05. Organisation type

Choosing a structure in line with the values of the press and limiting liability

Key issues

It is possible to distinguish several broad types of organisational structure, including types with clearly distinct or mixed forms (e.g. a charitable company) (Cookbook, p. 28). Most obviously, there are distinctions between not-for-profit organisations, in which surpluses are reinvested in the organisation’s activities, and commercial, profit making companies. Many Open Access presses are, in line with the values that motivated their establishment, non-profits. 

Whether a non-profit or a company, one key consideration for new publishers may be the potential benefits that can come with becoming an "incorporated" organisation. Incorporated organisations are usually registered with a national body, which allows the organisation to have its own, independent identity, separate from the individuals that run it. A key function served by incorporation is often to limit the liability of those that run the organisation. This may be important for many reasons – in relation to liability for employees' wellbeing, financial liability or to suppliers, for example. For publishers, this might also relate to the extent to which individuals running a press are themselves liable for the publisher’s output. 

The Cookbook (Section 3.10.1) has some tips useful in the German context, including costs of setting up a company. A helpful piece of advice for projects involving several countries is to compare regulations and requirements in the different relevant national contexts, as registering a company in one country might be easier and more affordable than in others.

Case studies

The table below also includes an overview of the organisation type chosen by a selection of smaller and academic publishers. It is based on a combination of information from Jisc interviews, Business Models for OA Books and direct correspondence.

Organisation type

African Minds

Not-for-profit trust; Public Benefit Organisation

South Africa

Language Science Press

Charitable Limited Company (Gemeinnützige Unternehmergesellschaft)


Mattering Press

Charitable Incorporated Organisation


Mayfly Books

Unincorporated charity



Non-profit Corporation

Pennsylvania, USA

meson press

Registered Cooperative (Eingetragene Genossenschaft)


Open Book Publishers

Non-profit Community Interest Company (Social Enterprise)


punctum books

Non-profit Public Benefit Corporation

California, USA

White Horse Press

Limited Liability Partnership


Questions to guide good practice