Open Book Publishers are “changing the nature of the traditional academic book”

OBP1Open Book Publishers was founded in 2008 by a small group of academics at the University of Cambridge.There are currently 67 published and 18 forthcoming titles spanning subjects including  Anthropology, Archaeology & Religion, Digital Humanities, Economics, Politics & Sociology, Law, Literature & Language, Mathematics, Philosophy, and Women & Gender Studies. To see a full list of published monographs and if you want to find out more about the vision behind OBP, their website is available from here and an interactive electronic version of their Winter 2016 catalogue can be found here. You can click straight into the full-text of the ebook version from within this catalogue.

OBP’s academic monographs are published in hardback, paperback, PDF and ebook editions, and they also include a free online edition that can be read online via the OBP website, and embedded anywhere. OBP titles are free to share and re-use, through Creative Commons licences.

OBP are challenging the standard “reproduced” ebook format by creating interactive ebooks, incorporating moving images, links and sound into the text. Their more traditional titles are complemented with freely available digital resources, including extra chapters, reviews, links and image galleries. These resources can be found alongside the relevant ebook on their website.

To read the ebooks directly from the website click on Read the PDF or Read the HTML buttons on the front page of each book title. To download a PDF, epub or mobi version of a title, just click on the relevant download button, as shown in the sceenshot below.


OBP ebooks can be found in LibrarySearch, and can be accessed by anyone from anywhere in the world, no Raven login required.

Cambridge University Library is a member of the OBP Library Members Scheme.

musicology   conservation   Quechan  

cultural       oral       advanced       digital


History of Cartography

All 3 volumes of History of Cartography is now freely available to view online and download from the University of Chicago‘s website.

8399506431_f76ba3ca60_zThe first volume of the History of Cartography was published in 1987 and the three books that constitute Volume Two appeared over the following eleven years. In 1987 the worldwide web did not exist, and since 1998 book publishing has gone through a revolution in the production and dissemination of work. Although the large format and high quality image reproduction of the printed books (see right column) are still well-suited to the requirements for the publishing of maps, the online availability of material is a boon to scholars and map enthusiasts.

Chapters from the first 6six books can be downloaded as PDFs. Click on the links below to access the ebooks (volume three is in 2 parts, but they have the same cover)

HistCar1HistCar21  histcar22  histcar23    HistCar31part 2

Image credit: ‘District of Adelaide, 1839’ by State Library of South Australia on Flikr –

Open Access monographs in the humanities and social sciences – guest post no. 2

Sarah Stamford’s summary of the JISC/Open Access Network conference held at the British Library 1st & 2nd July 2013.

Condensing a two-day conference into a short report is quite a tall order, so I will bring together points which particularly attracted my attention under four headings: Concept, Models, Issues and What’s missing.

“OA monographs” presupposes the product will be an ebook, or ebook and print in some combination, possibly including paid-for content and licensed under Creative Commons.  Although this implies the content will be free at the point of use, costs are involved in getting it to the reader and how these will be met is unclear.  The potential is there to change both the shape and the delivery of the scholarly monograph.

1.         Concept

  • Open Access is an opportunity created by technological developments.  The level of demand is unknown but may be presumed to exist from the use of the (relatively small) number of OA monographs currently available.
  •  It grants access to scholarly research to readers outside universities and institutions in developed countries, for example to general readers and those elsewhere in the world.
  •  HSS topics appeal to a broader readership than science; to some extent OA may help to raise the profile of these disciplines and justify continued research.
  • The value is not just in the monograph per se, but the ability to bring a number of texts together for correlation and further study (as with a print library collection).
  • Including multi-media and interactive content in ebooks expands the potential to link to primary source material (digitized texts, 3-D images, video clips etc).  This is likely to change the identity of the scholarly monograph.
  • Although paper remains “a viable product” (Rupert Gatti, Open Book Publishers) and authors like to have a print copy with their name on it, is print, originally seen as the revolutionary way of disseminating ideas, now restricting accessibility?
  • “Commercial ebooks are stupid” (Philippe Aigrain, author of Sharing)
  • Is the monograph the purpose of research, or something produced as a by-product of it?
  •  Is the concept of “an author” valid when research is often collaborative?
  • Authors expect to earn money from book publishing, but not from journal articles.

2.         Models

We already have Google Books, Hathi Trust, Project Gutenberg, etc, as Open Access ebooks.

Open Library of the Humanities

Considering options for funding OA – same as journals? Take advertising? Author pays (APCs)? Library pays, possibly via a consortium. Or maybe journals subsidise ebooks?

How to satisfy need for author’s prestige, also looking at formats, preservation, costs of production. What might be the effect on sales of print books if OA ebooks become the norm?

Knowledge Unlatched

Consortium of libraries and publishers based on lowering the risk to both. Price to libraries set (either for individual text or a collection) by the number of libraries willing to commit to a subscription once title is published.  OA version on KU’s platform will be basic text (.pdf?), a premium model with extra whistles and bells will be available from the publisher at a higher price.

[I have some problems with this model – transparency of costings, libraries may be unable to decide whether to purchase title in advance of publication as it is often some years before the relevance of a monograph is appreciated, can’t see why library would want to purchase the OA version if academics will want the premium model, and a cost model whereby most popular texts are the cheapest may be the wrong way round]

Palgrave Open

Model at present is similar to that for traditional publishing. They claim it is sustainable but haven’t yet decided who will pay – could be author, funding bodies or institutions or combination of all three. Aim to publish 10 titles in 2014.

Open Book Publishers

Based in Cambridge set up by 3 academics.  Not for profit organisation, funded by Universities, EU, Wellcome Trust and their own sales.  Also crowdsourced funding for one book via Twitter.

They have published c.30 titles as ebooks on OA.  Revenue from sales comes from payment for POD, digital .pdf or downloaded ebook but it’s the same content in all formats.  Expanding into allowing comments from readers to be added to text and adding QR codes to embed video material in print copies.

Aim is to extend scholarship and cite readership of c.500 hits per book per month against how many people would read a print run of 200 copies sold mostly to libraries and restricted to their members only?

ebooks@cambridge have previously assisted this company.


Their OA books findable via Google Books and Amazon. Some discussion about their imposition of CCNC licensing on all authors, restricting reuse, and their costing model.

Directory of Open Access Books launched at the conference.

3.         Issues

These are points which came up several times in discussions.

Peer review              Is current system broken? Are there better ways to carry it out in a digital environment? Who can review? Who reviews the reviews?

Gold v Green              Arguments as with ejournals

VAT                            OA (zero price) would not attract VAT, or would it?

REF                            HEFCE seem unlikely to include OA in the next REF due to lack of viable model.

Repositories                What are their role? Should they consider moving more in publishing content?

Learned societies        What is their role in OA publishing?

Long-term access       With no contract or money changing hands, is there any obligation to retain OA monographs in perpetuity? Who has responsibility for this? Archiving critical (eg Portico etc) – who ensures it happens?

Costs                           What exactly are the production costs? Paper is cheap, print pricing based on extra work carried out by publisher in bringing book to market (copy-editing, metadata, supply and marketing) So who pays for those functions in OA?

Copyright                   Who ensures it is enforced?

ORCID                        Identification of researchers would assist OA, but can be contentious.

Digitising                    Primary sources, even more important if OA monographs are going to link to them. But what happens if they are licensed?

Cataloguing                Should OA resources be included in library catalogues/discovery tools? How?

4.                     What’s missing?

  • No mention of market research into the extent to which researchers want to read monographs in e-format.
  • Current models are based on production and delivery, not consumption.
  • Impact on library budgets.  Will these be used to fund institutional publishing via OA, and what happens if libraries are then expected to buy premium content?
  • Do librarians have the skills to support academics in publishing their research?
  • What is the role of the University press here, for example, should CUP publish Cambridge University-generated content in OA?
  • Less profit in monographs than journals, so money is tight.
  • In an environment where all Universities have access to the same content, what will distinguish their libraries?  Services and their historical collections?

Videos of the conference presentations are available on YouTube.

Sarah Stamford (Selwyn College Librarian / Chair of the ebooks@cambridge Advisory Group)