The Study of Religion and Open Access-books

Today, more and more research literature, in the form of monographs and edited volumes, is published open access. This article presents an overview of where you can find open access books and particularly books dealing with the study of religion. Some of the challenges with publishing books open access are also discussed.

The work focusing on making research output available to everyone is continuously progressing. The focus has long been on research articles, but the work with making monographs and edited volumes too available is also going forward. Particularly in the humanities and theology books are still a very central form of research output. It is therefore important that books are also made available to readers.

Where can one find current open access-books that focus on the study of religion?

DOAB – Directory of Open Access Books

A useful platform to start looking for books is DOAB – Directory of Open Access Books. Currently one can find more than 51000 books in DOAB. A search with the word “religion” provides more than 2000 hits. Only peer-reviewed volumes are registered in DOAB and the publishers report their open access-publications directly to the directory. The quality of the books is therefore generally high.

A search using the terms “Finland” and “religion” offers many hits. Two books that can be mentioned are Charismatic Christianity in Finland, Norway, and Sweden: Case Studies in Historical and Contemporary Developments, edited by Jessica Moberg and Jane Skjoldli (Palgrave, 2018), and The Challenges of Religious Literacy: The Case of Finland, edited by Tuula Sakaranaho, Timo Aarrevaara and Johanna Konttori (Springer, 2020).

Open access and academic publishers

These days, many academic publishers offer writers the possibility to publish their works open access. This is usually quite expensive – the price for a book, that is to say BPC or Book Processing Charges, is often close to 10 000 euros. The question who should pay is of great concerns when it comes monographs and edited volumes. More funding structures are needed.

Volumes focusing on religion are available open access via many publishers. Brill has published Handbook of Leaving Religion, edited by Daniel Enstedt, Göran Larsson and Teemu T. Mantsinen (Brill, 2019), and De Gruyter Contesting Religion: The Media Dynamics of Cultural Conflicts in Scandinavia, edited by Knut Lundby (De Guyter, 2018).

Instead of publishing an entire book open access one can also only make parts of a volume available. Of the volume Indigenous Religion(s): Local Grounds, Global Networks, edited by Siv Ellen Kraft, Bjørn Ola Tafjord, Arkotong Longkumer, Gregory D. Alles and Greg Johnson (Routledge, 2020), a selection of chapters are open for anyone to read.

Researchers and research projects at Åbo Akademi University have also published books open access. The project Young Adults and Religion in a Global Perspective (YARG) that was led by professor Peter Nynäs in the study of religions will soon publish a volume via Springer. The book’s title is The Diversity of Worldviews Among Young Adults: Contemporary (Non)Religiosity And Spirituality Through The Lens Of An International Mixed Method Study and it is edited by Peter Nynäs, Ariela Keysar, Janne Kontala, Ben-Willie Kwaku Golo, Mika T. Lassander, Marat Shterin, Sofia Sjö and Paul Stenner (Springer, 2022). The publishing costs have been covered by Åbo Akademi University library’s pool for open access costs.

More and more academic books are available open access, but a lot still needs to be done in this area. Photo by Matt Bango on StockSnap.

Open access and university presses

University publishers are often for open access publishing but it varies to what degree publications are made available open access. The more prominent university presses work like academic publishers in general with the same kind of costs for BPC.

For researchers with an interest in religion, Stockholm University Press, SUP, is worth getting acquainted with. SUP publishes all their books open access and they also have a series focusing on the study of religion: Stockholm Studies in Comparative Religion. The latest book in the series is Religions around the Arctic: Source Criticism and Comparisons edited by Håkan Rydving and Konsta Kaikkonen (SUP, 2022).

University repositories

For universities, open access publishing is important. Universities want their research to reach all interested parties and they also often receive support for making their research available. Universities generally publish theses in repositories which are open for the general public. University repositories thus provide access to current research in many fields.

The repository used by Åbo Akademi University is called Doria. Here you also find doctoral theses in the study of religions. The two latest theses to be published are Johnny Långstedt’s thesis Towards a Model for Managing Value Diversity in the Work Environment (2021) and Klas Wikström av Edholm’s thesis Människooffer i myt och minne: En studie av offerpraktiker i fornnordisk religion utifrån källtexter och arkeologiskt material (2020). Doria is also used by several other universities and institutions, including the Donner Institute. In the research portal AboCRIS publications connected to Åbo Akademi University are parallel published.

The repository of the University of Helsinki is called Helda. Helda Open Books includes both newly published volumes and older classical works connected to the University of Helsinki. To access research from all of Finland one can turn to Research.fi, a service provided by the Ministry of Education and Culture. For theses published at several Swedish universities one can turn to the Diva-portal.

Edition.fi is a service for publishing books open access provided by The Federation of Finnish Learned Societies. The Donner Institute is publishing parts of the book series Religionsvetenskapliga skrifter in Edition.fi.

Foundations and societies

Open access publishing is also of interest for many foundations and societies. The Federation of Finnish Learned Societies, TSV, works with questions related to open science on many levels, including open access publishing. TSV has recently launched Edition.fi, a service developed specifically with the aim to support publishing books open access. In Edition.fi one also finds the Donner Institute. This year we will published selected parts of the book series Religionsvetenskapliga skrifter in Edition.fi. The series was previously published by the Study of religions and Åbo Akademi University.

The Finnish Literature Society, SKS, has also focused on open access publishing. Among the SKS’s rich output can also be found several volumes of interest for scholars of religion. Two publications that can be mentioned are Uskonto, kieli ja yhteiskunta: Johdatus diskursiiviseen uskonnontutkimukseen, edited by Titus Hjelm (SKS, 2021), and On the Legacy of Lutheranism in Finland: Societal Perspectives, edited by Kaius Sinnemäki, Anneli Portman, Jouni Tilli and Robert H. Nelson (SKS, 2019).

Open access via libraries

Today, a large part of university library accessions are e-books. Open access-books are also available via university libraries. While e-books, due to the current license agreements can only be accessed by students or staff at a university, open access-books can be read by everyone. In the Åbo Akademi University search portal Alma and in the national search portal Finna there is unfortunately no way to only search for open access-books. However, open access books are in the search results noticeable by there for example being a link to DOAB or OAPEN. In Alma one also finds a guide to e-book platforms. The guide includes information about open access-books.

The Donner Institute library collections are open for everyone. We are happy to help you find both electronic and print volumes. Photo by Linda Svarfvar.

Good luck in your search! The librarians at the Donner Institute are happy to help you find both electronic and printed literature. If you cannot find a book you want online, get in touch and we can see if we are able to acquire a printed version for you. Our collections are open for everyone. On our webpage you can also find an open access guide with more ideas about where to find open access books and suggestions for good open access-journals with a focus on religion.

Thank you to the staff at Åbo Akademi University library for their feedback and ideas for this text!