"Open-access (OA) literature is digital, online, free of charge, and free of most copyright and licensing restrictions" (Suber). The open access movement is transforming the traditional model of scholarly publishing and challenging established norms for access, sharing, and re-purposing of knowledge. It provides an alternative to the closed, subscription-based scholarly publishing model. Peter Suber, the foremost expert on the topic, provides an excellent brief explanation of open access and why it is important in his Overview of Open Access. Some main points include:
The traditional scholarly publishing model is not sustainable. As journal subscription prices increase each year, libraries must make difficult decisions about what access they can provide. If you have ever hit a paywall while trying to access an article on the Web, you have experienced the result of this model. Open access offers an alternative. Here are some resources that provide a more in-depth exploration of the value of open access:
Open Access Publishing (Gold): The characteristics of open access publishing are akin to traditional publishing, by which an author submits a work to be peer reviewed and is published at no cost for others to read. Costs to fund the publication process may be assessed to the author through article processing charges, although many publishers charge no fee.
Open Access Publishing (Green): Green open access involves the self-archiving of research published through traditional journals. A variety of platforms are available for researchers to self-archive their work, including disciplinary repositories (e.g. ArXiv or PubMed Central) and institutional repositories (e.g. Belmont Digital Repository) hosted by universities and organizations.