Grant to digitize humanities, social science texts

A new grant awarded to Cornell University Press by the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation will fund an open access initiative to digitize classic out-of-print titles and make them freely available around the world.

With the support of the Humanities Open Book Grant, the third such award Cornell University Press has received in the last three years, the press expects to offer more than 100 titles from its archive by spring 2019.

The effort is part of Cornell University Press’ Cornell Open, a website where scholars, teachers and readers can freely download important works in anthropology, classical studies, political science, literary criticism and women’s studies. The latest grant will fund the digitization of additional volumes in classics, as well as medieval studies and science education.

“With this expansion, Cornell Open offers open access titles in a wide range of subject areas for interested readers,” said Dean Smith, Cornell University Press director. “We remain on the forefront of the open access revolution in the humanities, and are committed to our plan of digitizing and republishing 150 classic out-of-print titles onto open access platforms by our 150th anniversary next year.”

In 2017, readers accessed more than 100,000 chapters from Cornell Open’s initial 20 NEH/Mellon grant titles via the online databases Project MUSE and JSTOR and more than 7,000 Kindle versions at no charge from Amazon. Cornell Open’s website recorded 10,000 chapter downloads. JSTOR reported usage activity in 125 countries encompassing more than 12,000 institutions.

The digitized titles are selected with the help of Cornell University Library, which provided circulation statistics and expertise to develop the list.

“Cornell Open clearly shows the value of the longstanding collaboration between the press and the library,” said Carl A. Kroch University Librarian Gerald Beasley. “Academic libraries and presses must work together now more than ever to support the publication of primary scholarship in the humanities and social sciences.”

Cornell Open also recently introduced an option for authors to make their new books freely accessible online. The first title in this series is “A Colonial Affair: Commerce, Conversion, and Scandal in French India” by Danna Agmon. Agmon is the first author in the nation to receive such a grant, which was provided by the Office of Scholarly Communications at Virginia Tech University as part of Toward an Open Monograph Ecosystem (TOME), a national library and university press initiative.

“We are proud to be publishing the first open access title made possible by a TOME grant,” said Smith. “This looks to be a very promising new model for university publishers.”

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Jeff Tyson