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Open Access Monographs

Within academic publishing, open access (OA) scholarship includes peer-reviewed works (books, journals, reference works, websites) that are digital, online, free of charge, and accessible to anyone with an internet connection.

Understanding Open Access, compiled by the Scholarly Communications Office at Emory Libraries, provides a helpful overview of OA publication and outlines the OA opportunities available at Emory University.

Monographs are long-form works that present a sustained argument on a single subject in the humanities or humanistic social sciences. They are typically, though not always, the work of a single author and written for a specialized audience.

Open access monographs:

  • may range in form from a text PDF with static illustrations to a dynamic, interactive website featuring multimedia components that could not exist in print form;
  • are subject to the same peer review and editorial standards as their traditional print counterparts;
  • flip the traditional funding model. A subsidy (which may be drawn from multiple sources) covers the publisher’s editorial and production costs upfront so that the book can be distributed without charge to readers;
  • may be published simultaneously with a print version (often print-on-demand) that is available for sale;
  • demand special attention with regard to marketing and distribution. Traditional advertising strategies remain useful, but the creation of robust metadata records is necessary to ensure that the books will be discovered by key audiences;
  • require a sustainability plan to remain accessible. Institutional repositories (like OpenEmory) allow authors to deposit archival-quality PDFs (PDF/As) for ongoing preservation. More sophisticated digital projects will need dependable hosting services as well as regular platform and/or software upgrades to remain viable.

OA monographs take a variety of forms. Most digital monograph projects fall into one of three categories.

1. Long-form scholarship with a strong resemblance to print:

Readers may download these OA books free of charge to their own devices, or simply read them in an internet browser. Print versions of the books may still be available for sale.

2. Long-form scholarship substantially enhanced by the digital format:

Monographs published in this hybrid form usually exist as a stand-alone book (print and/or e-book) with significant supplementary material published in a complementary website. The e-book may contain embedded links to the supplementary material.

In the examples below, the print books and e-books are for sale (i.e., not open access), while the supplementary material is open access. With an appropriate subsidy provided to the publisher, the e-books could be made open access as well.

Fulcrum (an initiative of Michigan Publishing) is a publishing platform used by university presses to publish digital objects alongside books. Among their projects are:

Scalar is an open access publishing platform created by the Alliance for Networking Visual Culture, with support from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and the National Endowment for the Humanities. Two Scalar projects are:   

3. Long-form scholarship in which text and digital complements are fully integrated:

The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation has funded two initiatives in multimodal digital monograph publishing. 

Manifold is an iterative, collaborative, open-source platform for scholarly publishing developed at the University of Minnesota Press. Live instantiations of Manifold are available at University of Minnesota PressCUNY, and Cornell’s Einaudi Center Digital Publications.

The Stanford University Press Digital Projects Initiative creates a parallel process to the Press's traditional book program, allowing digital objects and scholarship to be peer reviewed and published. This initiative’s first publication, Enchanting the Desert, is widely considered to be the first entirely digital monograph.

University presses and library publishers are publishing new OA books, many as part of the Open Access Monograph Publishing Initiative. Others are making older or out-of-print titles available as open access (see the NEH’s Humanities Open Book Program).

Digital versions of monographs that were initially published and sold as print titles may be deposited in OA repositories, often at the author's home institution (e.g., OpenEmory). With this course of action the book becomes retroactively (or simultaneously) an open access publication, a process sometimes described as "opening" or "unlatching."

Emory University is among twelve institutions committed to the Open Access Monograph Publishing Initiative, a collaboration among the Association of American Universities, the Association of Research Libraries, and the Association of American University Presses. The program launched in spring 2017 with fifty-seven member publishers, and the list continues to grow.

The Budapest Open Access Initiative (2002) coined the term open access and defines it as the means by which scholarly literature is made freely available online, permitting any users to read, download, copy, distribute, print, search, or link to the full texts of these articles, crawl them for indexing, pass them as data to software, or use them for any other lawful purpose, without financial, legal, or technical barriers other than those inseparable from gaining access to the internet itself. The only constraint on reproduction and distribution, and the only role for copyright in this domain, should be to give authors control over the integrity of their work and the right to be properly acknowledged and cited.

The OA movement began within the scientific publishing community and soon widened to include the humanities. For more detail on its history and development, consult: