Today the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the largest funder of the humanities in the United States, announced seven grants, totaling more than $1 million, to convert important out-of-print humanities texts into freely available ebooks.
This fourth and final round of funding for the Humanities Open Book Program, offered jointly by NEH and Mellon, will make awards to publishers that have identified significant backlist scholarly books that enhance public knowledge of topics such as regional U.S. history, religious studies, Victorian literature and philosophy, and Germanic languages and literatures. With NEH and Mellon support, publishers will digitize these books, secure permission from copyright holders, and release them online for access by public audiences.
“The Humanities Open Book Program has exceeded our expectations,” said NEH Chairman Jon Parrish Peede. “In the past four years, this joint NEH-Mellon initiative has succeeded in giving second life to more than two thousand outstanding works of scholarship, making these important texts freely available to teachers, students, scholars, and the public.”
“In our increasingly complex and fragmented digital era, scholars, students, and members of the public need access to reliable and authoritative information,” said Donald J. Waters, senior program officer at The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. “The Humanities Open Book initiative helps provide much-needed access to scholarly works that are now out-of-print but remain crucial, invaluable resources.”
During the four years of the Humanities Open Book Program, NEH and Mellon have jointly awarded a total of 32 grants to 28 publishers, allowing some 2,500 books to be made open access. Many of these books are now widely available through platforms such as JSTOR and MUSE and have been incorporated into college curricula as low-cost options for students and faculty.
At Cornell University Press, for example, which was able to convert 102 backlist books on classics, medieval studies, and science education into free ebooks through the Humanities Open Book Program, the publisher found that these open access books received 200,000 chapter downloads and 300,000 views on JSTOR and MUSE from readers at 12,000 institutions in 152 different countries between 2016 and 2018. The books were also downloaded in their entirety 43,000 times through Kindle.
Below is the complete list of new 2019 Humanities Open Book grant awards:
Abilene Christian University Press $103,000 The digitization and creation of freely accessible ebooks for 30 outstanding works of scholarship relating to the study of American religion. Brown University $172,000 The digitization and creation of freely accessible ebooks for 50 volumes of scholarship from the Brown Judaic Studies monograph series that have been foundational in Judaic studies. Indiana University Press $183,000 The digitization and creation of freely accessible ebooks for 163 out-of-print titles from the press’s first five decades of operation. The books cover the areas of film, folklore, music, philosophy, semiotics, Asian studies, and linguistics. Ohio University Press $81,428 The digitization and creation of freely accessible ebooks for 45 backlist texts, including the Complete Works of Robert Browning, the Collected Letters of George Gissing, and the Series in Continental Thought. University of Georgia Research Foundation $206,569 The digitization and creation of freely accessible ebooks for 50 texts on the history of Georgia, in anticipation of the 250th anniversary of the United States. University of North Carolina Press $130,472 The digitization and creation of freely accessible ebooks for 123 books in German studies from the UNC Series in Germanic Languages and Literatures. University Press of Kansas $129,000 The digitization and creation of freely accessible ebooks for 70 titles related to the history, culture, and politics of the United States.