Members of ScholarLed

The aim of the collective is to explore the potential of working together. This includes developing systems and practices that allow presses to provide each other with forms of mutual support, ranging from pooled expertise to shared on- and offline infrastructures. Members of the consortium each retain their distinct identity as publishers, with different audiences, processes, business models and stances towards Open Access. What they share, however, is a commitment to opening up scholarly research to diverse readerships, to resisting the marketization of academic knowledge production, and to working collaboratively rather than in competition.

# Overview Annotate

The institutionalisation and consequent scaling up of open access (OA) book publishing stands at a crucial crossroads: one avenue leads to the monopolisation of OA book publishing by commercial publishers and for-profit intermediaries while the other opens up a more diverse, scholar-led, community-owned, and not-for-profit publishing ecosystem that we believe is crucial for the cultivation of more creative modes and forms of scholarship and their open dissemination and preservation as public knowledge. ScholarLed recognizes the entangled mesh of players and providers (for- and not-for-profit) that are essential for scholarly communications to flourish and be accessible to the widest possible readership,but we are also concerned to build infrastructure for smaller-scale OA book publishers that would prioritise the needs of the creative research community and the values of public research institutions against the for-profit entities who seek to privatise (and also homogenize) knowledge. We take the caution from Geoffrey Bilder, Jennifer Lin, and Cameron Neylon that “[e]verything we have gained by opening content and data will be under threat if we allow the enclosure of scholarly infrastructures” (“Principles for Open Scholarly Infrastructure”), especially at a time when we are seeing a small number of large commercial entities take over important community-built platforms for open research (such as SSRN, ResearchGate, and be.press, to name only a few), and with Heather Joseph, we want a more “distributed, globally networked infrastructure for scholarly communication” (“Securing Community-controlled Infrastructure”).

It is an important and opportune time to develop appropriate infrastructures for OA books, with many research funders (including UUK and the recently announced Plan S) signalling their intentions to require OA publication for books as well as articles in the near future. However the dominant infrastructures for the dissemination, discovery, production, distribution, and archiving of scholarly books have been designed primarily for large, commercial, non-OA publishers. These infrastructures are fundamentally inappropriate for use by not-for-profit OA book publishers (particularly smaller publishers), and are often inaccessible to them in any case. At the same time, it is becoming increasingly apparent that genuine innovation in scholarly publishing is driven not by large commercial ‘legacy’ publishers, but by comparatively smaller publishing initiatives, often led by scholars. While the focus of legacy publishers has often been on developing new ways to capture, close down, and monopolise academic book publishing markets, smaller OA publishers have made major advances in establishing new forms of cross-institutional collaboration, experimenting with digital content, and developing rigorous and efficient workflow practices and technical infrastructures to support OA content. These innovations include developing: (a) non-BPC business models aimed at long-term economic sustainability as well as a more equitable publishing landscape, (b) new infrastructures for the technical management of digital books and metadata, (c) new models of research community involvement, including community-based pre- and post-publication peer review protocols, (d) new models of editorial support for early career scholars, and (e) new forms of scholarly publication, including those that integrate multi-modal and digital-only content and those that are collectively written and openly editable.

The unique ability of scholar-led OA initiatives to innovate stems from their agility in experimenting with publishing practices at smaller scales, as well as in working collectively and collaboratively, as in the projects proposed here. This is in contrast to commercial publishing models based on logics of closure, centralisation, and proprietary rights management that view other publishers as competitors and research institutions, such as libraries, mainly as customers, and even as impediments to frictionless transactions between researchers and content providers.

The potential impact of innovations in OA publishing, incubated in and among scholar-led OA book presses, is, however, inhibited by a range of structural and organisational barriers. These include barriers to: (a) discovery, (b) mutually supportive partnerships, (c) integration into university library, repository and digital learning environments, (d) cost reductions in title management and production achieved by economies of scale, (f) integrated capacity building amongst scholar-led presses, (e) access to and development of funding channels for open access content, (f) the selling of print and digital editions alongside open access editions, (g) the re-use of open access content, and (h) the proper archiving of open access content.

Through five interlinked projects, this proposal will address these barriers by providing a means of scaling the innovations initiated by smaller scholar-led, community-based OA initiatives to a broad constituency, including both OA book publishers and other not-for-profit knowledge institutions such as libraries and universities. This will open up space for a significantly enriched not-for-profit and open-source ecosystem for OA book publishing, one that will support a diversity of initiatives, particularly within Humanities and Social Sciences publishing. It will foster a realignment of OA book publishing away from an array of competing commercial service providers to a more horizontal and cooperative knowledge-sharing approach. This will involve fundamentally re-imagining the relationships between some of the key players in academic book publishing, while building relationships between communities of academic practice (including librarians, knowledge managers, publishers, and researchers). It will achieve this by delivering major improvements in the infrastructures being used by smaller, scholar-led OA book publishers, enabling more productive relationships with key stakeholders in the OA landscape, and strengthening the channels through which the skills necessary to successfully run such publishing operations are developed.

This project will demonstrate the richly productive outcomes of non-competitive collaboration that open, not-for-profit, and scholar-led book publishing can facilitate. It will be led by Coventry University working with a diverse group of partners from the library, university and research communities. These include ScholarLed, The British Library, University of California Santa Barbara (UCSB) Library, Lancaster University, Loughborough University Library, The Radical Open Access Collective, Directory of Open Access Books (DOAB), the National Bibliographic Knowledgebase (Jisc Collections), and The Digital Preservation Coalition. The project builds on a successful pilot project funded by OpenAIRE, titled New Platforms for Open Access Book Distribution (€46,951).

If you want to partner with us on any of the proposed projects, if you can offer funding, or if you would like to be involved in another way, contact us – we’d love to hear from you. You may also publicly annotate this text using the annotations sidebar.

# Objectives Annotate

  • Creating alternative open-source, community-based infrastructures that support the creation, dissemination, discovery, funding, archiving, and re-use of open access books published by scholar-led and not-for-profit academic presses (Project 1, Project 3, Project 5)
  • Addressing the main barriers that are preventing smaller scholar-led publishers from utilising existing open access publishing workflows or setting up their own alternative digital publishing infrastructures (Project 1, Project 2, Project 4)
  • Consolidating existing and establishing new collaborations and partnerships between not-for-profit institutions and initiatives in open access book publishing, including scholar-led and university-based presses, libraries, universities, and other knowledge providers (Project 2, Project 3)
  • Enabling technical, managerial, and relational innovations within scholar-led open access book publishing to scale both horizontally (to other scholar-led presses) and vertically (to other not-for-profit partners, including new university presses, universities, and research libraries) (Project 2, Project 3, Project 4)
  • Utilising and building upon ScholarLed’s existing network of 120+ institutional research libraries in the US, UK and Europe, developing consortial institutional and other funding models that will serve as an importantly hybrid and community-led revenue model for other scholar-led and not-for-profit academic publishing initiatives, as well as establishing more community-led, cooperative infrastructure to support new publisher-librarian partnerships around OA book publishing (Project 1, Project 2, Project 3)
  • Streamlining publishing operating processes, production workflows, and economic efficiencies for smaller, scholar-led publishing initiatives (Project 1, Project 2, Project 3)


# Project 1: Discovery and Dissemination Annotate

Project Leads: Rupert Gatti (Open Book Publishers/ScholarLed/Trinity College, Cambridge), Vincent W.J. van Gerven Oei (punctum books/UCSB Library).

Confirmed Partners: ScholarLed, DOAB/OAPEN, UCSB Library, NBK/Jisc Collections.

Summary: This project will develop technical protocols and infrastructure for a shared print and digital catalogue to support wider discovery and dissemination of open access books. As such, it responds to the Jisc report “Changing Publishing Ecologies: A Landscape Study of New University Presses and Academic-Led Presses”, which identified the needs of both academic-led and new university presses with respect to publishing workflows. Guided by the perspective of new and emerging not-for-profit OA presses that have not yet been sufficiently integrated into existing discovery systems, knowledge bases, and supply routes, the aim of this project is to develop methods and systems to better integrate the catalogues of OA presses into curated research records and distribution systems. The implementation of “best practices” workflows for OA book publishers will allow their catalogues to be better integrated into the scholarly record (discoverability, reach, persistence), which in turn will increase the impact of the work of OA book authors (impact). The project will build an Open Discovery System (ODS) for OA monographs, as well as a shared “best practices” digital catalogue, which will increase discovery and awareness of OA content, better integrate OA books into institutional library, digital learning and repository systems, and in consequence provide an important foundation from which new business models for OA books publishing can be developed (see Project 2).

Proposed Deliverables:

  • To create an Open Discovery System for enhancing the discovery and dissemination of Open Access monographs in multiple formats and internationally -- specifically designed to meet the needs of ALPs and NUPs.
  • To implement ODS infrastructure amongst the open access publishing partners.
  • To have designed processes to enable broad and open adoption of the infrastructure by publishers not directly engaged in the project, and the development of plans for an ongoing sustainable structure.

# Project 2: Revenue Infrastructures Annotate

Project Leads: Eileen Joy (punctum books/UCSB Library), Joe Deville (Lancaster University/Mattering Press).

Confirmed Partners: ScholarLed, UCSB Library, Lancaster University

Summary: This project will deliver a series of major enhancements in the revenue infrastructures used by smaller scholar-led open access book publishers. Each of the publishers in ScholarLed have experimented with different revenue streams in order to move toward economic sustainability without a reliance on Book Processing Charges (BPCs), as BPCs aggravate already entrenched inequities in access to the means of scholarly publication. These alternate revenue streams have generally comprised hybrid models that combine some or all of the following: voluntary subventions, print sales, download sales, reader subscriptions, library subscriptions and the monetization of downstream rights. A particular challenge is that effective systems for sustaining diverse funding flows between large numbers of parties are difficult to establish and costly to sustain. This is particularly problematic for small and new publishers with limited resources - severely restricting their ability to access funding and thus successfully establish themselves as sustainable operations - and hampers opportunities for the development of alternative business models. However, it is an area where there are substantial returns to scale and scope for significant cost reductions through the development of shared digital infrastructures.

This project will address these issues by: (a) review of the business models of project partners in order to identify cost reduction for open access book publishers of all scales; (b) developing new digital infrastructures to support funding processes; (c) developing a collective consortial library funding program, in horizontal partnerships with scholarly communication librarians internationally; and (d) developing an online, open-source toolkit for booting up and running an OA book press, for use by emerging and existing OA book publishers in order to help them organize and streamline their editorial processes, production workflows, data infrastructures, business management protocols, and so on.

Proposed Deliverables:

  • White Paper: Delivering Economic Sustainability in Open Access Publishing.
  • A digital platform to facilitate payments between institutions and publishers and encourage the emergence of new OA publishing and business models
  • A new, scholar- and librarian-led, not-for-profit consortial funding program, designed to enable new library-publisher relationships around OA books and a more durable revenue stream for member presses.
  • Online, open-source “How-To” toolkit for new and established OA book publishers.

# Project 3: Community Infrastructure and Governance Annotate

Project Leads: Eileen Joy (punctum books/UCSB Library), Sherri Barnes (UCSB Library), Janneke Adema (Coventry University).

Confirmed Partners: ScholarLed, RadicalOA Collective (ROAC), UCSB Library.

Summary: This project will develop durable scaffolding and organizational structures for member presses to be coordinated and administratively supported in their collective projects (as detailed in the projects accompanying this bid and in future collective strategic initiatives), while also developing new avenues of outreach, communication, and partnership with diverse stakeholders in the landscape of open research who share common goals with ScholarLed. In addition, the team members will assist with the building of consortial institutional and other funding programs (see Project 2) and will assemble a publisher-librarian working group for: (a) the long-term direction and management of consortial library funding programs (with the administrative assistance of ScholarLed staff), and (b) the identification and fostering of library-publisher experiments and projects that would emphasize horizontalist and cooperative knowledge-sharing endeavours between communities of professional-public academic practice (librarians, knowledge managers, publishers, and researchers).

Proposed Deliverables:

  • Official policies and procedures for self-governance and administrative management of ScholarLed, to include clear and low-barrier protocols for other scholar-led OA book publishers to follow in order to join ScholarLed as member presses.
  • White paper on best practices for governance of OA book publishers and other consortia of OA book platforms and presses that would be useful to other scholar-led OA presses and organizations
  • The establishment of staffing (durable administrative infrastructure) for ScholarLed as a community-based OA service organization that would: (a) coordinate, manage, and administer the collective projects of ScholarLed’s member presses; (b) assist with the education of new member presses relative to operating processes and production workflows streamlined by ScholarLed; and (c) also work on scaling the consortium and its products and resources horizontally outward to other OA book publishers, OA service providers, OA knowledge providers, research libraries, learned organizations, funding bodies, researcher communities, and so on.

# Project 4: Reuse and Impact Annotate

Project Leads: Janneke Adema (Coventry University/ROAC/OHP), Joe Deville (Mattering Press).

Confirmed Partners: ScholarLed, Coventry University, ROAC.

Summary: This project will explore how the open access content project members spend so much time and care publishing, disseminating and archiving, is also used and reused by the scholarly community. As such, this project examines the technologies and cultural strategies most effective in promoting open access book data and content discovery, interaction and reuse. This includes building communities around content and collections via annotations and versioning to enable more collaborative forms of knowledge production. In order to achieve this, the project will map both existing technological solutions as well as cultural barriers and best practices with respect to reuse. Relationships will also be established with existing open source publishing platforms and projects focused on books and experimental long-form publications, such as the Mellon-funded Manifold project and Vega Publishing in the US. The outcomes of this project will be a reuse strategy for the ScholarLed consortium, a best practice report/online resource for the wider not-for-profit publishing community, and a set of case studies that explore reuse around different forms of open digital book content. This will further stimulate the creation, development and publisher interaction with emergent genres of scholarship, and ensure that the full range of digital possibilities for the future of the academic book is drawn to the attention of scholars and publishers.

Proposed Deliverables:

  • A reuse strategy for the ScholarLed consortium.
  • A best practices report/online resource for the wider not-for-profit publishing community.
  • A set of case studies that explore reuse around different forms of open digital book content.

# Project 5: Archiving Annotate

Project Leads: Rupert Gatti (OBP/ScholarLed/Trinity College, Cambridge), Gareth Cole (Loughborough University Library).

Confirmed Partners: ScholarLed, UCSB Library, British Library, Digital Preservation Coalition.

Summary: This project will identify the key challenges associated with archiving research monographs, in all their variation and complexity, and develop new solutions to these challenges.

The concept of a research monograph as “just” text with the odd image, figure, or table associated with it is increasingly outdated. “Books” can now come in multiple digital formats (pdf, html, xml, epub etc.) as well as hardcopy, and also include embedded material such as videos, interactive 3D models/scans, and interactive worksheets (e.g. Jupyter notebooks). In some publications, users can interact directly with content hosted externally to the book itself, such as databases, urls, and software.

As individual objects, each of these formats -- such as a pdf file, a video, or a website -- appear in established guidance and standards for preservation and can be reliably archived with time, effort and resource. However, how does one archive the “book,” which consists of all of these? Technical methods for effectively archiving complex digital research publications and for creating an integrated collection of content in different formats have not yet been developed. In addition, legal and copyright issues already complicate effective archiving, even when the technical aspects have been resolved -- these complications potentially compound when content collections are to be archived. It is also important that any archiving solution is relatively inexpensive to undertake and maintain, to ensure it can be broadly adopted by small and less well-financed publishing outlets.

Proposed Deliverables:

  • Development and documentation of open-source/standard protocol for associating content archived in different formats/locations.
  • Identification of complicating copyright issues with implementing this protocol for archiving purposes, and recommendations for best practice.
  • Proof-of-concept though successful archiving of a subset of ScholarLed publications in at least two different locations (Loughborough, UCSB, BL).
  • Workshops and meetings with other related archiving initiatives to explore and leverage overlaps during development phase, and to disseminate outputs and findings.


Read more about our plans

Members of ScholarLed have written on our blog and elsewhere about the ethos that underlies the consortium and other groups that share our aims and with whom we work.


ScholarLed members have been developing various resources, tools, and software to support scholar-led publishing. In the spirit of community building we are sharing these here and on Github. Please get in touch if you have any questions about these resources.