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Scholarly Communication Services : Open access

Helping scholars navigate shifting publishing, intellectual property, and information policy landscapes in ways that promote research dissemination, accessibility, and impact

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About open access

“Why can’t I read this article?”

Open Access eyeglass logoTraditionally, access to scholarly literature has been available only to institutions or people with subscriptions to the publishing journal. These subscriptions are not just expensive, but also increasingly out of reach even for the largest research universities. Largely, the demand for online literature has not changed this result: If your institution has a subscription to the journal in print, then you may also have access to electronic versions of the articles. But if you don't have a subscription (or have subscription access through an institution), online access is often available only behind a “paywall” — that is, if you are willing to pay money to read the particular article. 

How does Open Access change things?

Transforming this system to one based on open access (OA) to scholarship means making peer-reviewed literature available online without any financial, legal, or technical barriers other than gaining access to the internet.

Eliminating barriers to readership enables everyone to have access to the research they need. A world without scholarship paywalls also advances knowledge, promotes progress, and maximizes research impact and return on investment.

OA is at its most effective in serving these goals where the scholarship is also made available with the fewest possible restrictions on reuse, thereby facilitating broad dissemination, constructive engagement, and broader educational possibilities. In other words: OA scholarship that is not merely “available online” for free to read, but also free from a rights perspective to use freely and build upon.

OA history

For decades, many scholars, researchers, funders, students, and others have desired this open outcome. In 2002, the Budapest Open Access Initiative (BOAI) helped launch a global campaign for all new peer-reviewed literature to be made available OA. The Berlin Declaration on Open Access to Knowledge (“Berlin Declaration”) echoed this mission again in 2003, and various endeavors since then redoubled efforts to achieve these aims. As a result of these and other efforts, today approximately 15% of journal articles are OA at the time they are published.

Through the 2013 UC Academic Senate and 2015 Presidential OA policies, the University of California similarly expressed strong commitments to advancing knowledge and facilitating accessibility and impact for the incredible scholarship produced on UC campuses.

How does OA publishing work?

Publishing a scholarly article or book OA does not mean foregoing peer review or any of the other stringent editorial processes that ensure high quality scholarship. (In fact, peer review can be even carried out in more cost effective ways for OA journals.) Rather, at its core, OA is an outcome: Scholarship is published online in a way that can be read and used by anyone, and without any financial, legal, or technical barriers other than gaining access to the internet. 

So, the question, instead, is: How is OA funded? If we replace the subscription system with OA end products, who gets paid and how? The Library is a key stakeholder in evaluating, supporting, and advancing sustainable OA publishing models. We discuss many of them below.

Access models

Two of the predominant ways that articles or monographs can be published openly online are “Gold Open Access” and “Green Open Access.”

Gold Open Access: Gold OA provides immediate access to the final, publisher-version of the article on the publisher's journal website. Some Gold OA publishers recoup production costs via charges for authors to publish (“article processing charges” or “book processing charges”) rather than having readers (or libraries) pay to access and read it. This is a system in which “author pays,” rather than “reader pays.” The fees to be paid by the author can be covered by various sources, such as: research accounts, research grants, the university, the library, scholarly societies, and consortia. Production costs can also be offset by the sale of memberships, add-ons, and enhanced services by the publisher. Note that many “OA publishers” actually operate under a “hybrid” model in which they charge the library for a subscription, and ask authors to pay APCs. This results in a situation for the publishers often referred to as “double dipping,” since publishers are paid twice.

Green Open Access: Also known as self-archiving, in the Green OA model authors upload a final author version of their manuscript to a repository, but usually it is not the publisher’s final formatted version. This facilitates access to the content of a particular article, but not the journal, itself. UC’s Open Access Policy fosters OA in this fashion. Green OA can be supported through institutional, funder, government, or other funds dedicated toward creating and maintaining a repository.


We talked above about the two predominant OA access models. Let’s dig a bit more into funding options to make those models work.

  • Paying publishers an Article Processing Charge when an article is accepted for publication. The fee serves to finance publication to replace what the journal otherwise would have received under a subscription model. This is how publishers like the Public Library of Science (PLoS) and eLife are funded today. 
  • Library consortia paying negotiated amounts to publishers to make a defined set of journals Open Access. This model is currently in place for High Energy Physics with the SCOAP3 initiative — a partnership of over 3,000 libraries, key funding agencies and research centers in 44 countries and three intergovernmental organizations, as well as leading publishers in that discipline.
  • Paying publishers a membership fee that cover publication costs for a term. This is an innovative funding approach by newer publishers like PeerJ.
  • Supporting newer publishing platforms for scholarly journals and/or preprint archives that operate at very low cost and are subsidized by library membership fees. The Open Library of the Humanities operates on this business model.
  • Journals that operate entirely free of cost to authors or readers, thanks to endowments and subsidies from non-profit societies, philanthropic organizations, research institutions, or government agencies.

New funding approaches continue to emerge. UC Berkeley is committed to exploring these evolving models to achieve approaches that are both sustainable and reduce barriers to access and re-use.

What about OA books?

Check out our page on Open & Affordable Books @UC Berkeley.

While many scholars in the humanities and social sciences publish in OA journals, they also publish scholarly books, termed “monographs”. These books become a critical component of professional credentialing, yet their readership is limited by the same kinds of access barriers endemic to subscription-based journals: The scholarly books are quite expensive, and increasingly fewer libraries can afford to purchase them.

University presses’ funding models for financing OA books are innovative and evolving. UC Press’ Luminos program, for instance, is formulated as a partnership in which costs and benefits are shared by member organizations. Many academic publishers also offer a print or print-on-demand version of the book for sale to readers who prefer hard copies, further enabling cost recovery through traditional print sales. 

At their core, most OA book funding models typically charge academic authors the equivalent of an APC. Given the greater investment needed to create and edit longer and more complex manuscripts, the book processing charges (BPCs) can range upwards of $7000. At UC Berkeley, we can help subsidize those fees through our BRII program so that authors’ out-of-pocket is zero or substantially reduced, with the upshot being that the resulting literature is available to all. We can also help you create an open book for free, using platforms like PressbooksEDU.

OA at UC

This page explains what the University of California is doing systemwide to support Open Access publishing, and how UC scholars can participate in these efforts.

Open Access (OA) scholarship is free, digital, and available to anyone online. With barrier-free access, researchers from anywhere in the world can read the scholarly output of other authors. 

The UC has long supported replacing subscription-based publishing with open access publishing, including through priority setting policies like:

These systemwide statements and principles reflect the University’s overarching commitment to make all research and scholarship as freely and widely available as possible—thereby advancing our mission to serve the public good. 

Participate in UC’s Open Access Policies

What are the OA policies?

All UC employees engaged in scholarly publishing can make their research outputs available on open access terms. 

In July 2013, the faculty of the University of California adopted an Academic Senate Open Access Policy, ensuring that future research articles authored by faculty at all 10 UC campuses will be made available to the public at no charge. In October 2015, a Presidential Open Access Policy expanded these rights to all other authors who write scholarly articles while employed at UC, including non-Senate researchers, lecturers, post-doctoral scholars, administrative staff, librarians, and graduate students. Essentially, The UC’s Open Access Policies cover everyone who authors scholarly articles while employed by the University of California.

How can UC scholars participate?

Pursuant to the UC’s Open Access Policies, UC authors can make a copy of their scholarship available in the UC's open access repository, called eScholarship.

The UC’s Open Access Policies permits covered authors to upload their author-accepted manuscript (also sometimes called a “postprint”) to eScholarship at the same time as the work is formally published on a publisher’s website. The author-accepted manuscript is the final, peer-reviewed version of the paper, but without the publisher formatting and pagination. The effect of the OA policy is that anyone in the world can read a version of a UC-authored final scholarly article, even if they do not have access to it on the publisher’s website.   

The UC system-wide Office of Scholarly Communication has a helpful guide on both the OA policies. To quickly get started, follow their link to deposit your work.

Whether and how an author may deposit articles into eScholarship that pre-date your policy depends on the terms of the original publishing agreements. If you have questions, please contact us: schol-comm@berkeley.edu.

In limited instances based on publisher policy, an author may wish or need to delay public access to their articles in eScholarship until a chosen time period has passed after the article is published.  This is called “embargoing” the public release of a scholarly article.

In certain other limited instances, a small number of publishers will not authorize the deposit of scholarship into eScholarship altogether. For these publishers, you would need to get a “waiver” of the OA policy’s deposit requirement. 

The UC-wide Office of Scholarly Communication can help you with these infrequent occurrences. Please consult their guidance at their page, Get a Waiver, Embargo, or Addendum for your Publisher. 

Where else can UC authors upload their scholarship?

eScholarship can be one of several repositories where you deposit your materials. The Directory of Open Access Repositories (OpenDOAR) lists thousands of registered repositories. 

If your author agreement permits it, you may choose to add your manuscript to a social networking research platform like Mendeley, ResearchGate, or Academia.edu. These networks can help generate interest and readership for your work. Just keep in mind that many of these tools are not geared toward actually preserving a copy of your work. So, to ensure that a copy of your work remains publicly available, it’s best to make sure you also deposit a copy in your institutional repository (such as eScholarship).

Get OA Funding 

What systemwide funding assistance is available for articles?

UC authors can also take advantage of funding opportunities to defray the cost of publishing their scholarship open access. 

The University of California has entered into several transformative open access agreements with publishers.

Transformative agreements are those contracts negotiated between an institution (such as the University of California) and a publisher (such as Springer-Nature) that attempts to transform scholarly publishing by moving from a publication model based on subscription access to an open access publication model. 

A transformative agreement is where a library agrees to pay a sum to a publisher in exchange for rights to read their content and have their institution’s researchers be able to publish open access immediately in the publishers’ journals. Over time, these arrangements facilitate a cost-effective transition from paying for subscriptions to paying to publish open access.

The UC maintains an updated list of Publisher OA Agreements and Discounts that are generally available to UC corresponding authors who have scholarly articles accepted for publication in one of the participating journals. 

In addition to these systemwide agreements, check out UC Berkeley-specific programs available to UCB authors on the OA at Berkeley page

What systemwide funding assistance is available for books?

The University of California, via the California Digital Library, contributes to new book publishing models that provide for OA monograph publishing with zero direct cost to authors. Some of these models include programs at university presses, such as the University of Michigan’s Fund to Mission and Central European University and Liverpool University Press’ Opening the Future. See the OA at Berkeley page for more information on these and other OA book publishing programs.

OA at Berkeley

For decades, many scholars, researchers, funders, the taxpaying public, and others have desired that research be accessible online without paywall barriers. Doing so would promote knowledge, promote progress, and maximize research impact. The UC Berkeley Library has been a leader advancing all of these open access initiatives. Here are just some of the ways we support you in publishing open access at UC Berkeley. 

Participate in the UC’s Open Access Policies

On the OA at UC page, we described how UC authors can participate in the UC’s Open Access Policies by depositing a copy of their scholarly articles into eScholarship so that anyone around the world can read UC-authored research. If you have questions about the UC’s Open Access Policies, or how to use eScholarship, send an email to schol-comm@berkeley.edu.

Publish an OA journal article

Get your article processing charges reimbursed

On the OA at UC page, we outlined the systemwide transformative open access publishing agreements and discounts. These arrangements permit UC corresponding authors to make their scholarly articles open access immediately on publishers’ websites. 

UC Berkeley also has a local open access fund that UCB authors can use if they are publishing in a fully open access journal for which there is no other system wide agreement in place. Our Berkeley Research Impact Initiative (BRII) reimburses you for fees paid for article processing charges (APCs). (Scholarly journals use APCs to replace revenue the publisher would have generated via library subscriptions if access to the journal had been licensed by the library for campus readers.) 

BRII is open to any current UC Berkeley faculty, graduate student, post-doc, or academic staff who has had an open access article, chapter, or scholarly book accepted for publication, and does not have other sources of funds to pay article processing charges. 

For BRII APC coverage to apply, the entire journal must be freely available to the public without subscription fees. BRII cannot cover fees for publishing in “hybrid” OA journals—which are subscription-based journals that only offer open access options if an author decides to pay an additional fee to make their individual article OA. 

BRII reimbursements are capped at $2,500 for articles and $10,000 for books. Authors are responsible for securing the remainder of any publishing fees should the open access publication costs exceed those amounts. For grant recipients (such as researchers with funding from NIH, NSF, etc.) open access publishing costs generally are considered an allowable direct expense unless funders explicitly prohibit them. Authors should consider planning in advance when applying for research grants to take into consideration open access publishing fees, especially since not all journals will be eligible for BRII funding or UC-wide publishing discounts. For more information, check out the Open Access Fact Sheet for Researchers Applying for Grants.

Publish via UC Berkeley-specific agreements

UC Berkeley has also entered into several local publishing agreements which give UC Berkeley authors the ability to publish open access immediately with little or no direct cost to the author. 

  • BioScientifica: UC Berkeley Library has entered into a licensing agreement with a subset of BioScientifica journals. A UC Berkeley author who has an article accepted for publication in these journals may be eligible for a discount on the APC if they choose to publish open access. UCB authors are encouraged to use their @berkeley.edu email address in communication with the journal, and to follow up with BioScientifica editors if you do not receive an email with the APC discount code. 
  • Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press: From Jan. 1, 2023, through Dec. 31, 2024, UCB and LBNL corresponding authors may publish open access in several journals with no author-facing article processing charges. These journals include Genes & Development, Genome Research, RNA, Learning & Memory, and Molecular Case Studies
  • Microbiology Society: Beginning in February 2023, UCB and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory corresponding authors may publish open access in several journals with no author-facing article processing charges. These journals include Microbial Genomics, Access Microbiology, Microbiology, Journal of General Virology, Journal of Medical Microbiology, and International Journal of Systematic and Evolutionary Microbiology.
  • MDPI grants instant APC discounts to UC Berkeley authors. Moreover, UCB Library will reimburse the balance of the discounted APCs for fully open access journals under the BRII program
  • PeerJ: Beginning March 2024, the UC Berkeley Library will cover the cost of article processing charges for UCB authors who publish in PeerJ journals using funds in a pre-paid account. After that account is depleted, UCB authors may request reimbursement through BRII.

Publish an OA book

BRII also supports open access book publishing

While many scholars in the humanities and social sciences publish articles in journals, they also publish scholarly books. These books become a critical component of professional credentialing, yet their readership is limited by the same kinds of access barriers endemic to subscription-based journals: The scholarly books are quite expensive, and increasingly fewer libraries can afford to purchase them. Many book publishers are offering titles accepted for publication to be made available on open access terms, typically after the payment of an OA fee called the book processing charge (BPC). The Berkeley Research Impact Initiative can also help defray these fees OA books, and the program can help Berkeley authors publish long-form scholarship that can be read by anyone at no cost. BRII covers up to $10,000 of a BPC.

These digital editions of peer-reviewed and professionally-edited OA books typically offer readers more than just the text itself. Digital monographs can also incorporate multimedia with the text, include annotation and commenting tools, and provide platforms that further encourage the development of innovative scholarship.

UC Berkeley-Springer OA books agreement

UC Berkeley Library has entered into an institutional open access book agreement with Springer Nature. A UC Berkeley author who has a book accepted for publication under the Springer, Palgrave, and Apress imprints will be able to have their book considered for publication under open access terms. The agreement provides open access funding assistance to UC Berkeley authors, meaning that there would be no author-facing book processing charges. The agreement covers a broad range of book titles across all disciplines—from humanities and social sciences to sciences, technology, medicine and mathematics. The books are published under a CC BY license and readers around the world may download the works for free.

Pressbooks Digital Book Publishing Platform

Since 2018, the Library has hosted the UC Berkeley Open Book Publishing Platform. The platform runs on Pressbooks, and offers an easy-to-use digital publishing tool available to anyone with an active @berkeley.edu email address. Pressbooks features professionally-designed templates, plug-and-play content creation, and tools to maximize accessibility. UC Berkeley authors can publish and share digital books and open educational resources under Creative Commons licenses, and also have their scholarship indexed on sites such as Pressbooks Directory and the Open Textbook Library.

UC Berkeley Library OA Investments

OA investment principles 

Echoing the University of California’s systemwide OA priorities, the UC Berkeley Library has incorporated sustainable open access publishing principles and processes into our local collection policies. These processes encourage selector librarians to evaluate and prioritize OA publishing and infrastructure investment opportunities using a set of collaboratively-developed investment criteria. 

List of investments 

Relying on investment principles, UC Berkeley Library supported dozens of OA investments, including:

We also provide consultations for other institutions looking to develop similar practices to support OA investments. 

Guidance for journals

We provide guidance for journal editorial boards, authors, and scholarly societies seeking to transition their journals to open access. 

In 2019 the Office of Scholarly Communication Services (now called Scholarly Communication and Information Policy) co-founded and began co-steering Transitioning Society Publications to Open Access (TSPOA), an international group which connects learned society journal editors and publishers with support and useful resources related to implementing OA publishing models.

Our work in TSPOA revealed a follow-on need for connecting these society or non-profit publishers with willing institutional investors. We therefore co-developed a related national initiative to crowd-source strategic investments in non-profit OA publishers—called the Open Access Community Investment Program (OACIP)—which is currently run by the LYRASIS consortium. The program aims to match non-profit scholarly publishers who are seeking financial investments with funders (such as libraries) who are looking to support OA publishing projects. We are thrilled to share that our efforts in launching OACIP resulted in successful first and second investment rounds for all participating journals, including Environmental Humanities, Combinatorial Theory, Algebraic Combinatorics, History of Media Studies, and Journal of Librarianship and Scholarly Communication. 

We have co-authored the guides and toolkits available through the UC systemwide Office of Scholarly Communication website, and offer individual consultations. If you'd like to discuss transitioning your journal to open access, please email us at schol-comm@berkeley.edu.

International Leadership


OA2020 is one of several international movements aimed at establishing universal open access for scholarly journal literature. In March 2017, UC Berkeley signed the OA2020 Expression of Interest, agreeing to make a good faith effort to devise and implement practical strategies and actions for attaining wide-scale open access. You can find more information on the OA2020 U.S. working group website

Scholarly Communication and Information Policy provided expert planning, steering, and logistical assistance for the B15 Open Access Conference, held in October 2021. The conference (co-hosted by the Max Planck Digital Library and the University of California) aimed to reflect on and assess the trajectory of the scholarly publishing system’s transition to one based on “open dissemination of research results for the benefit of science and society.” Hundreds of participants from 46 countries attended virtually. Our office also facilitated breakout sessions, worked with conference moderators to identify and communicate key themes during plenary sessions, and organized a poster session for the event. 

Pathways to Open Access 2018 Toolkit

Scholarly Communication and Information Policy has chaired and supported a number of UC system-wide efforts to support a wide-scale transition to open access. 

For instance, we chaired the creation of the 2018 Pathways to Open Access toolkit to advance data-driven decision-making on scholarly communication issues. Prepared on behalf of the University of California (UC) libraries and the California Digital Library, the Pathways toolkit analyzes the many approaches and strategies for advancing the large-scale transition to OA, and identifies possible next action steps for UC system-wide investment and experimentation.

Choosing Pathways to OA (CP2OA) Forum

On Oct. 16-17, 2018, we chaired the University of California (UC) libraries working forum in Berkeley, Calif., called Choosing Pathways to Open Access (CP2OA). Sponsored by the University of California’s Council of University Librarians (CoUL), the forum was designed to enable North American library and consortium leaders and key academic stakeholders to engage in action-focused deliberations about redirecting subscription and other funds toward sustainable open access (OA) publishing. The goal was for everyone to leave with their own customized plans for how they will repurpose subscription spends within their home organizations or communities—and more broadly, through collective efforts, move the OA needle forward.
The CP2OA Planning Committee prepared a report to CoUL analyzing forum outcomes. Our report also synthesizes forum outcomes into recommendations for further collective action by CoUL to advance open access. 

Learn more

See our Google Slides presentation How to Publish Open Access at UC Berkeley.

or our video: 

Federal OA guidance

Are you a UC Berkeley faculty or researcher with a grant from the U.S. federal government (such as the National Institutes of Health, National Science Foundation, Department of Agriculture, etc)? Beginning in 2026, updated policy guidance will affect how research outputs resulting from federal funding are shared with the public. Read below for more information, and reach out to schol-comm@berkeley.edu with any questions.

What the White House open access publishing guidance means for UC researchers

The U.S. federal government is continuing to encourage open access to research. In August 2022, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) announced updated guidance urging that by 2026, research funded by all federal agencies should be made freely and immediately available to the public, with no embargo.
The new guidance will bring about three significant changes to the status quo:

  • Removing the 12-month delay before research publications funded by the largest federal agencies become publicly available;
  • Directing that both federally-funded research publications and the supporting data should be made publicly accessible at the time of publication; and
  • Bringing all federal agencies into alignment with this open access policy.

While the agencies are being given time to determine how they will operationalize the new guidance, the principles at its heart are in sync with the University of California’s long-standing commitment to make our research freely available to the scientific community and the public.
Here is what UC researchers should know now about what to expect.

When will these changes go into effect?

The OSTP guidance recommends that all federal grantmaking agencies implement the changes no later than December 31, 2025. Some agencies may update their grant requirements sooner. 

What will I need to do with my research articles once this policy takes effect?

While many of the details are yet to come as each federal agency determines how they will implement the OSTP guidance, what we can infer now is that:

  • We expect the agencies that already have policies regarding public access to the research they fund will continue to use their existing processes to the extent possible, updating them as needed to align with the new guidance. We will know more about those changes once the agencies release their updated public access plans.
  • If you obtain future research funding from a smaller federal agency that does not yet require deposit in an open access repository, the agency will develop a policy requiring you to make your funded articles open access in some form. (The details may vary by agency.) 
How does this federal guidance interact with UC’s open access publishing options?

As a UC researcher, you do not have to wait for this government policy to be implemented to make your research open access. In fact, the University of California has had an Open Access Policy in place for many years that enables UC authors to make their research publicly available immediately. To do so, you have several options:

  • Regardless of the journal in which you publish, the UC's Open Access Policy grants you the right to share your author-accepted manuscript (the final, peer-reviewed, but not yet publisher-formatted version) on eScholarship (the UC's institutional repository) immediately upon publication in the journal. Learn more about the UC’s OA policies or contact our office (schol-comm@berkeley.edu) with any questions.
  • You may choose to publish open access in a journal that is part of one of UC’s transformative open access agreements. Under these agreements, the UC libraries typically will pay all or part of the article processing charge (APC) on your behalf, using library funds that were previously allocated to pay solely for journal subscriptions.
  • You may choose to publish in a fully open access journal that is not covered by one of UC’s transformative open access agreements. At UC Berkeley, the Berkeley Research Impact Initiative (BRII) can reimburse authors up to $2,500 per article once per year to help defray the cost of the article processing charge (APC).  
Will the new federal guidance make it easier to get funding to cover the cost of open access publishing?

While we do not yet know the details of how each agency will implement the OSTP guidance, based on the current approach of the large federal agencies, there will be a no-cost option available—such as an approved government repository—where you (or the publisher) can deposit your manuscript and meet the open access requirement at no cost.
Some authors may wish to publish in open access journals and share the publisher’s version to comply with OSTP’s updated policy. Usually these journals require the payment of an article processing charge (APC). These fees can be paid in various ways, including via financial assistance to UC affiliated corresponding authors when they publish in journals with which the UC has entered into a transformative open access agreement, through local open access funding such as the Berkeley Research Impact Initiative (BRII), or through faculty research or other grant funds. 

Most funding agencies already allow funds to be used for open access publishing fees, including flexible money that may not have been allocated explicitly for this purpose in the grant budget at the outset. The OSTP guidance, which specifies that “federal agencies should allow researchers to include reasonable publication costs,” reinforces this position for all federal agencies.

Where and how do I share my data?

As agencies implement the OSTP guidance on data sharing, they may recommend or require specific repositories to which federally-funded data must be deposited. Until those details are known, a subject-specific repository is usually the best place to share your data since it will be an intuitive location for other scientists to look for datasets in a particular field. There are also general repositories host a variety of subjects and interdisciplinary datasets. UC has partnered with the Dryad repository, and UC affiliates can deposit data there for free (as long as it is open and unrestricted, and contains no personally identifiable human subject information; see the Dryad FAQ for details).

Who can I contact if I have more questions?

If you have questions that were not answered above, please email our office at schol-comm@berkeley.edu.

Open course content

We provide support and solutions for UC Berkeley authors to create, publish, host, and find open or affordable course content for use in the classroom and beyond.

The high and ever-increasing cost of textbooks is a significant concern for Berkeley students. Textbook prices have risen 88% in the past decade, according to a 2016 Bureau of Labor Statistics report, and many textbooks cost upwards of $200. Print course-pack costs further compound student financial burdens.

Open and affordable course materials

Campus efforts

In 2017, the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Undergraduate Education established a new task force to identify strategies to educate the campus about the cost of course content, and encourage practices that lower costs for students.

“While the campus has long been investigating the issue of course content affordability and has made progress, much work still needs to be done,” explained Vice Chancellor for Undergraduate Education Cathy Koshland. “We must further reduce course content costs and utilize accessible digital library resources to provide an equitable and engaging learning environment for our students.”

Submitting their report during Spring 2018, the task force:

  • Reviewed data related to textbook and reader usage and pricing to better understand the complex issues surrounding affordability.
  • Identified strategies to educate faculty about the cost of textbooks and readers to encourage practices that lower these costs for students.
  • Outlined how best to utilize online resources.
  • Identified strategies to educate faculty about accessibility issues related to textbooks and digital course materials.

Our office participated in this campuswide task force and report. We also simultaneously advanced similar efforts described below.

Library pilot programs

In cooperation with the Center for Teaching & LearningAssociated Students of the University of California, and Educational Technology Services, the Library launched a pilot for 2017-18 to explore how we might reduce student costs for assigned course materials. The pilot tested, at limited scale, three Library-led services intended to help reduce the costs of assigned course content for Berkeley students, while also allowing the Library to gauge feasibility and efficiency were those services expanded.

  1. Course Packs: The Library enabled instructors to create free and electronic course readers in lieu of instructors requiring students to purchase print copies from third-party vendors.
  2. E-book Swaps: The Library acquired unlimited user licenses for books that the instructors would otherwise have required students to purchase in print.
  3. Open educational resources (OERs): The Library and Center for Teaching and Learning supported instructors in shifting from traditional textbooks to OERs (online and free to read and reuse).

The Library received financial support for our participation in the pilot programs from The Arcadia Fund.

Over the course of the three pilot semesters (Fall 2017, Spring 2018, and Fall 2018), the Library supported over 40 courses, representing approximately 2400 students. We have estimated potential student savings of over $200,000 for the pilot period alone! You can view our pilot fact sheet here:

Affordable Course Content Pilot Fact Sheet

Currently, the Library is working with its campus partners to evaluate ways to continue and expand the pilot services. We will update this space!

Open Education Network

The UC Berkeley Library has also strengthened its commitment to making course materials more affordable for students by joining the Open Education Network, which supports access to freely available and openly licensed textbooks and course content. The Open Education Network maintains the Open Textbook Library, a premiere resource for peer-reviewed academic textbooks. All Open Textbook Library textbooks are free and openly licensed for use, adaption, or modification.

The Open Education Network also provides workshops on open textbook development and pedagogy, and a growing community of open textbook authors and instructors creating and sharing Open Educational Resources (OERs). Berkeley will continue to work with the Open Education Network to advance the use of open practices on campus by offering resources and workshops to explain and expand adoption of open textbooks. 

What’s special about open textbooks?

Wondering why there’s a particular emphasis on open textbooks or OERs? 

OERs include resources, tools, and practices that are free of legal, financial, and technical barriers and can be fully used, shared, and adapted in the digital environment. This means that, not only they are free of cost to students, but also they are licensed in a way that allows instructors to continually build upon, improve, and develop outstanding educational materials.

Generally, right or permission is granted by use of an open license (for example, Creative Commons licenses) which allows anyone to Retain, Reuse, Revise, Remix, and Redistribute these educational materials.

Create an open book


In Spring 2018, UC Berkeley Library began piloting PressbooksEDU to offer easy-to-use digital-publishing software for anyone with an active @berkeley.edu email address via the UC Berkeley Open Book Publishing Platform. Pressbooks features professionally-designed templates, flexible, and customizable licensing, and tools to maximize accessibility.

Other platforms

In addition to piloting Pressbooks, we are working to develop a platform-agnostic space to host and feature UC Berkeley-created open books made with any number of different digital publishing tools, such as GitBooksShare LaTeXOverleaf, and Scalar. We are committed to supporting and providing a full suite of publishing options to meet as many disciplinary and technical needs as possible.

Get a grant

We are still offering a limited number of grants to UC Berkeley instructors for the adoption, adaption, and creation of open textbooks. Contact Scholarly Communication Services to discuss whether this program might be right for your project.