FAQs

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On Open Access and Opening the Past Today

1. Why OA and why now?
2. Why now when library budgets are under so much pressure?
3. What happens if a title has access to other funding such as a BPC from a research grant?
4. Can this model be scaled up for use by other publishers without inundating libraries with lots of tiny deals?
5. Why would a research funder be interested in this program and how can they get involved?
6. What is the goal of this model?
7. What are your revenue targets? And what happens if and when they are reached?
8. Is this program open to library consortia deals?
9. When will you make books open access?

On Fees and Conditions of Membership

1. What do subscribing members get for their money?
2. How much do members pay?
3. What will be the format of the packages and what services will be available to members?
4. What does the «super-tier» package entail?
5. Is the «super-tier» funding entirely allocated toward a BPC for the institution’s nominated book?

On the Books and Collection Packages

1. How have the packages been composed?
2. How will the OA books be made available?
3. Will the press also sell print copies of the OA books? If so, where does the money from these sales go?
4. I cannot commit to a multi-year payment but would still like to support the OA program. Can I do this?

On the Press

1. How is the press supporting this program?
2. How can I be sure that our funds are not diverted in any way?


On Open Access and Opening the Past Today

Why OA and why now?

The Covid-19 pandemic has shown that open access in scholarly communications is the optimal solution today and into the future. It has shown how researchers and students alike (and the wider public) require access to the latest research from their home, at their fingertips, instantly, and ideally for free.

Now is an opportunity to reassess how academic books can reach the world. But we recognize that monograph publishing for the humanities faces particular challenges and few public initiatives or funding mandates (such as cOAlition S and Plan S) solve the funding dilemma for the great majority of researchers in the humanities.

Even without the pandemic, open access was widely recognized for its benefits to scholars and readers alikethe following list of positive benefits is taken from the OAPEN OA Books Toolkit:

• Increased readership, usage and citation
• Wider and more diverse audiences
• Real-world impact and public engagement
• Quicker and more lasting impact
• More possibilities for readers to engage with and improve research
• Greater author control
• Compliance with funder mandates.

Since early 2020 the growth in ebook usage has been dramatic. An OA title in medieval studies that Arc launched at this time reached the following readership in its first three months (figures from OAPEN):

Between May and July 2020 the title was downloaded/viewed more than 1400 times: from Argentina (5), Australia (28), Austria (17), Belgium (13), Brazil (10), Bosnia and Herzegovina (1), Canada (57), Czech Republic (3), Ecuador (4), Estonia (2), Finland (24), France (58), Germany (117), Hong Kong (8), Hungary (1), Iceland (1), India (1), Iran (1), Ireland (7), Israel (7), Italy (9), Japan (1), Korea Republic (13), Latvia (1), Malaysia (2), Netherlands (34), New Zealand (7), Philippines (1), Portugal (9), Romania (1), Russia (6), Singapore (13), Slovenia (1), South Africa (2), Spain (34), Sweden (4), Switzerland (5), Taiwan (3), Turkey (1), Ukraine (2), United Kingdom (159), USA (726), Venezuela (1), Vietnam (2).

Whereas, previously, fifty copies of the clothbound book may have been sold in the same period, we here see a reach across the Global South in a way that is otherwise impossible and undoubtedly a reach far beyond traditionally well-funded institutions.

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Why now when library budgets are under so much pressure?

We recognize that universities, higher education generally, and particularly the arts and humanities are increasingly under financial pressure, exacerbated by the pandemic. Yet «gold standard» research monographs and the use of library resources are fundamental to any research into the past. So, the future of scholarly communications requires presses to work creatively with librarians and their budgets to make this transition possible. Opening the Past Today is designed to crowd-fund OA monographs, using a sliding scale fee-structure for institutions. The structure and the fee rates follow recommendations to us by LYRASIS and JISC.

A take-up of fifty to 150 institutions would likely generate up to fifteen OA monographs per year. If the sign-up increased to 250 institutions, almost thirty titles a year would be published at a cost per title to a small institution of $18.48 each, and to a large institution of $63.04 per OA monograph published.

In 2013 the average price of multiple-user online access to scholarly ebooks in the humanities was $127.84; it is probably over $200 today. Meanwhile a clothbound monograph cost $61.02 in 2013 and was then increasing yearly by 4.1 percent. So the $18.48 to $63.04 range above represents a significant cost saving for libraries through this collective crowdfunding approach.

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What happens if a title has access to other funding such as a BPC from a research grant?

Our policy is strict: to first seek funding from other sources and only if that is not available would we apply the funds raised from crowdfunding to make books open. Where an author has been able to gain a small subvention (e.g., from a trust, or a prize) we may top that up into full Gold OA using partial funding from the overall pot. Our objective is to maximize the number of titles that are published as open access.

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Can this model be scaled up for use by other publishers without inundating libraries with lots of tiny deals?

This project developed from discussions with other university and learned society presses through the COPIM project, which has received over £2m of funding from Research England. It is heavily informed by the COPIM prototype by Central European University Press. As far as possible we have followed their expertise, whilst applying it to disciplines that research the premodern past.

By following this model as closely as possible we aim to simplify the offer for librarians and be open to initiatives such as a shared publishers’ «shopping mall» to help librarians (that is, Work Package 2 of COPIM). We hope to reinforce COPIM’s work so that Opening the Past Today will help lead to the widespread transition of university presses worldwide to open access.

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Why would a research funder be interested in this program and how can they get involved?

Open access is of clear benefit to funders of research because it ensures the maximum public impact of the work that they fund. Funders have, in the past, supported other consortial membership schemes for journals, but there is a pressing need to resolve the funding shortfall for substantial numbers of monograph publications in the humanities.

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What is the goal of this model?

This project and COPIM are aiming to develop a route to sustainable open access publishing for core disciplines, including History and English, in the Humanities and Social Sciences which can be replicated by other presses.

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What are your revenue targets? And what happens if and when they are reached?

As soon as institutions sign up the revenue (less fees to sales and marketing partners who deal with the institutions direct) are pooled and allocated to fund OA publications one by one. By the October of each year, we will know the revenue pooled for this purpose and library curators will have advised us on their priority rankings of the titles in the package for the year. We then allocate the money available to maximize the number of OA publications, whilst reflecting the preferences of the partner libraries. As more libraries join up, and in the light of experience, we can then modify the membership fees or, with members’ consent, make more books open access than originally scheduled in the coming year(s).

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Is this program open to library consortia deals?

Since success in opening all books depends on the income generated, any bulk discounts will need to be weighed in light of the savings they make on administration and marketing costs. We are nonetheless keen to expand this program globally and will be keen to partner with regional or national organizations to broaden the overall participation. Please contact us to discuss your case.

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When will you make books open access?

Each year we will provide a list of titles nominated by the press, organized by category (e.g., global history, inclusive research). Specialist library curators from the partners will be invited to comment on and rank the titles. The combined responses will influence the list of titles to be published in each package in the following calendar year.

Typically, the list of nominated titles will be circulated, in an initial form, from April onwards, updated periodically, with a definitive list presented in September. Such books will have successfully passed peer review, have been fully contracted, and, in the great majority of cases, the complete and final manuscript will have been delivered, ready for copyediting and production to start.

Once an agreed list of funded OA titles is made, in October/November, the titles will be published in the coming five to twelve months.

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On Fees and Conditions of Membership

What do subscribing members get for their money?

Depending on the membership take-up, the press expects to be able to publish a dozen to two dozen OA monographs a year. In the growth phase we envisage a minimum of 25 titles in the first three years.

Members can choose from the standard three-year package, tiered by size of institution in which a package of titles is presented annually, and which the member institutions prioritise, or the four-year «super-tier» package in which the institution can nominate a book for publication from its own faculty, researchers, and even alumni/ae.

How much do members pay per year?

Library and institutional members are banded according to their size, as recognised by LYRASIS and JISC. Based on this, our annual membership fees are:

• $1450 (or £1050 or €1200) for the higher tier, per year

• $950 (or £750 or €800) for the middle tier, per year

• $425 (or £300 or €350) for the lower tier, per year

• $2175 (or £1575 or €1800) for the super tier, per year

Membership is for a minimum of three years, but four years for the super tier.

For the US the lower/middle/higher tiers correspond to Associate / BaccalaureateMasters / Doctoral categories of institution. Outside the US the tiering will be based on the number of full-time equivalent students (FTEs): the lower tier for institutions with fewer than 5000 FTEs, the higher tier for those with more than 10,000 FTEs and the middle tier for those in-between.

Where the categories or tier definitions are clearly inappropriate for an institution’s situation (e.g., an endowed research library), we will naturally be flexible within the spirit of the guidelines above.

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What will be the format of the packages and what services will be available to members?

The books are all hosted on Project MUSE in their standard DRM-free, unlimited-use model for ebooks. Content is delivered in chapter-based PDF format. Full-text searching is available across all books and within individual titles. MUSE supports authentication via IP, Shibboleth, and referring URL. Participating libraries will be able to make use of MUSE’s Library Dashboard to access MARC records and KBART files customized to their holdings, and to retrieve COUNTER 5-compliant usage statistics. MUSE collaborates with all major library discovery vendors and will ensure the packages are set up as collections to be activated in all pertinent discovery services.

Books on the MUSE platform are preserved through participation in PORTICO’s E-Book Preservation service. Project MUSE is committed to the accessibility of content and complies with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), in a manner consistent with the Web Accessibility Initiative Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0 AA.

Books will also be available on OAPEN and listed in the Directory of Open Access Books, to aid discoverability.

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What does the «super-tier» package entail?

This package offers an institution the chance to nominate a book of its own for OA publication. It allows librarians to curate the process in tandem with the press, soliciting submissions from faculty, postdoctoral or other researchers on campus, graduate students who are about to defend their dissertation, even alumni/ae of the university. The award-winner is, in effect, awarded a BPC.
The package runs on a four-yearly cycle, as follows:

• Year 1, by September: institution signs up
• Year 1, by December: proposals requested from the institution’s constituencies (faculty, researchers, etc.)
• Year 2, by March: evaluation of submissions by panel including a representative from the library, a senior acquisitions editor from the press, and subject experts from the institution or outside, leading to the nomination of the award-winner.
• Year 3, by March: submission of final manuscript by author for peer-review.
• Year 3, by September: submission of post-peer-reviewed, definitive manuscript to press.
• Year 4: publication of award-winner, with BPC covered by the four years of institutional «super tier» funding.

This process is obviously conditional on the nomination satisfying the peer-review and publication standards of the press. Contact us and we will happily explain in greater detail.

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Is the «super-tier» funding entirely allocated toward a BPC for the institution’s nominated book?

Yes, it is dedicated to funding one BPC in the fourth year of the term. The pricing for the «super tier» is higher than the other tiers because the four years of funding (less charges by intermediaries) covers the full BPC for one title nominated by the institution and approved by the press. No money is diverted to other purposes.

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On the Books and Collection Packages

How have the packages been composed?

The annual package will comprise a list of titles that have successfully passed independent peer review and where we know that no other sources of funding for open access are possible. The list will be presented according to the following categories, and the library curator from each member institution will be invited to prioritize them. The collective preferences of the librarians will influence the allocation of money in such a way as to maximize the number of open access publications from the funding available.

The categories are those that reflect the cutting-edge character of the press’s list and which make a major contribution to the long-term viability of the discipline:

• Global (or non-Western) History

• Inclusive Research (in terms of topics or the researchers themselves)

• The Impact of the Past Today

• Research Excellence (including work by early career researchers, independent scholars, emeriti/ae, or scholars such as librarians or contingent scholars who are ineligible for research funding).

• Foundational Research (including editions or translations of historical texts).

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How will the OA books be made available?

The new titles funded by the program and published open access will be hosted on Project MUSE, and OAPEN. OA books will be available in PDF format with CC BY NC ND licences. Project MUSE supports open access books with MARC records, KBART files, and metadata sharing with major library vendors, to ensure that OA content is widely discoverable through library systems.

Each title will be listed in the Dictionary of Open Access Books as a further aid to discoverability. The publications are also allocated a DOI that is registered with CrossRef.

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Will the press also sell print copies of the OA books? If so, where does the money from these sales go?

Yes. All OA titles will be available to purchase in print form, normally in clothbound and, after a delay of about a year, in paperback. This caters for those institutions that require an archival hard copy, and students or scholars who want an affordable paperback for private use. The revenue from these sales contribute to the general overheads of the press, while the OA funding is intended simply to cover the production costs of the title (from acquisition, editorial support, design, and online hosting). The University of Michigan Press has provided a useful understanding of how costs are typically apportioned in a scholarly press (p. 585 of the 2015 Charleston Conference Proceedings).

Print books can be bought through the normal channels.

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I cannot commit to a multi-year payment but would still like to support the OA program. Can I do this?

Yes. We appreciate that some institutions may not wish to sign up to a book package, or may not be able to. However they might still want to support, and help to fund, the Open Access monographs in the packages described. For these institutions we have created an «OA Supporter Membership.» It is simple and quick to join: just fill in the sign up form with the appropriate details and we’ll do the rest. No further action is required from you once we have processed the payment.

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On the Press

How is the press supporting this program?

Arc Humanities Press is recognized as a non-profit academic presses by the likes of Project MUSE. Arc is a fast-growing independent press started in 2014 from a global learned society for medieval studies. It is lean and agile, and tiny compared with the multinational STEM presses.

Academic mission and scholarly quality are paramount in the decision-making of Arc, always informed by peer reviewing and the evaluations of editorial advisory boards. It is led by a scholar with expertise in medieval studies who (while at the University of Leeds, 1987–96) previously founded the International Medieval Congress, now the largest gathering of medievalists in the world. Other scholars, including the former Director of the Arizona Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies (Arizona State University), have a veto role in every publication submitted to the press’s monthly acquisitions meetings.

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Arc How can I be sure that our funds are not diverted in any way?

As is conventional in the UK the press receives no institutional support, financial or otherwise. This requires lean and streamlined processes. Compared with the authoritative Ithaka S+R report in 2016 about monograph publishing costs across American university presses, Arc’s costs are about a quarter of those stated there.

By constant attention to unnecessary costs and ever more efficient processes, Arc is able to publish far more top-quality books, including OA books, per dollar than its peers. In this way, this program is truly a partnership between the presses and the library community.

Arc’s annual accounts, which are publicly available, are also available on our website.

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Further Information

  • Arc Humanities Press
  • Amsterdam University Press
  • LYRASIS