“In 2012 serial entrepreneur Frances Pinter founded a new company called Knowledge Unlatched (KU). The goal, she explained in 2013, was to “change the way we fund the publishing of quality content” for book-length publications, and in a way that would allow them to be made open access.
With that end in mind, Pinter launched a pilot project in which research libraries were invited to pool money to fund the “fixed costs” of publishing monographs. By doing so, Pinter reasoned, PDF and HTML versions of these “unlatched” books could be made freely available on the Web, but print and other premium versions would continue to be sold in the traditional manner. And those libraries that contributed to the pool would earn the right to buy the premium versions at a discounted price.
In a spirit of civic-mindedness Pinter created Knowledge Unlatched as a UK non-profit Community Interest Company (CIC). And with Pinter’s formidable reputation as a publisher, KU quickly acquired mindshare and influence, and went on to play an important role in the thinking about the scope and opportunities for OA monographs, as well as in policy development – both in the UK and globally.
Above all, says Pinter below, KU went on to provide proof of concept for a new way of funding OA monographs, and perhaps of funding OA more generally….”
“So – why is OBP not going to participate in this KU offering?
To begin with, we have had growing misgivings about the objectives and actions of KU since it transitioned from being a “non-profit” community interest company (registered in the UK) to a “for profit” commercial entity (registered in Germany), and in their own lack of openness about their business model and operations, echoing the concerns articulated by Marcel Knöchelmann his LSE Impact blog post.
More specific concerns with this particular programme emerged when OBP was invited to participate as a publisher and we were provided with a template publisher’s contract. The contract has a number of concerning restrictions, but the most concerning is the very first one: …
These types of exclusivity contracts can be used by digital “platforms” as a strategy to monopolise and dominate an industry….
We also hope that funders will recognise the importance of developing open and collectively-controlled, community-driven infrastructures to sit alongside, and so place a competitive check on, profit-oriented alternatives….”
“Over recent years, Knowledge Unlatched has harnessed the effectiveness of its consortial funding model to become the largest gatekeeper to open access for scholarly books. But as Marcel Knöchelmann describes, the changing of its status from that of a community interest company to a German GmbH or public limited company, and that it is now fully owned by the consultancy fullstopp, has gone largely uncommunicated. This information has assumed greater pertinence and urgency following the decision to appoint fullstopp to collect and analyse data that will be used to inform future policy decisions on open access. The researchers, publishers, and librarians inevitably impacted by the outcomes of this consultation should be afforded the transparency to know that the parent company of the commercial entity which stands to profit from a future of open access book publishing is advising on what the future of open access book publishing in the UK should be.”
Eelco Ferwerda (OAPEN), Lucy Montgomery (Knowledge Unlatched Research), and Christina Emery (Springer Nature) recently joined OASPA and Knowledge Exchange for a webinar to discuss new developments in Open Access monographs in the humanities and social sciences. Jeroen Sondervan (Knowledge Exchange) chaired the discussion. The Copyright Clearance Center hosted the webinar. Leyla Williams, Events and Communications Coordinator at OASPA, reflects on the discussion.
“Berlin, 5th October 2017 Knowledge Unlatched (KU) is pleased to announce its transformation into a central Open Access (OA) platform. Through this platform, KU will support publishers and OA initiatives by managing the funding processes for their OA models. It will also provide libraries and funders all over the world with one central place where they can support OA programmes. Knowledge Unlatched’s core product, KU Select, will remain an important part of the platform, and will be including STEM alongside HSS titles in 2018.”
Abstract: While open access publishing for journals is well established, open access monograph publishing is taking longer to gain momentum. This is in large part due to the financial challenges involved in publishing monographs. Publishers are concerned that the availability of a free open access edition will cannibalise print sales and therefore the publisher’s ability to recoup the costs involved in producing a book i.e. peer review, editing, typesetting, technological infrastructure, sales, marketing and staff. But is that really the case? Or does the availability of the open access version mean wider access to the book, all round the world and to new audiences, and in some cases increased print sales as a result of the greater visibility? This article will look at some statistics from the OAPEN-UK / Jisc project that has been investigating open access monograph publishing during the last five years. As part of its research, the project ran a pilot comparing open access monograph download figures with print sales of comparable books to assess what the effect on print sales actually is. It will also review the Knowledge Unlatched pilot, which made 28 books by a range of publishers available as open access, with some interesting results. The outcome of these pilots will be compared with UCL Press’s own experience since launching as the UK’s first fully open access university press in June 2015, along with some examples from other open access publishers.