The last few years have seen a flurry of new OA business models across both journals and books, including twists on existing models and combinations of models. Delta Think tracks these models and continually updates definitions and example links for subscribers to our Open Access Data & Analytics Tool (OADAT).

It’s a time of experimentation, and most models are still too new to assess data on sustainability. Still, funders (like those in cOAlition S) and assessment bodies (like the UK Research Excellence Framework) are moving forward with requirements that scholarly content be made available with open licenses or in accessible repositories. For publishers who may have only recently implemented their first Open Access offerings, the possibilities of when (or whether) to move to entirely open content might seem overwhelming.

Where to start?

Publishers should start with their own data. Some disciplines are further along the open access path than others. This may be due to funder requirements or author appetite for publishing open. Differences across a portfolio might be striking with some subfields more interested in OA licenses and others less reliant upon government or philanthropic funding. Data about your current state of OA publishing and author enthusiasm/interest in OA uptake can help establish a baseline. Data about comparable publishers or journals and their OA output can help to determine where your publications sit in the marketplace and how to price or update an APC model if that is an attractive pathway.

Publishers should consider their OA publication strategy within the context of their overall strategy.

Gathering baseline information:

  • What models are currently in place and how well are they performing?
  • What does the current subscriber base look like, from types of subscribers to geographic location?
  • What are the usage patterns for the current content?
  • What is the appetite for OA among authors (and their funders)? How might this be changing?

Practical questions:

  • How will a shift to OA affect revenue moving forward?
  • What staff resources are available to support the transition?
  • Is there a backlist and will it continue to be provided under a subscription or license option?
  • What is the size of the frontlist in proportion to the backlist?
  • What administrative burden might a new model bring to bear on the publisher? On the customers?

Big picture questions:

  • What are the challenges and opportunities for shifting to OA?
  • What role will diversity, equity, and inclusion play?

We’re also looking closely at how these issues impact libraries and research institutions, but that is a topic for another day.

Making sense of what’s out there

Whether you’ve been following OA developments since the outset or you are new to the space, there are a lot of things to track. Within publishers, teams touch the OA workflow at different points. Editorial colleagues may be more focused on working with Editorial Boards and authors who have knowledge mainly of how OA affects funder requirements and payment of APCs. Production teams, working closely with vendors, want to ensure that information on funding and license options are visible and accurate. Marketing teams want to promote new strategies and new partners to increase submissions and author uptake. Sales might now be selling new discount or membership models, transformative agreements, and more. From their standpoint, making things as simple as possible for institutional administrators may be a top priority.

Subscribers to our OA Data & Analytics Tool (OADAT) rely on its dynamic and interactive elements to customize their inquiries, but sections of the tool also track OA business models, definitions, and examples. Moving forward we want to make it easy for subscribers to utilize templates to augment with their own organizational details to onboard new colleagues or share contextual information with internal stakeholders.

Some new(er) models to consider for books and journals

Direct to Open

Being developed by MIT Press, and designed by Raym Crow, Direct to Open (D2O) will open collections of the Press’s frontlist monographs contingent on specific financial targets being reached. Direct to Open is similar to Subscribe to Open (S2O) in that institutions that commit to supporting the frontlist gain term access to substantial collections of gated backlist titles, even if the open frontlist offer fails. Unlike S2O, Direct to Open is a collective funding approach, and the support fees will be reduced if more institutions participate. Titles are available in HSS and STEAM packages. MIT intends to make its model freely available for other presses to adapt.

In January 2022, MIT released a white paper on the program and announced that it had hit 55% of its participation target (180+ libraries). Some of the success criteria for D2O detailed in the report include it being “economically sufficient for all press monographs”; that it integrates with “current editorial processes” along with existing distribution platforms for both online and print; inclusive and equitable; and “replicable by other presses.” The report provides extensive information on financial modeling, as well as contextual information about other OA book models.

Flip It Open

Announced in the summer of 2021, Cambridge University Press (CUP) added Flip It Open to their OA book offerings. CUP committed to make 28 titles available as OA books once they have met “a set revenue threshold.” Aware from the outset that the titles could become open, libraries pay to receive the titles early and to fund a wider good for the community. Once the threshold is met, CUP will release paperback versions of the titles, acknowledging there (and in the digital version) the libraries that contributed towards the opening of the title.

This experiment, which is not proposed to replace other OA models nor to scale to cover all CUP books, is “more fundamentally geared towards demand.” In contrast to trends where publishers might exclude their more popular or best-selling titles from special arrangements, Flip It Open is a way to make those high-demand titles freely available more quickly.

Read, Publish + Join

While Read + Publish or Publish + Read agreements may be familiar (if somewhat confusing) to readers, in 2020 the American Physiological Association added a new element to the mix, announcing their Read, Publish + Join model. Combining reading and publishing for a participating institution, this offering also provides authors with a one year membership to the society.

In a time when some membership organizations may struggle to appeal to early career researchers, this model connects them “to the Society’s multidisciplinary community of scientists and educators from around the world, driving collaboration and spotlighting scientific discoveries in physiology.” It provides an opportunity for institutions to both bolster the professional development of their own researchers and demonstrate support for professional societies.

Pay to Close

Not to be confused with closed or toll access content, Liberate Science announced in December 2021, in conjunction with the release of their Research Equals incremental publication platform, a model they call Pay to Close. With the goal of providing more equitable access to researchers around the world, Pay to Close would provide 0 cost APCs to those publishing with the most permissive licenses, CC 0 or CC-BY, with increasing APC costs for more restrictive licenses up to and including All Rights Reserved. The resulting articles would all be free to read, regardless of the license selected.

Experimentation will continue

Staying abreast of newer models can take a significant amount of time. Tracking progress of these models over time will require care and attention. How will researchers respond? How might libraries be more involved? What mandates will come (or change) in the near future? In addition, the spirit of open is rapidly moving beyond published research to include efforts around open infrastructure, open code, and open data. Monitoring these projects and considering the resulting data is a key part of what we do in the OADAT and in the News & Views. Please help us to make the tool and associated program more useful to you by letting us know the key data questions your organization is considering and the types of data you rely upon to make critical business decisions.

This article is © 2022 Delta Think, Inc. It is published under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License. Please do get in touch if you want to use it in other contexts – we’re usually pretty accommodating.


NERL and Elsevier Continue Agreement and Develop Open Access Pilot – February 3, 2022

“The deal provides 13 of the NERL member institutions with ScienceDirect access and pilots retroactive open access (OA) for participating institutions’ authors. In 2021, a project team of NERL and Elsevier representatives established the agreement terms to ensure continued access to Elsevier’s journals and support the NERL core values(link is external) of transparency, sustainability, equity, reproducibility, and flexibility.”

A Fork in the Road: OA Books and Visibility-Value in the Humanities – January 26, 2022

“What we see emerging at this time, as a result, is a dual system in which all scientific research will be available to anyone to read, free of charge, while the most significant work in the humanities and social sciences will remain extremely expensive and less visible in the digital world.”

Founding Journal Microbiology Announces Open Access Transformation in its 75th Year – January 25, 2022

“As the Microbiology Society’s founding journal, Microbiology, begins its milestone 75th year,  the Council of the Microbiology Society is delighted to announce that Microbiology will be the first in the Society’s journal portfolio to transition from a hybrid model to fully Open Access. The transition to Gold Open Access will happen in 2023.”

MIT Press Announces Release of White Paper on its Open Monograph Model – January 19, 2022

“The MIT Press Open Monograph Model: Direct to Open, a new white paper published by Chain Bridge Group and the MIT Press, describes a collective model for supporting the open dissemination of scholarly monographs. The report examines the context for designing the framework and explains the logic behind the model’s design.”

Who’s Afraid of Green Market Forces and the Rights Retention Strategy? – January 13, 2022

“How to achieve universal open access (OA) to research outputs is the topic of sometimes heated discussion. Major publishers pronounce the superiority of ‘gold’ OA as the ‘only’ sustainable route to full OA… Although cOAlition S values the input and services publishers offer – and some of its funders state a preference for OA via the gold route – they do not support paid gold OA at any price nor to the detriment of content ownership.”


January 12, 2022

F1000 launches GDC Open Reserarch in Latin America

“GDC Difusión Científica has created the GDC Open Research in Latin America Gateway to highlight the work of Latin American researchers, to amplify the impact of their research, and to promote the principles of open science throughout Latin America and beyond.”

January 18, 2022

PLOS Digital Health Publishes First Papers

“PLOS announced the launch of five new journals last year and PLOS Digital Health is the second of these journals with papers ready for publication. The journal’s mission is to drive transformation in the delivery of equitable and unbiased healthcare through ethically conducted, impactful and immediately accessible research.”

February 1, 2022

Health Affairs Introduces Health Affairs Scholar, a New Open Access Journal

“Health Affairs Scholar will be a companion to Health Affairs, providing an additional forum for high quality, peer-reviewed health policy and health services research. Health Affairs Scholar will launch in Fall 2022 as the first new journal under the Health Affairs brand since our founding in 1981.”