A work that is published as open access is freely accessible for anyone to read, distribute, reproduce, print, or search on the internet.
This manner of publishing first became popular in the science community because it allowed current science articles to reach the public in a timely fashion rather than getting slowed down in the peer review and then publication process. The Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC) is an organization that is working to promote and advance open access in all disciplines. SPARC’s website is a wonderful resource if you would like more information about the advantages of open access.
A major advantage of open access for authors is that it increases citation frequency. The more people read an article, the more people will cite it. And in the scholarly realm, this is an important outcome as citations grant prestige and respect. In addition, with the prices of scholarly journals rising and library budgets tightening, publishing through open access is one way to ensure prohibitive costs do not come between knowledge and those who seek it.