Open Access - Frequently Asked Questions

See also the OA Portal, the Self-Archiving Policy, the Gallery of OA titles, and the Formal Declaration on OA Policy.


How does Open Access (OA) differ from traditional publishing?

To access traditional publications, readers must either buy or subscribe to them, or belong to a library which has done so. To translate or reproduce material from them, for example for student handouts, requires permission, and copying is normally restricted. Open Access is a radically different form of publication, under which everyone has free access. Some funding bodies for academic research already require OA, and we expect it to become increasingly common (though not universal) in the next decade.

About Gold OA

What is Gold OA?

Under Gold OA, the “version of record” — the finished work, as edited, copy-edited, proofed, indexed and typeset — is freely available to be downloaded and copied at will. The free books and resources on this website are all Gold OA titles.

What does MHRA publish as Gold OA?

MHRA publishes a mix of closed and open books within its two book imprints, Legenda and Texts and Translations. See our OA Portal.

Our electronic journal Working Papers in the Humanities is a Gold OA project, but our other journals, such as Modern Language Review, are not. Instead we permit Green OA without charge, though with some restrictions: see below.

Why does Gold OA cost money?

As a charity, we do not have shareholders to pay. But publishing involves peer review, discussion and advice, editing, copy-editing, typesetting, proofing, cover design, publicity, marketing, distribution, web programming, legal compliance, getting books reviewed in scholarly journals, deposit in copyright libraries, and many other tasks. For a closed-access book, all that is paid for by sales or subscription income.

Open books need the same work to be done. But since Gold OA amounts to manufacturing a product and giving it away at the factory gate, it requires financial support. This is normally provided as a single lump sum by an author’s university or by a research funding body such as UKRI.

How much money?

For Gold OA agreements made in 2024, MHRA has set the fee at £5000 + VAT, currently £6000. This is a flat fee regardless of the length of the book, and is well below the UKRI funding ceiling of £10,000. Gold OA fees are not due until publication, but we can invoice early if university finance offices prefer, as they often do.

For our electronic journal Working Papers in the Humanities there is no charge: it is what is sometimes called Platinum OA or Diamond OA. WPH is published as part of our charitable aims.

Is a Gold OA title the same thing as an ebook?

No. While a Gold OA title does have a free ebook edition, it may also have hardback or paperback editions sold in the usual way through Amazon and via wholesalers to libraries. Our closed-access titles also normally have ebooks, on the JSTOR library platform, but these are charged for.

Where does a Gold OA title live?

When MHRA publishes a book as Gold OA, the full text is made available under a permanent, irrevocable open licence (see below) from the book’s home page on the MHRA website. MHRA is a member of Crossref, and registers Digital Object Identifiers (DOIs) both for the book as a whole and for each of its individual chapters. Gold OA books are therefore easy to locate and to cite in bibliographies, either whole or in part.

What if the MHRA rearranges its website?

We try not to. But DOIs provide a permanent point of reference. For example, James Simpson’s book Matthew Arnold and Goethe has DOI 10.59860/td.b275b3a. This can always be used to find the book, even if its web page should move for some reason.

What if the MHRA closes?

It seems unlikely. We were founded in 1918 and are busier than ever. But, just in case, we follow industry-standard practices for digital preservation so that the PDFs of Gold OA books would outlive us.

What if the MHRA is bought out, or changes its mind?

MHRA is a charity and cannot be bought. But in any case, a Gold OA licence is irrevocable. It lasts for the entire copyright term of a work (usually seventy years after death of the last surviving author), at which point the work enters the public domain. So a book can change from closed to open, but it cannot change from open to closed. Once open, it is open forever.

Choosing Gold OA

I’m an author. Will my book be Gold OA?

MHRA expects to publish a mix of closed and open access books in the next decade, with the proportion of open books rising over time. In general, we want to allow authors to choose which way to publish, although in practice availability of funding may be the deciding factor.

If I have funding for Gold OA, does that affect how my book proposal is judged?

No. We won’t even ask you until after your book has been considered, peer-reviewed, and accepted (or not). If it is accepted, a book is placed first under a traditional closed-access contract. You can then convert this contract to Gold OA at any point up to publication, should funding be available.

We have chosen this process to help early career researchers in particular. When new scholars approach us, they are often still applying for university posts but do not yet have one. As a result, they have no access to institutional funds, but this is no bar to us accepting their books. Should they then land a job where funding for OA would be available, they can take advantage.

How is the editorial process different for Gold OA?

It isn’t, except for the final stages. Once it is accepted, MHRA is equally committed to a book whether it is closed or open, and applies equal scholarly rigour to it. We use the same copy-editing, typesetting, proofing and quality control processes on both sorts of title, and the same staff work on them. Indeed, since our Gold OA titles also appear in print, everything done for a closed title must also be done for an open one.

The final stages for a Gold OA book do involve a little additional work. For example, we present chapters with abstracts of their contents, and you may be consulted over that. But in large part the process is the same.

Can any book be Gold OA?

The great majority can, but a small number depend too much on legal rights belonging to other people. Those cannot be OA because the author is not in a legal position to grant permission for it. Examples might include:

  • A book on modern art with many images created by an artist who died less than 70 years ago.
  • A scholarly edition of a previously unknown novel by a 20th-century writer.
  • A book gathering previously published essays, where copyrights belong to other publishers.

Because of that, we cannot make an unconditional promise to accept all requests for OA. In borderline cases, there may be ways to adapt, and we will give the best advice we can to authors.

Who owns the copyright on a Gold OA book?

The author, or sometimes the author’s employer, retains copyright. It makes little practical difference because readers of the book have been granted so much freedom that they are unlikely ever to need to contact the copyright owner. However, it’s important for some universities or government bodies whose staff members write on their behalf.

Is a Gold OA book in the public domain?

Not quite. There are still a few legal restrictions on what readers can do with a Gold OA book, governed by a “licence”. But the restrictions are very mild and amount mostly to basic fairness. For example, it is legal to download a Gold OA book and upload it somewhere else, but not to remove the author’s name and pass the book off as your own.

Can Gold OA books be used commercially?

That depends on the licence. MHRA uses a mix of the Creative Commons licences called CC BY and CC BY-NC for Gold OA. We choose which according to the needs of the project and its funding body, if any.

If the licence is CC BY, then commercial use is in general allowed.

The NC in CC BY-NC means “non-commercial”, so for example another publisher could not download one of our books and resell it for profit under their own imprint without our consent.

In cases of dispute about what counts as commercial, MHRA will follow its guiding principles of serving the scholarly community. For example, if a writer wants to reproduce a table of data from one of our Gold OA books and include it in a new book of their own, we would not consider that as “commercial” use. In cases of doubt, we are happy to advise.

Self-archiving and Green OA

What is Green OA, and how is it different from Gold?

Green OA is “self-archiving”. It’s a less useful, and much more restricted, form of openness. Publishers do not participate in Green OA except to give consent (or not), usually with conditions.

If the publisher does allow Green OA, the author deposits the “author accepted manuscript” — the last draft of an article or book, usually as a Microsoft Word document, but without editing or typesetting — in an institutional repository, usually belonging to the author’s university. There is often an embargo period so that public access is delayed.

Do Green OA deposits receive DOIs?

There is no DOI. What is deposited is a draft, not a finished scholarly work, and other scholars would not normally cite it, since the proper practice is to cite the published version and not something unfinished.

Who owns copyright on a Green OA deposit?

Normally the publisher does, which is why it is for the publisher to give permission.

Does MHRA permit Green OA?

On this, MHRA distinguishes between journal articles and entire books. Chapters in edited collections, books where one scholar has gathered a group of (say) a dozen other authors each writing one chapter, are treated as journal articles for this purpose. So if you are the author of just a single chapter in a Legenda book (or of, say, just the Introduction), you are in the same position as the author of a single paper in Modern Language Review.

For entire books, we do not permit Green OA. Authors who would like an open form of publication should pursue Gold OA instead.

For articles and stand-alone chapters, we do permit Green OA, without charge, subject to certain rules. See our Self-Archiving Policy for Articles Published in MHRA Journals.

Can any article be deposited as Green OA?

Legal restrictions may exist if the article includes images or other matter whose copyright is owned by somebody else. We cannot accept liability for that, and you deposit at your own risk, though in practice this risk is usually low.

I’m the author of a closed-access book, but I want to submit it for REF 2029. Can I deposit it as Green OA?

Draft REF 2029 rules are currently under consultation, and in fact the MHRA has been involved in the consultation process. We will wait to see what rules finally emerge, and evolve our policy accordingly. The current draft suggests that some form of OA may eventually be compulsory for books, but not for those placed under contract before the end of 2025. All currently forthcoming authors are therefore unaffected.

This is a fast-moving policy area, and we will clarify our own position when we know the outcome. But we are a body existing to serve scholars, governed entirely by scholars, and we will always seek to act in the best interest of our colleagues.