visibility in open access publishing

Visibility in Open Access Publishing

One of the most widely advertised benefits of publishing Open Access is increased visibility. Publishers working with the Open Access business model consistently refer to how Open Access books receive higher visibility.

Yet it’s not always clear what “visibility” means. The term is broad and used in different ways within Open Access publishing. By breaking down the specifics of the term, we can address any ambiguity surrounding visibility in Open Access publishing.

What do we mean by “visibility”?

Essentially, the visibility of a piece of research (whether it’s an article or a book) is defined by the size of its audience, the extent of its reach, and any engagement the research generates.

Although there may be other factors involved, the visibility of a piece of research can be determined by looking at three key figures: its number of downloads, citations, and online mentions.


Downloads refer to how many times a specific piece of research has been converted into a readable format. These are perhaps the most important metric when it comes to determining how well certain research is performing. This is because downloads are most reflective of how often the content is being read and by how many people.

In terms of visibility, publishing Open Access is the best option. Open Access books have 7x more downloads than non-Open Access books on average.


A citation is a reference in academic and even non-academic works to another published work. Whereas downloads are a simple way of gauging how many times a work is being read, citations give us further insight into how research may be influencing or generating discussions within specific subject areas, thus increasing visibility further.

Open Access articles tend to be referenced more than non-OA articles. This is known as the Open Access citation advantage (OACA). A study found that OA books have more than double the number of citations than non-OA books. This demonstrates the impact of heightened accessibility.

Online mentions

Online mentions refer specifically to the number of times a piece of research has been mentioned on social media platforms, but they can also refer to mentions in online publications or blog posts.

Like citations, online mentions are a good measure of how much attention and discussion a piece of research is generating. They are also indicative of the reach of research beyond academic circles. Books or articles have the potential to go viral if the content appeals to wider audiences.

How visibility is optimized within Open Access publishing

Visibility in Open Access publishing is largely optimized through online mentions. Open Access publishers tend to publicize their books via social media to disseminate research as widely as possible.

There are a variety of ways to do this. For example, publishers can help authors to promote their work effectively with campaigns that include blogs, interviews, video abstracts, or recorded book launches that can then be shared via the appropriate social media channels.

Although focusing on Open Access articles and not books, a study from 2022 found that social media use can boost not just the social impact of Open Access articles but also the number of citations and academic influence. This shows how efficient online marketing can lead to increased citations and downloads.

Open Access books vs. print only books

It is also worth observing how Open Access books compare to print only books. The main advantages of Open Access books in comparison to their print only counterparts can be understood in terms of two qualities: immediacy and accessibility.


A reader would need to wait for a print only book to arrive after ordering it. However, an Open Access book can be readily downloaded and read by anyone with an internet connection.

Such immediacy can prove vital for researchers who need to view or respond quickly to research. This is an obvious advantage for medical researchers, for example, who constantly need to learn of new developments within their respective fields to help improve the health and well-being of others.


Print only books are also limited by their form. They need to be stored in spaces such as libraries or bookstores and therefore physically accessed. Additionally, libraries need to request a physical copy of a book if it’s not already stored there, and bookstores need to have a financially justifiable reason for stocking a book.

Open Access books on the other hand are not subject to these constraints. Online libraries can store an almost endless supply of research in comparison to bookstores and libraries. Instead of having to purchase or access a full print book, you can also access individual chapters or articles within Open Access edited books. This ensures that a reader’s financial status is not an issue. It also helps academics/institutions in low- and middle-income countries access the research they need.

The visibility of Open Access books

The Open Access revolution has paved the way for increased visibility for books, facilitating global-wide accessibility.

Whether you are considering Open Access publishing or marketing Open Access books, understanding what defines visibility is crucial for getting research to the widest possible audience. For more information on Open Access, see our other publications on the subject.

Finally, don’t forget to check out MDPI Books’ vast online library of Open Access books.

We’re dedicated to giving you all the information you need to understand Open Access. Click here for our article, All You Need to Know About Open Access, which covers a range of topics that can help boost your understanding and also keep you up to date.