January 17, 2023, New York, NY — JSTOR, part of the non-profit ITHAKA, and a cohort of leading university presses announced today Path to Open, a program to support the open access publication of new groundbreaking scholarly books that will bring diverse perspectives and research to millions of people.
Launching as a pilot, Path to Open libraries will contribute funds to enable participating presses to publish new books that will transition from licensed to open access within three years of publication. The initial pilot will produce about one thousand open access monographs. If successful, it will lay the foundation for an entirely new way to fund long-form scholarship while vastly increasing its impact.
“Path to Open promises a sustainable means of preserving the bibliodiversity that makes academic book publishing so special. It is an antidote to the monopolization of academic publishing and a celebration of the distinctive authorial voices that university-based publishers bring to the fore,” said Charles Watkinson, Director of University of Michigan Press and 2022-2023 President of the Association of University of Presses.
In a recent New York Times guest essay, University Presses are Keeping American Literature Alive, Margaret Renkl argues the value of bibliodiversity for society and spotlights the barriers facing presses and their authors. Studies show that monograph first copy costs are high and many books never break even nor reach their full impact. Presses find it increasingly difficult to invest in new ideas and the emerging authors who can build new or historically under-supported fields of study. This conundrum persists despite growing evidence from JSTOR and others demonstrating that open access significantly increases readership of books. A new way forward is needed to lower financial risk while maximizing the impact that digital access offers.
“We’ve all seen the dramatic increases in usage and impact of university press monographs when barriers to access are removed. And much of this usage is in parts of the world which have been historically under-served and marginalized by legacy distribution models,” said John Sherer, Spangler Family Director, University of North Carolina Press. “By focusing on the incremental financial risk to presses in making books open, Path to Open might be the first scalable initiative capable of system-wide change.”
Presses have been experimenting with solutions for several years, but have yet to derive a scalable, sustainable approach. Path to Open originated in conversations between presses eager for alternative models and took shape as presses, librarians,and scholars came together, convened by the American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS), to explore and define transformational approaches and how to scale them.
“Sometimes even hard-to-change systems can evolve by means of collaborations that align the interests of various passionate members of a community,” said James Shulman, Vice President of the American Council of Learned Societies. “Scholars write books and want them to be read. The same scholars, as well as many other people, want to read these books. Path to Open seeks—through tinkering with 100 year old infrastructures—to balance everyone’s interests and to maximize the access to and the use of humanistic scholarship.”
Alexandra Minna Stern, Dean of Humanities at UCLA, is excited by the potential of Path to Open for authors and their scholarship. “It is very gratifying to witness this innovative partnership among presses and JSTOR to create a program that will expand access to scholarship. There is a diverse and compelling body of humanities work that deserves much wider circulation, and Path to Open will dramatically increase access to and engagement with hundreds of scholarly books.”
Along with ACLS, organizations instrumental in Path to Open’s development include the University of Michigan Press, University of North Carolina Press, and Lyrasis.
“Path to Open is an important new component in the array of emerging models designed to support open access book publishing,” said Sharla Lair, Senior Strategist of Open Access and Scholarly Communication Initiatives at Lyrasis. “Smaller publishers will especially benefit from having diverse options to explore as they seek a sustainable approach for an open access publishing program.”
Presses and ACLS asked JSTOR to join the discussions and to help pilot Path to Open given its extensive experience developing scalable solutions with the community. JSTOR works with thousands of publishers and libraries to fund the digitization and preservation of back issues of academic journals and has a successful fund-to-open model for primary sources through Reveal Digital. The JSTOR platform itself reaches millions of users every day, offering the reach and impact that authors, presses, and libraries are looking for.
“Since the day we launched JSTOR, we have worked closely with publishers, libraries, and scholars to support the transition of content, research, learning, and preservation from buildings and shelves to virtual engagement over the network. The result of that collaborative effort has led to a dramatic expansion of access to education at lower cost, all over the world,” said Kevin Guthrie, president of ITHAKA. “We’re thrilled to collaborate with the community to use the JSTOR infrastructure they have helped develop to scale a much-needed solution for scholarly books that supports our shared mission to maximize access to knowledge.”
The first Path to Open books will be released in fall 2023. Learn more about how to join the Path to Open.