the impact of research and contribute to the knowledge-sharing mission of the academy.”
In addition to supporting open access for new scholarly monographs, partner libraries will also gain term access to an archive of gated titles, including classic works from luminaries such as Rosalind Krauss, Daniel Dennett, Noam Chomsky, Paul Krugman, Sherry Turkle, and many more. To keep the model affordable for all institutions, D2O will feature equitable and dynamic participation fees based on library type, size, and collections budget. The MIT Libraries has generously signed on as the special launch sponsor for the program.
“The MIT Press has been a leader in open access publishing for more than two decades, and Direct to Open builds on and extends that legacy with an innovative funding model for book publishing using an equitable and collaborative approach,” says Chris Bourg, director of Libraries at MIT. “The MIT Libraries is pleased to support this approach, which aims to make scholarly monographs open and available to all.”
The D2O pilot program provides an alternative to the traditional market-based business model for professional and scholarly monographs. Until the mid-1990s most U.S. university presses realized sales of 1,500–1,700 units per title, selling just enough copies—largely to academic libraries—to cover both direct and indirect costs. Monograph sales today are typically in the range of 300–500 units. Publishing these works now requires internal subsidy or partial subventions from institutional or philanthropic sources. The Direct to Open model makes the Press’s core mission of curating and disseminating long-form scholarship more sustainable.
“The D2O model is the kind of bold experiment that university presses and research libraries ought to be working on together to shape the emerging academic publishing ecosystem,” notes Greg Eow, president for the Center for Research Libraries and member of the MIT Press Management Board. “D2O represents an opportunity in the current moment to reconstitute institutional relationships among mission aligned organizations, such as university presses and research libraries, to create an open knowledge commons. It is exactly the opportunity libraries should be supporting.”
D2O was developed with the generous support of the Arcadia Fund, a charitable fund of Lisbet Rausing and Peter Baldwin. In the summer of 2021, the Press will release a report on the D2O program that peer institutions can adopt and adapt, with the aim of making it possible for many more scholarly monographs published each year by university and other mission-driven presses to be discovered, accessed, and shared broadly.