Open access publishing removes price and permission barriers to any user with access to the internet. The three major definitions of "open access" are put forth in the Budapest, Bethesda, and Berlin public statements, referred to by Peter Suber, as the Budapest-Bethesda-Berlin or BBB definition of open access.
All of the definitions include these essential points:
Open access journals bring scholars' work to the widest audience possible, without sacrificing timely, rigorous peer and editorial review.
Open access does not mean free; there are substantial, unavoidable costs in internet publishing, even if no print version is produced. Some open access publishers require an article processing fee from the author (such as BioMed Central (BMC), Public Library of Science (PLoS)), and may offer reduced fees for those who cannot pay.
The library strongly encourages Oberlin scholars to consider an open access publisher when preparing a manuscript for review. All Oberlin College authors are eligible for reduced fees with both BMC and PLoS, thanks to the Library's consortial memberships in those organizations.