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Open Book Collective: Our Organisational Model

Published onSep 02, 2022
Open Book Collective: Our Organisational Model

I. Mission and Principles

The Open Book Collective (OBC) brings together publishers and publisher collectives, publishing service providers and publishing service provider consortia, libraries and library consortia, and other knowledge institutions committed to working together across the landscape of the open knowledge commons to enable a more sustainable future for open-access (OA) book-length and long-form scholarship. What members of the OBC do varies, but what we share is a commitment to building an open knowledge- and resource-sharing ecosystem that will exemplify

  • care for and curation of high-quality open access (OA) academic books;

  • a commitment to bibliodiversity1;

  • collaboration and resource-sharing over competition;

  • networked community-building over profit-driven centralization;

  • horizontal working relationships over exclusive hierarchization;

  • ‘scaling small’ and ‘smaller’ over ‘scaling up’; and

  • growing and safeguarding access to academic books for global readers without barriers.

Our aim is to support the production and dissemination of OA books in a rich diversity of forms, while also being responsive to, as well as driven by, the community of communities2 dedicated to public knowledge and the love of the book. Instead of dominant approaches to organisational growth that tend to flatten community diversity through economies of scale, almost always aimed at ‘scaling up,’ ‘scaling small’ is nurtured here through intentional collaborations between community-driven OA book publishers and open publishing service providers that promote a bibliodiverse ecosystem while also providing resilience through resource sharing and other kinds of collaboration.3

Our further aim is to foster and support sustainable infrastructures that nurture open book publishing ventures at ‘smaller’ to ‘medium’ scales in order to ensure a wider diversity of actors and content in the academic publishing landscape, and to cultivate more spaces where academic book publishing will not be monopolised and gated by a small handful of large for-profit corporations. Ultimately, our work focuses on

  • developing and maintaining strategies and mechanisms whereby OA books are more widely circulated and discovered;

  • ensuring that smaller and medium-scale OA book publishers, e.g., scholar-led presses and new university presses (NUPs), and open publishing service providers are better represented within the knowledge systems curated by research libraries;4 and

  • enabling libraries and other knowledge institutions to have a better ability to discover and evaluate a wide variety of community-led OA presses and open publishing service initiatives that are seeking financial and other support from institutions of higher learning.

II. What the OBC Does

Central to the OBC is its online platform. The platform enables a wide range of potential users to understand what different OA book publishers and other OA book initiatives do and what their missions and values are. It also enables knowledge institutions (including scholarly libraries) to participate in funding these initiatives via various offers and membership packages. In particular, we make it less difficult for various educational and research institutions to learn about and compare different OA book initiatives, to discover and explore the range of OA book content and services they provide, and to see how different initiatives align with their own values, aims, and mission. The platform has a modular architecture that enables libraries and other knowledge institutions to mix and match offers and memberships. Librarians, for example, can select membership programmes tied to publisher collectives, individual publishers, and/or individual publishing service providers (plus various combinations thereof), and they can choose for how long they want to support them. Libraries and other knowledge institutions can create portfolios of initiatives they want to support on an annual or multi-year basis. Rather than focusing funding on individual book titles, or bundles of book titles, the OBC platform sources small contributions from multiple knowledge institutions (including libraries) to create a durable and robust revenue stream to support the operations of OA publishers and open publishing service providers.

Joining the OBC will empower libraries and other knowledge institutions, publishers, and publishing service providers to collaborate on a consortial funding model for OA books in which public resources are gathered from multiple public knowledge institutions to provide open access to a growing body of scholarship for researchers, students, and the public worldwide. This business model encourages university libraries to redirect some of the monies spent on traditional book and ebook purchases toward supporting OA presses and open publishing service providers, thereby further developing and diversifying their own collections and providing better access to them for the general public. The OBC’s business model is distributive: small annual contributions sourced from a network of research institutions across the world form a robust revenue pool that enables an extremely cost-effective method for funding OA books in which no single institution bears a disproportionate cost. As the number of supporting institutions grows, so too can the number of participating initiatives and the number of books published by the OBC without any author-facing charges. By becoming members of the OBC, knowledge institutions (including libraries) enter into a strategic co-ownership of the ongoing evolution of OA publishing and of a new business model that will positively influence how OA book production and dissemination will look in the future.

The OBC also sources funding to help individual OBC members expand their capabilities and operations and to enable the incubation and seed-funding of new, bottom-up OA books initiatives. Through a collective development fund (to which a portion of funding will be devoted), the OBC will provide small grants to assist OA book publishers, open publishing service providers, and other OA book initiatives needing assistance in developing their operations in order to be more sustainable, more able to meet the technical and other standards of the larger open knowledge community, and to also offer innovative services and tools to that community. The OBC will also develop toolkits and other resources that will assist OA publishers and open publishing service providers to further develop and innovate their operations. This will be one means (among others) by which the OBC will enact its mission to broaden the reach and impact of OA initiatives through mutual support, in order to help single OA initiatives to go further than any of them could achieve on their own, thus better ensuring the financial stability and growth of OA book publishing more widely.

III. Who the OBC Is

Members of the OBC will comprise:

  • Born OA presses (and collectives of such) whose entire catalogues are OA, and who either don’t levy Book Processing Charges (BPCs) or are aiming to lessen their reliance on such. OA Presses included in this category could be independent, scholar-led, library-based, and university-based publishers, including New University Publishers (NUPs) as well as more established university publishers, whose entire catalogues of books are OA;

  • Hybrid presses (university-based or not) who have catalogues that combine OA and non-OA books (frontlist and/or backlist) and who want to transition their frontlist to a minimum of 75% OA while also lessening their reliance on BPCs;

  • Open Publishing Service Providers (and collectives of such) who build open infrastructure for repositories, discovery channels, catalogues, indexes, usage metrics, metadata management, preservation, and the like for integrating OA books with global knowledge systems, and who also develop software and platforms for the creation and dissemination of OA books; and

  • Libraries (and consortia of such), Library Membership Organisations,5 and other Knowledge Institutions who have vested interests in growing and helping to sustain the landscape of OA initiatives as part of their commitment to public service-oriented knowledge production and who help to support the publishers and publishing service providers of the OBC.

Membership Criteria

The members of the COPIM project (Community-led Open Publication Infrastructures for Monographs) have set the initial standards and criteria for membership within the OBC, thereafter to be reviewed and revised as necessary by the OBC’s Membership Committee with ratification by the OBC’s Board of Stewards (see sections IV.2 and IV.3 below).

The following criteria serve as initial starting points for membership in the OBC:6

(1) OA Book Publishers & OA Book Publishing Collectives7

  • will follow and adhere to the mission and principles of the OBC (see I. Mission and Principles above);

  • have published at least 2 books (long-form works which include monographs, edited collections, textbooks, critical editions, and more experimental books8);

  • will commit to increasing the proportion of OA books published without BPCs;

  • publish their books under open licences;

  • make all of their books accessible immediately upon publication with no barriers or embargos;

  • have developed protocols for reviewing and developing OA books that support community, care and follow the highest standards for the evaluation of academic books, as agreed upon within research communities, for assessing scholarly content;

  • are dedicated to providing transparency around their mission and values, business model (including costs and revenue for book production and any alternative revenue sources that are available), governance, and any author-facing charges (such as BPCs); and

  • are committed to sharing their knowledge and expertise with the larger community of OA book publishers as a form of mutual support.

(2) OA Hybrid Presses9

  • will follow and adhere to the mission and principles of the OBC (see I. Mission and Principles above);

  • have published at least 10 books (long-form works which include monographs, edited collections, textbooks, critical editions, and experimental books);

  • will provide evidence of their commitment to publishing OA books;

  • will commit to consistently increasing the proportion of OA books published without BPCs;

  • will publish their OA books under open licences;

  • will make their OA books accessible immediately upon publication without barriers or embargos;

  • will provide transparency around their mission and values, governance, and OA business model, including costs and revenue for book production and any alternative revenue sources for producing OA books that are available;

  • will only use the income received through the OBC to fund fully OA books without author-facing charges or embargoes;

  • will commit to transitioning a minimum of 75% of their frontlist catalogue to OA, if not already doing so, and will provide a roadmap for this transition, including business model strategies that would enable a systematic growth in the proportion of OA publications to reach that target (with the understanding that moving toward a frontlist that is 100% OA, if possible, is a shared goal); and

  • are committed to sharing their knowledge and expertise with the larger community of OA book publishers as a form of mutual support.

(3) Open Book Publishing Service Providers10

  • will follow and adhere to the mission and principles of the OBC (see I. Mission and Principles above);

  • are committed to working toward modular, open source infrastructure and/or software solutions that contribute to overcoming the fragmentation of the OA book publishing service provision landscape, including enabling open data exchange and/or facilitating interoperability between alternative and associated infrastructures/software solutions;

  • are dedicated to providing transparency around their mission and values, business model (including costs and revenue sources), ownership, governance, and any fees levied to their users;

  • will be transparent about how OBC funding is used and integrated with other existing revenue streams (e.g. via annual reports);

  • will demonstrate how they support and contribute to​​ good practises of openness regarding scholarly infrastructures, with special attention to the use of open-source software, provision of open data, enabling data availability, and non-assertion of patents .11, 12

  • will guarantee a high level of reliability and availability of the services provided;

  • are invested in furthering open research and innovation around the use/management of information in OA book publishing; and

  • are committed to sharing their knowledge and expertise with the larger community of OA book publishers and publishing service providers as a form of mutual support.

(4) Knowledge Institutions and Their Designated Representatives (including University Libraries, Library Organisations, Research Funders, and Research Performing Organisations)13

  • have financial and values-driven stakes in growing the non-commercial open knowledge commons;

  • support the idea that research financed by public funds is a public good and should be freely and immediately available without charge or unjustified restrictions;

  • are helping to develop OA policies at their institution that include books;

  • want to work together with OA book publishers and publishing service providers to ensure that OA book content is widely discoverable in a variety of discovery and distribution systems;

  • are committed to bibliodiversity, including new or innovative publishing formats, whether digital or print;

  • would like to have the opportunity to participate in the shared governance of the OBC that models collaboration and collectivity with a wide variety of stakeholders in the OA landscape; and

  • are invested in allocating financial and other resources to support the operations of OA book publishers and service providers.

IV. Organisational Relations, Structures, and Responsibilities

Fig. 1. Organisational Relations, Structures and Responsibilities: OBC Members, Custodians (Full and Associate), General Assemby of Custodians
Fig. 2. Organisational Relations, Structures and Responsibilities: General Assembly of Custodians, Board of Stewards


The OBC is incorporated in the UK as a not-for-profit company (limited by guarantee) and we are in the midst of applying for UK Charity Commission registration. Once the OBC has been formally registered as a charity, it will transition into a Charitable Incorporated Organisation (a CIO),14 adopting an Association model15 (instead of a Foundation model), a model for charities that have a wider membership. The OBC has Articles of Association, based on guidance from the UK Charity Commission. As a CIO it will have a constitution, based on guidance from the UK Charity Commission.

Governance Bodies

  • General Assembly of Custodians (GAC) (see Figures 1 and 2, 07);

  • Board of Stewards (BoS), voted on by the GAC (caucus voting model) (see Fig. 2, 09);

  • Membership Committee (MC) (see Fig. 2, 11); and

  • Secretariat (supports the BoS, GAC, and any committees created by the BoS), selected from the OBC Management Team (MT) and reporting to the BoS) (see Fig. 2, 10).

The governance of the OBC will at launch consist of three primary governance bodies, the General Assembly of Custodians (GAC), the Board of Stewards (BoS), and the Membership Committee (MC). Both within the BoS and the MC, decisions made by consensus are preferred over having to vote on matters conducted by these entities. As time goes on, other committees can be formed by the BoS as they deem necessary.


In the terms of the UK Charity Commission, the OBC adopts an ‘Association’ model. As opposed to the ‘Foundation’ model, in which only Trustees can vote, in the ‘Association’ model there is a wider membership which includes voting members other than the Trustees. The OBC defines itself more specifically as a community-led and membership-driven organisation. As such, even while its incorporation as a charity will necessitate having a Board of Trustees (here called Stewards), the OBC’s governance model has been designed to ensure that there is a balance between the rights of the members (here called Custodians) to make decisions, and the Stewards' general responsibility for running the organisation. The OBC Custodians elect the Stewards and can vote on certain binding and non-binding matters. The Stewards are answerable to the Custodians and are elected by them but are given control over the management of the organisation at all other times.

The governance of the OBC has been designed to ensure that the majority of Stewards are selected from the Custodians of the OBC: OA publishers, open service providers, research libraries, and other research performing institutions. In this way the governance of the OBC emphasises a model in which the collective of Custodians are also final decision makers by virtue of their representation on the Board, and therefore the Board of Stewards has supervisory powers that are partly shaped by the Assembly of Custodians it serves. At the same time, since the OA presses and open services providers of the OBC are also its financial beneficiaries, with research library and other knowledge institution members serving as funders, the OBC’s governance model ensures that the OBC is fully responsive to and guided by its funder Custodians as well as by external OA experts selected from the ‘community of communities’ sitting within the larger landscape of scholarly communications. Together, the funders sitting on the Board, along with the OA experts, occupy a majority voting position, which, in addition to the comprehensive Conflict of Interest Policy established for the Board and its committees, enables the OBC to prevent, monitor, and manage actual and potential conflicts of interests that may arise where the interests of a Steward conflict with those of the OBC, to ensure the interests of the OBC are protected at all times. Furthermore, this majority voting position creates a situation whereby the OA initiative beneficiaries will be responsive to the larger community of actors in the OA landscape.

Ultimately, the governance of the OBC has been designed to empower a unique collaborative community of OA creators, libraries (and research performing institutions) with vested interests in growing the landscape of non-proprietary OA initiatives, and OA experts who have deep knowledge in the histories and theories of scholarly communications and open access. The OBC is thus not just a financial intermediary between OA initiatives and funders, but instead is an interdependent and mutually reliant community of persons and organisations, all with vested interests in the transformation of academic book publishing — working together to move the needle toward a fully open public commons, and away from the enclosure of knowledge of traditional proprietary publishing.

Governance and Management

(1) The General Assembly of Custodians (GAC)

The General Assembly will consist of two types of custodians (see Fig. 1, 02 and 03):

  • Full Custodians: members of the OBC who have opted in to being fully involved in the OBC’s governance; and

  • Associate Custodians: members of the OBC who have opted out of being fully involved in the OBC’s governance or individual organisations within collectives that are OBC members (collectives only have one full Custodian allocated to them). Associate Custodians have or retain the right to serve in an advisory capacity within the Assembly of Custodians (meaning they can attend AGMs and cast a vote in non-binding matters and participate in OBC discussions).16

On becoming a member of the OBC, publishers, publishing services providers, and libraries can choose to opt in for a full governance role (at which point they become Full Custodians) or opt out (at which point they become Associate Custodians). Custodians will be allocated into three caucuses during the application process, Publishers, Libraries, and Service Providers (see Fig. 1, 04-06), and will be represented in the OBC by a named individual (proxies can be appointed, see Article 16 of the OBC Articles of Association). Collectives of OA publishers and open services providers will have only one named representative within the OBC, who can choose to be either a Full or Associate Custodian. Full Custodians within each caucus elect two representatives from their ranks to serve on the Board of Stewards (see Fig. 2, 09), according to a set schedule.

Rights and Responsibilities of Full Custodians (see Fig. 1, 02)

  • Attend and fully participate in Annual General Assembly of Custodians (AGACs), including voting where required and contributing to discussions if desired;

  • vote on and/or approve annual activity reports, financial audits and annual financial statements, and any changes to the OBC’s Articles of Association (constitution) (proposed by the Board of Stewards);

  • put forward agenda points to be discussed during an AGAC;

  • elect Stewards to the BoS;

  • can stand for election to become a Steward on the BoS; and

  • can nominate representatives who are willing to serve on the BoS (self-nominations are allowed) on the BoS;

Rights of Associate Custodians (see Fig. 1, 03)

  • Can attend AGACs;

  • participate fully in AGAC discussions; and

  • cast votes on non-binding matters raised for a vote in AGMs.

Annual General Assembly of Custodians (AGAC)

The GAC comes together yearly as part of an Annual General Assembly of Custodians (AGAC) during which they can address, discuss, and vote on issues of concern, put forth in a detailed agenda created by the Board of Stewards that has been provided to the membership at least 14 days in advance. The annual meeting will follow protocols set by Articles 13-20 in the OBC’s Articles of Association. The Board can conduct an annual meeting either synchronously or asynchronously and can do so either via email (asynchronously) or via a video-conferencing platform (synchronously), with open, non-proprietary communication platforms to be favoured over for-profit, commercial platforms. The Custodians can also call a General Meeting of the GAC to discuss and vote on issues of concern of a certain urgency.

(2) The Board of Stewards (BoS)

The BoS (see Fig. 2, 09)is the OBC’s primary management body, and will be made up of 9 members: 2 each elected from the caucuses of publishers (see Fig. 2, 05), libraries (see Fig. 2, 04), and service providers (see Fig. 2, 06) and 3 OA experts (see Fig. 2, 08), nominated by the BoS and Full Custodians and elected by the Full Custodians. The BoS will have a Chair and a Vice Chair elected from its ranks. Librarians and external expert Stewards outnumber the publisher and service provider Stewards on the BoS so as to avoid conflicts of interest since all OA initiatives in the OBC are also financial beneficiaries of the OBC. Full Custodians can be nominated (including self-nominations) to stand for election as a Steward on the BoS. Elections will be staggered: every Steward will sit for a period of 3 years except for the 1st instantiation of the BoS which will have Stewards that sit 1, 2, and 3 years (the initial roster of the BoS will be identified, solicited, and decided by COPIM). These periods of service can be voluntarily extended, but no member of the Board can serve for longer than 9 consecutive years (see Article 25.3 of the OBC’s Articles of Association). When a Board member steps down, they can identify possible replacements (who are willing to serve), but those suggested replacements, alongside other potential candidates, will still be voted on by the Full Custodians. The Board will meet 4 times per year, especially to aid the Membership Committee in making fairly swift decisions about OBC membership applications. These meetings will be conducted either using email (asynchronously) or a video conferencing platform (synchronously – with open, non-proprietary communication platforms to be favoured over for-profit, commercial platforms). The Board can decide in each instance which is the best way to conduct a meeting.

The Board of Stewards will closely supervise the daily operations and management of the OBC and its membership programs, and will deliberate and resolve issues of managerial and other concerns of the OBC. Its primary tasks are to:

  • oversee the mission, principles, and values of the OBC;

  • ensure that the OBC follows all of the requisite protocols of the UK Companies House and Charity Commission and adheres to its Articles of Association;

  • oversee and adjudicate issues of conflict of interest;

  • convene the Annual General Assembly of Custodians (AGAC) and set the agenda for such;

  • ratify proposals put forward by its committees, including its Membership Committee;

  • adjudicate disagreements (ideally through consensus) within the Membership Committee and any other committees that are formed;

  • ratify and oversee criteria for membership within the OBC (as indicated above) and any other criteria that might be developed by the Membership Committee or other committees for conducting the operations of the OBC;

  • review and approve annual financial and activity statements and audits as prepared by the OBC Secretariat, to be ratified by the GAC;

  • oversee the financial projections for the OBC and adjust them as necessary;

  • engage in strategic planning for the OBC (relative to the business model, membership protocols, platform maintenance, budget management, and the like), with advisement from the Membership Committee and the Secretariat;

  • establish working committees with specific responsibilities and constitutions to facilitate the work and strategic planning of the BoS. These can be either standing committees (such as the Membership Committee), or temporary committees;

  • nominate OA Experts for election by the Full Custodians; and

  • create and maintain hiring protocols for the OBC Management Team, and make hiring decisions.

(3) The Membership Committee

The Membership Committee (see Fig. 2, 11) is the primary body for overseeing applications for membership in the OBC. It will be made up of 3-5 members elected from within the BoS. The Committee will meet every 3 months primarily in order to be able to make fairly swift decisions about OBC membership applications. These meetings can be conducted either using email (asynchronously) or a video conferencing platform (synchronously – with open, non-proprietary communication platforms to be favoured over for-profit, commercial platforms).

The membership committee

  • assesses and makes decisions about incoming membership applications;

  • sets and oversees the criteria for presses and publishing service providers (and collectives of such) who want to join the OBC, to be ratified by the BoS; and

  • sets and manages, in dialogue with each incoming member, the pricing guidelines for offers, to be ratified by the BoS.

(4) The Secretariat

The OBC will also be supported by The Secretariat (see Fig. 2, 10) consisting of two secretaries, one organisational and one administrative, to support the work of the Board of Stewards (administrative and organisational) and its committees. The Secretariat

  • processes membership applications to the OBC;

  • prepares annual reports and financial audits with OBC Management Team (see Sec. 5 below);

  • organises elections and votes; and

  • organises AGACs, BoS meetings, and Committee meetings, and drafts agendas for such meetings (according to UK Companies House and Charity guidelines).

(5) OBC Management Team (Day-to-Day Operations)

The OBC will have a virtual office for the Management Team (MT), with staff whose work will be overseen by The Board of Stewards. The salaries and other operating expenses of the OBC Management Team will be underwritten through the platform management fees charged to research institutions (including libraries) who invest in OBC memberships. The OBC Management Team will:

  • file annual accounts and reports and organise financial audits every year through an external accountancy firm;

  • perform outreach to funder research institutions, including libraries, on behalf of the OBC’s membership programs;

  • perform community outreach on social media and other communication platforms in order to share information within the OA “community of communities” and to the general public about the OBC and its ongoing activities;

  • maintain a visible and participatory presence at various library conferences, seminars, and workshops in order to better recruit potential library subscribers and to become more knowledgeable about the larger landscape that Scholarly Communications and Acquisitions librarians work within and the challenges they face in wanting to fund OA initiatives, which will help OBC staff know better how to approach librarians in their outreach;

  • manage communications with the various stakeholders of the OBC community;

  • manage accounts payable and receivable and ledgers for such;

  • keep track of individual membership pledges and renewals as well as allocations to publishers, publishing service providers, and to collectives of such, and informing the Board of Stewards every 3 months of the financial status of the OBC;

  • develop and execute contractual agreements between the OBC, or its individual members, and research institutions who pledge funding to publishing and publishing service provider members, and collectives of such, of the OBC;

  • managing relationships with organisations, such as Jisc and Lyrasis, that are serving as licensing agencies on behalf of the OBC; and

  • oversee and manage website content to ensure that publisher and publishing service provider profiles are current and updated regularly;

  • contract with a web service providers to troubleshoot, on a regular basis, issues related to the OBC website; and

  • fulfill the role of the Secretariat as part of the OBC’s governance model.


  • v1 (Sept 02, 2022): - initial document -

  • v2 (Sept 20, 2022):

  • v3 (Oct 31, 2022):

    • amendment to Values segment, to include footnote describing what “Bibliodiversity” means to the Open Book Collective.

Header image: Lightbox Testing: Joel Cooper, RAW vs. JPG (Origami Tessellations) byEricGjerdeis licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0.

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