Monographs, contributions to edited volumes and conference papers

Which open access publishing options are available for these formats?

Articles published in academic journals are just one form of publication. There are also many other formats including monographs, contributions to edited volumes (collections) and conference papers. The status that these forms of publication have in academic communication depends on the specific scientific discipline. Monographs continue to play a very important role in the social sciences and humanities, while the emphasis in the realm of life sciences is very much on publications in scientific journals. The publication of conference papers plays an important role in the field of IT and computer science.


Monographs are specialist publications dealing with a specific topic, generally in the form of a book. A monograph may be written by any number of authors. In contrast to compendiums and contributions to edited volumes and collections, the individual chapters may be written by one author or in collaboration with others. 

Green open access publishing of monographs

The extent to which it is possible to publish a monograph in green open access that has already been published in print format – and possibly also electronically – depends on the author agreement. 

Institutional or subject-specific repositories both offer a suitable publishing platform. The terms and conditions of each repository generally provide information on whether monographs can be published.

Gold open access publishing of monographs

Gold open access publishing of monographs is less widespread than in the case of journal articles. Publishers often offer a hybrid variant in which the book is deposited on a website or in a repository in addition to the print edition. This is often linked to a print-on-demand option, which means that the book is not printed until it is ordered. This reduces storage costs and conserves resources. However, printing and shipping the book generally incurs a fee. It is possible for authors to pay a publication fee which is called book processing charge or short: BPC – similar to the situation with scientific journal publications – in order to publish their monograph as open access. However, the fee for monographs is correspondingly high due to the large number of pages.

Open access publishing of monographs is offered by university publishers and increasingly also by commercial publishers.

An overview of books that are freely available can be retrieved from the Directory of Open Access Books (DOAB). Go to DOAB

The webpage of the Working Group of University Publishers informs about non-commercial services. Further information (German only)

Contributions to collections

In a similar vein to an issue of a scientific journal, the contributions in an edited volume (collection) are generally written by different authors who each retain the rights to their contribution. The contributions are generally assembled into a single volume by an editor. An agreement stipulates the extent to which the publisher or editor are responsible for the selection and clarification of the authors' rights.

Green open access publishing of contributions to collections

In cases where no remuneration has been paid for a contribution, § 38 of the German Copyright Act states that the author may otherwise reproduce and distribute the work on expiry of one year from the date of release, unless otherwise agreed.

In cases where remuneration has been paid, it is the terms of the author agreement which stipulate whether green open access is possible or not. If no exclusive exploitation right was granted upon publication, then the author retains the right to otherwise distribute the contribution. 

Generally speaking, similar recommendations apply to the publishing of contributions to collections as to the publishing of journal articles.

Gold open access publishing of contributions to collections

The extent to which an edited volume can be published as open access is determined by the publisher together with the editors. In the event of non-open access publishing, the only option left to authors is to negotiate corresponding rights for self-archiving to be included in the author agreement. 

Generally speaking, similar recommendations apply to the publishing of contributions to collections as to the publishing of journal articles. 

See also

Electronic self-archiving: what are the key issues to consider when self-archiving publications in open access repositories (online archives) or on websites?

Conference papers

In regard to conference papers, a distinction is made between conference papers that appear prior to or at a conference and conference papers that do not appear until after a conference is over. Papers that appear prior to a conference are often distributed to the conference participants and funded by the participation fees. In many cases, however, these volumes of papers are also offered more widely so that they can be acquired by libraries and specialists in the field. Many conferences organise a peer review process, while some conferences only consist of invited speakers. 

The question of whether conference papers are published as open access depends on what exactly is being published. Once again, there are several possibilities. From presentation slides and posters to abstracts or written versions of the presentation, there are a number of different approaches in standard use. Sometimes conference papers also appear in the form of essays in special journal supplements. 

As a rule, it is the conference organisers who decide whether the conference papers will be published as open access or not. There are also plenty of examples of parallel publishing, where a contribution is published in print format and also made freely accessible on the Internet or published directly online. Even in cases where conference papers are not published in parallel as open access publications, authors are still left with the option of electronic self-archiving. 

Due to the wide variety of different options and approaches, it is advisable to enquire whether the papers will be published – and in what form – before submitting a contribution.

The right to self-archiving alluded to in § 38 (4) of the German Copyright Act is not applicable in this case since conferences do not generally take place twice a year.

Sources of funding

Some research funders offer funding for open-access book publishing. However, they often require certain conditions to be met, such as the use of a specified licence. The cOAlition S website provides a useful – though incomplete – overview of research funders. It is also worth consulting the OAPEN website, which includes an overview of publishers who comply with the requirements of individual research funders.
An alternative option is provided by institutional publication funds that also support open-access books. However, many of these are still in the process of being established. We recommend making enquiries at your university to find out whether they have a publication fund that covers the kind of funding you need.


Important note: The information and links provided here do not represent any form of binding legal advice. They are solely intended to provide an initial basis to help get you on the right track. ZB MED – Information Centre for Life Sciences has carefully checked the information included in the list of FAQs. However, we are unable to accept any liability whatsoever for any errors it may contain. Unless indicated otherwise, any statements concerning individual statutory norms or regulations refer to German law (FAQ updated 09/2021).


Jasmin Schmitz,

Dr. Jasmin Schmitz
Head of Publication Advisory Services

Phone: +49 (0)221 478-32795
Send mail

Related Links

Directory of Open Access Books
Working Group of University Publishers (German only)
OAPEN: List of compliant book publishers

Annex A: Overview of existing OA book policies of a subset of cOAlition S organisations. In cOAlition S statement on Open Access for academic books of 2 September 2021. Plan S News. (accessed 20/12/2022)