The Pilot

OAPEN-UK matched pairs pilot report

The report outlines the main findings of the pilot which ran from September 2011 – August 2014 and attempted to understand – broadly speaking – what happens when you make a book available in open access. This covers the effect on sales and usage of the book, but also how publishers and their supply chains are affected when trying to make an open access monograph available. Five publishers submitted pairs of titles to the pilot, matched as closely as possible on a number of areas. The project team randomly selected one title from each pair to be made open access, and the other title was used as a control. A sixth publisher joined the project in September 2013.

The experiment was designed to operate in the real world. It tells us about what happens when you try to make a book open access in a system which is designed to sell, and where open access publishing is a very small proportion of overall business. The results are therefore time-limited. It is unlikely that we would find the same results in a system where open access for monographs was a bigger proportion of overall business; where it was familiar to publishers and users (both individuals and libraries) and where systems and services were designed to accommodate its needs.

The real-world environment for monograph publishing meant that it would be impossible to collect the data we would need to undertake meaningful statistical analysis of the two groups with the sample sizes available to us; nor would we ever be able to control for all the variables within the project. This report therefore presents descriptive data from the experiment, and also reflects upon what the publishers have learned from their participation; in particular, we share some lessons for other publishers who might be considering an open access monograph publication stream. Readers seeking statistical analysis could look at the results of the OAPEN-NL project, which learned from many of the challenges faced by OAPEN-UK.