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Martin Paul Eve

Professor of Literature, Technology and Publishing at Birkbeck, University of London

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Today marks a significant milestone for me. All ten of my academic monographs are now – or will be when published – openly accessible and free to download. The books that are not yet out have advance contracts that stipulate open access.

The list consists of:

How did I do this?

It’s part a matter of luck and part a matter of choice.

There’s luck involved as I have been very fortunate with grant funding. Paper Thin, DH and Literary Studies, Warez, Reading Peer Review, Reassembling ScholComms, Close Reading with Computers, Password, and Pynchon and Philosophy were all made OA due to generous grants by philanthropic organisations. Literature Against Criticism and OA and the Humanities were made OA by the presses, although Birkbeck’s library also contributed to Lit Against Crit. It would be nice to say that it’s all pure skill and I am just brilliant etc. etc. But that’s not true. Getting grants is also a matter of placement and good luck and I want to acknowledge that.

But it was also a matter of choice. I elected to spend quite a portion of my Philip Leverhulme Prize re-issuing my research in openly accessible formats and spending the money in this way. This was a conscious decision and I made it at the expense of not spending the money on other elements (such as, for example, buying out more of my time for new research). The funding from this prize can be used in whatever way most advances my research and I feel that increasing its dissemination potential is a definite advance.

So what’s the lesson? Perhaps there isn’t one. But I am extremely pleased to have got to this point. I believe in open access to research as much as I ever did. I can finally say that all of the books I have written since my Ph.D. was awarded, nine years ago, are now openly accessible. I can say the same of the 41 journal articles I have published. I haven’t quite managed it with the 28 book chapters and 22 reviews. But it’s not bad. This is, in general, a plus for education and I feel I am doing good in the world.

I worry about a world in which all science is free to read but all humanities research is in often-unaffordable books. It still remains the case that humanities scholars must actively pursue open access if they want it to happen, when, really, what would be better would be if we could move towards a world where this was the default. But project funding is far harder to come by in these disciplines. We therefore need structural, systemic change to the library purchasing ecology – and to funder systems – to enable OA books.

At least one way to think of this is the funding of a “global collection” – that is, rather than universities buying books for their local library, they buy them, collectively, around the world for an open collection that everyone can read. I should also point out that this doesn’t preclude print for a local collection. All of my OA books are also available in print form.

In any case, I did it. And it feels good.