SciELO Books 10 Years: Interview with OAPEN Foundation director and DOAB Foundation co-director, Niels Stern

By Abel Packer and Amanda Ramalho

SciELO Books is celebrating ten years of operation focused on the development of infrastructure and the capabilities of scholarly book publishing in a digital format following the state of the art.

As part of the event celebrating the ten-year anniversary, intended as a forum to recognize the advances and challenges, and, mainly, to debate on the future of digital books in the light of open access and open science, we’ve interviewed speakers and officials from institutions directly linked to the development of SciELO.

We continue the series of interviews with Niels Stern, director of the OAPEN Foundation and co-director of the DOAB Foundation.

1. [SciELO Books] In over 15 years of notable experience with scholarly publishing and open access, how do you see the evolution of open access to books?

[NIELS STERN] I think we have seen a lot of exciting development over the last couple of years. Important policies for books have been issued (for instance European Commission, UKRI, cOAlition S). We have seen many new publishers – especially from Latin America – joining the Directory of Open Access Books (DOAB), several academic publishers have experimented with business models alternative to the BPC (Book Processing C-harges) based model, and libraries in large numbers have supported Open Access (OA) book publishing with financial contributions. We have also seen global interest in our OA Books Toolkit which tells me that the topic is increasingly relevant to authors, libraries, research institutions, publishers, funders etc. This has also been witnessed through the engagement provided via the OA Books Network. While OA to books for many years was a rather marginalised topic, I think it is true to say that it has now become a hot topic.

2. [SciELO Books] In your view, what are the main challenges facing the academic book?

[NS] Things that I love about books, printed books, like the look and feel, the smell, the tactility, the aesthetics of well-designed books and so on are, I think, unfortunately also among the challenges facing the academic book. Scholars will continue to write books because the research monograph – the long-form argument – continues to be an important way of developing many scholarly disciplines especially in the social sciences and humanities (SSH). However, the obsession with the printed book that you can put on the shelve or give to your peer or mother-in-law has for long slowed down digital innovation of the book and to some extent endangered the transition of SSH to open science.

Of course, the printed book is not solely responsible for this, but it points to certain traditions in a conservative prestige economy at many universities which I think may be challenging the academic book in the long run. I think most actors involved in academic book publishing have deep-rooted ideas about the book which we should try to articulate in an actionable way. There is still something enigmatic about books, which I guess partly drew me into publishing a long time ago, something that should be preserved but without standing in the way of innovation and open science.

3. [SciELO Books] DOAB was created in 2012, the same year as SciELO Books, and is also completing ten years of experience. How do you evaluate the success of DOAB in these years and what is the main role of the foundation today?

[NS] While the OAPEN Library (2010) hosts, distributes and preserves peer reviewed books for publishers, manages collections for research funders, and brings all this to libraries, DOAB was created by OAPEN (Online Library and Publication Platform) in 2012 to offer libraries a trusted directory of OA books inspired by what Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ) does for journals. In 2019 DOAB was established as a legal entity (non-profit Dutch foundation) in its own right owned by OpenEdition (Aix-Marseille University and CNRS) and OAPEN. It is still operated by OAPEN and runs on the same open source repository software as OAPEN (DSpace 6). Today DOAB indexes over 50,000 peer reviewed OA books from more than 550 publishers.

Five years ago, the number of books in DOAB was less than 10,000 and the first five years saw a very slow increase. So, I think that we now begin to see the potential of DOAB as a global hub for OA books connecting publishers with libraries. Although we have seen great developments in our global outreach – not least due to the fantastic support of SciELO Books which became a DOAB Trusted Platform in 2021 – there is still a long way to go to claim real success. I think our role is to be a truly global directory for OA books and therefore we are exploring how this could be done best. I think our collaboration with SciELO Books is a success that we can learn from, but we still have too limited human resources to really scale up. However, we would very much welcome publishers from Africa and Asia that publish peer reviewed academic books open access but that requires collaboration with local actors for the application process which requires some central management. We keep being inspired by the work of DOAJ but we still don’t have sufficient funding to scale up.

4. [SciELO Books] What are DOAB’s future prospects and expectations with open access to books?

[NS] Apart from the things mentioned above and our continued effort to make as many peer reviewed OA books as possible discoverable through our directory, we are also seeking to increase trust around OA books. One new initiative in this regard is a service which we call Peer Review Information Service for Monographs (PRISM). This service allows publishers to provide information about their peer review procedure to their books in a standardised way. The information provided will be displayed as a hyperlinked label attached to the book (example) and to the publisher (example). We are still testing the service but will begin onboarding publishers in September this year. It’s a first step to build more trust around OA books by means of transparency. To help us in this process we have been fortunate to be able to set up a Scientific Committee comprising experts in the field from across the globe. We are truly excited about this initiative and have so far had good feedback from publishers and libraries so far.

Our expectations are clearly that we will see the area of OA books keep accelerating. I think we have an important role to play in that development. First and foremost, it is pivotal that we continue to be an open infrastructure. All metadata in DOAB is freely available to be used by anyone (CC0), no registration is needed to use the service (the metadata feeds, the API etc.) and the service is also free to use for publishers. As we are a non-profit Dutch foundation we cannot be acquired and therefore we will stay open as long as we are supported by the community. Especially, the financial support we receive from libraries is vital to our continued existence. We have been fortunate to receive support from libraries and consortia and we hope that this support will be sustained. If we are to scale up and become more global, we need more support. We work closely with our community of supporting libraries (annual meeting, working groups, newsletters etc.) and we would love to see this community grow because that would help us realise our future prospects.


The event celebrating SciELO Books’ ten years anniversary will happen on March 31th, 2022, starting at 9:00 AM (BRT). Register for the event and check the program in:



HUGHES, A. and STUBB, N. (ed.) A Player and a Gentleman: The Diary of Harry Watkins, Nineteenth-Century U.S. American Actor. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2018. Available from:


External links

Accueil | Aix-Marseille Université:

Centre national de la recherche scientifique:

cOAlition S statement on Open Access for academic books | Plan S:

Directory of Open Access Journals – DOAJ:

DOAB Trusted Platform Network | Directory of Open Access Books:

Horizon Europe | European Commission:

OA Books Toolkit:

Online Library and Publication Platform | Directory of Open Access Books:

Online library and publication platform | OAPEN:

Open Access Books Network:


PRISM: Peer Review Information Service for Monographs | Directory of Open Access Books:

SciELO Books 10 Years:

SciELO Books:

UKRI open access policy – UKRI:

University of Michigan Press| Directory of Open Access Books:



Como citar este post [ISO 690/2010]:

PACKER, A.L. and RAMALHO, A. SciELO Books 10 Years: Interview with OAPEN Foundation director and DOAB Foundation co-director, Niels Stern [online]. SciELO in Perspective, 2022 [viewed ]. Available from:


3 Thoughts on “SciELO Books 10 Years: Interview with OAPEN Foundation director and DOAB Foundation co-director, Niels Stern

  1. Pingback: Open Access Books: An Interview with OAPEN Foundation Director and DOAB Foundation Co-Director Niels Stern | LJ infoDOCKET

  2. Deise de Fátima da Matta Vite on March 31, 2022 at 19:18 said:

    Muito bom esse acesso ao conhecimento fornecido aqui primeiramente parabéns aos responsáveis por tão rica pág e assuntos diversos.Um algo a mais para os estudantes universitários no qual também devem ser responsáveis em passar para outros novos conhecimentos.
    Parabéns a todos!!!!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Post Navigation