Open Access in the Humanities and The Open Library of Humanities

KCL. 9th February 2017.

A book

Professor Martin Paul Eve, Birkbeck, University of London

Why do we publish?

To be read. To be assessed.

A research paper

Dissemination: Quality Control, Validation and Space-Time Compression

  • Preservation of record
  • Footnotes and scholarly genealogy (vs. science?)
  • Labour of reading: reading-avoidance techniques
  • Dissemination at a distance


Symbolic Economy

The Symbolic Economy Maps onto the Real Economy

Library Economy

Three Problems

Three Problems: researcher access, public access and re-use

Problem 1: Researcher access

See under "serials crisis".

Problem 2: Public access

  • Increasingly educated populace
  • Institutional missions to benefit society
    • Or what is a university?
  • The academy becomes irrelevant
    • Especially the humanities

Problem 3: Restrictive Re-Use Rights

  • Photocopying licenses
    • Even for teaching
  • Text mining/derivatives prohibited
  • Inclusion in Wikipedia and other resources
  • Community translation
  • Third-party re-use rights

Open Access (OA)

  • Peer-reviewed research
  • Free to read online
  • Permission to re-use

  • Gold: at publisher/source
  • Green: institutional/subject repository

  • Gratis: free to read
  • Libre: free to re-use
Background image © PLOS. Used under a CC BY-SA 3.0 license.

But APCs problematic for the humanities and some other disciplines

APC graph


  • Monographs acknowledged as different
    • e.g. HEFCE mandate
  • Higher barriers to entry for new publishers
  • Open source platform development in infancy
  • Production toolchain likewise
  • Different discoverability and value-conferral sites

BPCs for monographs scale badly

  • 5,023 monographs in UK in 2013 by largest 4 publishers (source: Crossick)
  • At a £5,050 BPC (UP price): £25,366,150
  • At a £6,500 BPC (CUP price): £32,649,500
  • At an £11,000 BPC (Palgrave price): £55,253,000
  • UK spend on all books 2010/2011: ~£60,000,000 (source: SCONUL)

BPCs for monographs scale badly

BPC graph

Our Solution

Open Library of Humanities Megajournal / Multijournal / Not-for-profit / Collectively Funded

Planning since 2013

Press and Committees

Support from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation

  • $90,000 planning grant
    • University of Lincoln, UK, 2014-2015
  • $741,000 sustainability grant
    • Birkbeck, University of London, UK, 2015-2018

The Subscription Model as it Exists

The current system: many libraries all paying relatively large amounts

The OLH Library Partnership Subsidy Model

Many libraries all paying smaller amounts

>220 Libraries Financially Supporting the OLH

Some of the libraries supporting OLH: Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Cambridge

18 Journals on or Supported by the Platform (909 articles in first year)

Journals on the OLH platform Cost per institution per article: around $1.10 per institution per article. Target of 300+ libraries by end of year three. 118,686 unique readers. Average of 131 readers per article. $0.008 per institution per reader.

Ongoing Project to "Flip" Subscription Journals

Six additional journals joining in January 2017

Organizational Structure

  • UK Company Limited by Guarantee
  • Converted to Charitable Company with Trustees
    • Income threshold > £5,000
    • Trustee independence and no benefits
    • Stict regulations on fund use
  • Unusual: 2x co-CEOs


  • Charity commission can audit
  • Professional accountants
  • Use a professional solution from the start, like Xero
  • Income proportionate (pro rata) over the year
  • Legal advice on charitable conversion provided by Birkbeck
  • Trustee meetings held once per year minimum


  • Birkbeck currently handles our staffing admin
  • But, we'll eventually need:
    • PAYE
    • Pension enrollment
    • National Insurance contributions

Building Open-Source Publishing Technology

  • meTypeset: a JATS XML typesetter
  • CaSSius: a CSS regions PDF generator
  • Translation Layer

CaSSius: Heavyweight typesetting with lightweight technology

CaSSius output

The End

Thank you!

Presentation licensed under a CC BY-SA 3.0 license. All institutional images excluded from CC license. Available to view online at