Free online textbooks are among the most popular and highest impact open educational resources. (The overwhelming response to this list of OCW’s online textbooks has made that clear to us!)  The recently announced Knowledge Unlatched initiative brings some new participants into the fold through a novel collaborative business model.

Libraries Test a Model for Setting Monographs Free

Knowledge Unlatched hoped to recruit 200 libraries in time to unveil a pilot collection of open-access books at the end of February, but about 300 libraries signed up.

By Jennifer Howard | April 1, 2014

Librarians love to get free books into the hands of scholars and students who need them. Publishers love it when their books find readers—but they also need to cover the costs of turning an idea into a finished monograph. Now a nonprofit group called Knowledge Unlatched is trying out a new open-access model designed to make both librarians and publishers happy.

Here’s how the “unlatching” works: Participating libraries pick a list of scholarly books they want to make open access. They pool money to pay publishers a title fee for each of those books. The title fees are meant to cover the cost of publishing each book; publishers calculate what they think is fair and share those estimates with the Knowledge Unlatched group.

In return for the title fees, the publishers make Creative Commons-licensed, DRM-free PDFs of the selected books available for free download through the OAPEN digital platform (OAPEN stands for Open Access Publishing in European Networks), the HathiTrust digital repository, and eventually the British Library.

Authors and publishers decide which Creative Commons license they’re comfortable using. There’s no postpublication embargo period; the books will be available as soon as the publishers and Knowledge Unlatched can process and upload the PDFs. (Click here for a full list of the books selected for the pilot and whether they’ve been published and uploaded yet.)

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