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In terms of scholarly literature, "open access" applies to "digital, online, free of charge, and free of most copyright and licensing restrictions"(Suber). What it means to academia and research is that the primary barrier to access, price, is removed from the equation, allowing free access to peer-reviewed, scholarly works, books, and just about any other electronic print material with the designation.
Open Access works fall under two main publishing categories:
Green Open Access
Free online access to peer-reviewed materials provided by the author (self archived, or published in an institutional repository).
Gold Open Access
Free online access provided by the journal itself, whether the journal is subscription-based, APC (article processing charge)-based, or subsidized. Open access journals can be searchable within a digital publisher's collection. For example, EBSCO allows the user to limit searching to open access journals.
Visit Scholarly Communication & Open Access to learn more about Open Access, Scholarly Communication, and the services and resources we offer at SBU Libraries.
MIT has a great FAQ of popular questions regarding open access if you want to learn more about the basics of OA.
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