Oxford University Press's
Academic Insights for the Thinking World

Alternative access models in academic publishing

Disseminating scholarship is at the heart of the Oxford University Press mission and much of academic publishing. It drives every part of publishing strategy—from content acquisition to sales. What happens, though, when a student, researcher, or general reader discovers content that they don’t have access to?

For example, while a majority of Oxford Handbook Online (OHO) and Oxford Scholarship Online (OSO) users have access through their institutions, not everyone does; sometimes even those who do need to conduct research at home or while on leave, when they aren’t connected to their campus networks. To facilitate such research, Oxford has partnered with the Copyright Clearance Center to begin offering chapters on a pay-per-view basis. Pay-per-view is a well-established business model in journal publishing but is only recently gaining traction for book-based content.

Beginning in October, unauthenticated users of Oxford Handbooks began seeing buy buttons on articles. Clicking the button will allow them to purchase 24-hour access or, for a premium, unlimited perpetual access. And starting in the New Year, just in time for the start of the new term, this option will be available at the chapter level in Oxford Scholarship Online.

As with any change, we didn’t take this lightly. Oxford, like any other publisher, needed to fully weigh the risks against the benefits. Our partnership with the Copyright Clearance Center is focused on expanding access while maintaining our robust global institutional partnerships. The benefits were clear from the start: allowing more users to access our content—from any device at any hour of the day—and in a multitude of currencies. A student rushing to finish a paper at the end of the term or a researcher away from her library can have full access to the best scholarship with just a few clicks and a credit card. They can cite with confidence.

With just a few months under our belt, the early results are incredibly encouraging. Customers from around the globe are accessing award-winning content—some for just 24 hours, others choosing to retain the article in perpetuity. We’re working with these users throughout to learn more—from their geographical location to the ease of the transaction. All of this feedback helps us further develop this new access model, our platform, and the overall user experience. Over the next year, we will further experiment with discounting, personalization, and recommendations to make the most of this important project.

In the end, we hope to have learned great deal about getting the best research into the hands—and minds—of as many users as possible. That, after all, is our mission.


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