More Readers in More Places: The benefits of open access for scholarly books
Open access to scholarly contents has grown substantially in recent years. This includes the number of books published open access online. However, there is limited study on how usage patterns (via downloads, citations and web visibility) of these books may differ from their closed counterparts. Such information is not only important for book publishers, but also for researchers in disciplines where books are the norm. This article reports on findings from comparing samples of books published by Springer Nature to shed light on differences in usage patterns across open access and closed books. The study includes a selection of 281 open access books and a sample of 3,653 closed books (drawn from 21,059 closed books using stratified random sampling). The books are stratified by combinations of book type, discipline and year of publication to enable likewise comparisons within each stratum and to maximise statistical power of the sample. The results show higher geographic diversity of usage, higher numbers of downloads and more citations for open access books across all strata. Importantly, open access books have increased access and usage for traditionally under-served populations.