Open access monograph grants promote faculty engagement


The University of Michigan is a charter participant in a digital monograph publishing initiative that seeks to increase academic and public engagement with long-form humanities scholarship.

The initiative awards Toward an Open Monograph Ecosystem grants, which promote the digital dissemination of humanities scholarship by providing academic publishers with funds to produce and distribute an open access version of long-form scholarly works.

Each award is for around $15,000, and there is no departmental cost-share. U-M faculty are eligible to apply. Applicants are limited to one award during the five-year pilot, which runs from 2018-22.

The initiative was developed by the Association of American Universities, Association of Research Libraries, and Association of University Presses.

The first two faculty awardees are:

• Emily Wilcox, assistant professor of modern Chinese studies, and an expert in Chinese dance. She is the author of “Revolutionary Bodies: Chinese Dance and the Socialist Legacy.”

• Giorgio Bertellini, professor of film, television and media, and romance languages and literatures, and is the author of “The Divo and the Duce: Promoting Film Stardom and Political Leadership in 1920s America.”

Wilcox was interested in making an electronic version of her book open access in order to expand her audience.

“I wanted my book to reach the largest possible readership, especially among international audiences and economically underprivileged communities who may not have the financial or institutional resources to easily purchase books or access them through university libraries,” she said.

Bertellini shared this sentiment regarding his book.

“Enabling readers around the globe to access your work freely is a win-win situation. Free and open access enables … expansion of readership, often in ways that would not otherwise be possible,” he said.

Wilcox said she appreciated the multimedia capabilities afforded by an open access platform, which allowed her to include a large number of color photographs and embedded digital videos as multimedia illustrations in the electronic version of the book.

When sales are out of the picture, authors have to measure the success of their publications in new ways.

Wilcox and Bertellini said they hope to find out how many downloads their books have, and where the users who download are based.

Wilcox also is interested in how many users have streamed online video materials that accompany the book, where it gets reviewed, and in comparing the attention it gets internationally and in trade publications to that of typical scholarly titles.

Bertellini added he wants to learn about the professions of the users and the ways they use his book.

The popularity of open access books differs from field to field. In Wilcox’s case, open access ebooks are already becoming popular, which she credits to the work by leading academic presses in her field to develop sophisticated open access publishing platforms.

Although open access ebooks are not yet popular in the film and media studies field, Bertellini acknowledges the value of what can be achieved with the new format.

University of Michigan Press, which publishes more than 100 books a year by scholars from around the world, is also seeing growing interest from authors in open access book publishing.

“Last year around 15 percent of our book publications were published open access, and we are seeing increasing funding becoming available from initiatives such as the TOME initiative,” U-M Press Director Charles Watkinson said.


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