What is Knowledge Unlatched?

Knowledge Unlatched is an organization that offers an opportunity for libraries and publishers from around the world to work together to create a sustainable route to Open Access for scholarly books and journals in the Humanities and Social Sciences and Science, Technology, Engineering and Medicine.

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Knowledge Unlatched (KU) offers a crowd-funding model that enables libraries to share the costs of transitioning monographs into Open Access. As part of this approach, English-language frontlist and backlist monographs and scholarly journals, as well as content in other languages, are made available worldwide on the basis of Creative Commons licenses. These titles are hosted on OAPEN, JSTOR, Project Muse and the Open Research Library, while being optionally available as fully downloadable files in the PDF, EPUB and HTML formats.

As part of the KU model, libraries can pool their financial resources, such as via the title fees. These fees account for all or part of the fixed costs of creating the first digital file for any new book or article title converted into Open Access. For each backlist monograph, the corresponding prorated title fee partially compensates the publisher for the loss of income from future sales that its transitioning into Open Access can be expected to bring about. Publishers may sell that content, e.g., book titles, in other formats, such as print. However, KU encourages them to include a reference to the KU Open Access version, in order to avoid duplicate library payments for the titles included into KU collections. To prevent this from happening, KU has initiated an "Anti-Double Dipping Alliance." KU’s operational costs are covered by a 15% management fee that is shared equally between publishers and libraries and is already included into the package prices.

Since 2014, KU has ‘unlatched’ three collections of around 900 Humanities and Social Sciences (HSS) book titles that were supported by more than 500 libraries plus consortia around the world. To date, the first collection has an average of 6,000 downloads per title in over 180 countries, which is 10 times the normal volume of copies sold for similar monographs that remain in closed access. The list of titles that have already been unlatched can be viewed at the past collections page of KU: http://knowledgeunlatched.org/past-collections/.

KU's award-winning model has won the IFLA/Brill Award for Open Access 2014 and the Curtin University Award for Best Innovation in Education 2015. Moreover, KU was shortlisted for the ALPSP Awards for Innovation in Publishing 2016.

The jury of the IFLA/Brill award have said that they were ‘deeply impressed with the simplicity and elegance of the original concept, with the daring scope of the project, bringing together libraries, publishers and other organisations from around the world, and with the highly successful outcome of the Pilot phase that tested the concept.’

In addition to KU Select collections, KU also provides publisher services to increase discoverability for Open Access titles. Likewise, KU works together with Language Science Press to help fund their Open Access linguistics titles.

Written by Nina Weisweiler

Edited by Pablo Markin


Featured Image Credits: St. Marys Public Library, St. Marys, Ontario, Canada,  July 1, 2012 | © Courtesy of cmh2315fl/Flickr.

This post is based on an information material originally published in knowledgeunlatched.org, http://support.knowledgeunlatched.org/en/articles/678184-what-is-knowledge-unlatched.

Pablo Markin

Community Manager, Open Research Community

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