The year was 2013. Frances Pinter, the former CEO of Manchester Press, and Lucy Montgomery, a professor at Curtin University, collaborated with 13 academic publishers to launch a global library crowdfunding campaign aimed at making a collection of scholarly monographs Open Access (OA) upon publication. The campaign sought to cover the cost of publishing 28 monographs in the Humanities and Social Sciences (HSS) without financial burdens to authors or readers. Initially, the pilot required 200 libraries to participate in crowdfunding, but nearly 300 libraries from various parts of the world supported the initiative, making it a success.
Thus began the story of Knowledge Unlatched (KU), a proof-of-concept experiment aimed at addressing a well-known challenge in OA publishing — finding equitable, sustainable ways to publish OA scholarly publications without requiring fees from authors or readers. Fast forward to 2023, and KU’s efforts now include hundreds of publishers and institutions from around the globe, who join forces to “unlatch” hundreds of books each year. These efforts have enabled us to make scholarly titles open and available beyond the confines of institution walls, ensuring that the benefits of OA are widespread and universal.
From a small-scale pilot project, KU has evolved into a global initiative transforming the landscape of OA publishing. In many ways, the endurance of our OA efforts underscores the power of experimentation and collaboration to drive positive change in scholarly communications. As we head into our tenth pledging cycle this spring and celebrate a decade of library crowdfunding campaigns, it’s the right time to reflect on the impact of our efforts to date. And with Diamond Open Access (DOA) recently drawing increasing attention in academic circles, KU’s contributions to the sustainability of DOA are particularly worth noting.
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