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Mellon Funding for the Open Library of the Humanities

Stacks of the José Vasconcelos Library in Mexico City from Wikipedia

Here’s some exciting news for readers interested in experiments in academic publishing: the Open Library of the Humanities has just received a substantial Mellon Foundation grant to build its technological platform, business model, journal and monograph pilot scheme.

The Open Library of the Humanities (OLH) — run by the enterprising Martin Paul Eve (@martin_eve) and Caroline Edwards (@the_blochian) — is an ambitious project to replicate the Public Library of Science (PLoS) project for the humanities.  PLoS is a non-profit organization of scientists dedicated to making the world’s scientific and medical literature freely accessible to scientists and to the public.

OLH is most well known for its effort to experiment with a sustainable large-scale model for academic publishing. This is urgently needed. Critics argue that the existing model for research is broken, with academic publishers like Elsevier criticized for taking research that has been produced by academics for free and then selling it back to university libraries at inflated cost.  Yet, “open access” research is often unsustainable as the publishing process still generates substantial costs, which cannot be recouped if people believe that open access equates to free. OLH is a major experiment to find new solutions to this conundrum, such as through their Library Publishing Subsidy system—which asks libraries to support an infrastructure rather than purchasing journals—and an interesting new mechanism termed “curation journals,” or co-branded journals that run on top of the OLH platform.

Stay tuned for a ProfHacker interview of OLH director Martin Paul Eve soon to find out more about what the Mellon funding will mean for OLH and the plans the organization has in store for the future.

Do you have experience with the Open Library of the Humanities (or with open access efforts more generally)? What are your thoughts about the future effort of the OLH?

[CC-licensed Flickr photo by Eneas De Troya]

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