MIT Press Leads Scholarly Publishing Shift With Open-Access Model


The COVID-19 pandemic catalyzed a digital revolution across industries, pushing for the digitization of various forms of content, from e-books to online courses.

In the realm of scholarly publishing, this transformation has been particularly notable, with a significant shift towards making journal articles and books available in digital formats. Leading this charge is the MIT Press, one of the largest university presses, with its innovative open-access model, Direct to Open (D20).

MIT Press Leads Scholarly Publishing Shift with Open-Access Model

(Photo : PEXELS / Pixabay)

How D20 Works and Its Impact

Launched in 2021, D20 was conceived with a simple yet powerful goal: to increase access and visibility for MIT Press's books. The model has proven highly successful, with a recent report indicating that open-access books in the humanities and social sciences were used nearly four times more often than their paywalled counterparts, receiving 21% more citations. For STEM fields, the numbers are equally impressive, with open-access books being used nearly three times more often and receiving 15% more citations.

Amy Harris, senior manager of library relations and sales at MIT Press, highlighted the transformative nature of D20, stating, "Instead of this sad narrative that library sales are down and monographs are only read in ivory towers, this is finding a way to make the money work, to make sure these works are open to the world."

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The Evolution of Scholarly Publishing: Challenges and Opportunities

MIT Press's approach represents a significant departure from traditional scholarly publishing models. Rather than libraries purchasing collections of paywalled books, they now fund the open-access model before publication. Universities pay a flat rate based on their size, with the largest libraries paying roughly $83 per new, open-access title, while the smallest pay about $21.

If MIT Press receives sufficient funding, the collection is published under a digital, open-access model. If not, the university presses receive their money back, and the collection is published in the traditional hardcopy format. This innovative approach not only democratizes access to scholarly works but also ensures that the model is sustainable.

Expanding Access and Impact

MIT Press's initiative has not only revolutionized scholarly publishing but has also inspired similar efforts across the industry. Other presses, such as Athabasca University Press and Bloomsbury Academic, have adopted modified versions of the MIT Press model, further expanding access to scholarly works.

While the D20 program has been lauded for its altruistic goals, challenges remain. Many university presses lack the digital infrastructure and sales teams required to implement such models effectively. Additionally, there is a growing focus on digitizing journal articles, which may overshadow efforts to promote open-access books.

Looking Ahead: The Future of Open Access

Despite these challenges, there is a sense of optimism regarding the future of open access in scholarly publishing. Harris observed a significant shift among younger generations towards supporting open access. They view it as an effective means to increase citations, create influence, extend reach beyond academic circles, and connect with policymakers. Harris believes this trend is only in its early stages.

MIT Press's D20 model represents a significant step forward in the evolution of scholarly publishing. By prioritizing accessibility and impact, MIT Press has not only transformed its own publishing practices but has also set a precedent for the industry at large. As the demand for open access continues to grow, it is clear that models like D20 will play a crucial role in shaping the future of scholarly communication.

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