May 16, 2022

Cambridge University Press Launches First Crowdfunding Campaign to Make a Book Open Access

Ed. Note: Crowdfunding to turn a book into an open access volume has been going on for a number of years. We first learned of the idea back in May 2012 with the launch of Eric Hellman’s project. 

From CUP:

Cambridge University Press is launching a crowdfunding campaign to make one of its upcoming books freely available to all.

The Press has teamed up with the book crowdfunding site, Unbound, to see if  crowdfunding can support making selected titles open access – that is, free to read online by anyone with an internet connection, anywhere in the world.

It is the latest move in the publisher’s open research programme and a first for both partners – for the Press, it’s the first time it has tried to crowdfund a book, while for Unbound it is the first time they have worked with an academic publisher.

The book – The Case for Scottish Independence by Ben Jackson – will be published by the Press next year. The three-month crowdfunding campaign will cover the costs of making it available online and open access.

If the campaign’s target is reached, everyone who pledged will get a copy of the book and have their names listed in the back. A range of other rewards will be on offer to backers, including a chance to have dinner with the author.

Ben Denne, Director of Publishing for the Press’s academic books, said: “As a university press we welcome and support the goals of open research – to increase collaboration and to improve the accessibility, efficiency and impact of research. The challenge is to do so in a way that allows us to continue investing in high quality content.

“The Open Access movement started with academic research journals, and books are still catching up. We are excited by the potential of Open Access publishing to reach wide audiences and determined to find sustainable ways to publish more of our books open access.

“Of course, the nature of the internet means pretty much anyone can now put content online themselves, but you then lose the huge benefits of curated, high quality content that comes from publishers’ rigorous approach to content selection, enhancement and production.”

Mathew Clayton, Head of Publishing said at Unbound, said: “This feels like a ground-breaking moment – using Unbound’s platform to help increase Open Access in academic publishing would dramatically shift the way things have previously worked. We are really delighted to be partnering with Cambridge University Press in this bold experiment.

The book argues that the roots of Scottish nationalism lie in the decades after the 1960s and not in the distant past of the Acts of Union or the Scottish Enlightenment. It offers a fresh, original and up to date examination of the politics of Scottish nationalism, written in a readable style for students, researchers, politicians and anyone else interested in modern Scottish identity and politics.

Ben Jackson said: “It’s exciting to be working with Cambridge University Press and Unbound and to be part of this experiment in open access publishing. If successful, it holds out the promise of making not only my own work but that of other academic authors more widely accessible, improving the spread of ideas, scholarship and debate.”

Ben Denne added: “There’s unlikely to be a one-size-fits-all solution to publishing academic books open access. What works for some titles may not work for others; what works for monographs may not be suitable for another type of book.

“In this case, individuals are effectively buying a copy of the book while raising the funds to publish open access in advance. It also allows us to experiment with crowdfunding as a way to promote the book, drawing on Unbound’s expertise.

 “It has to be trial and error. That’s how change and innovation happen. The important point is that we are out there trying, testing different publishing models, working with the academic community and others to find the best solutions.”

About Gary Price

Gary Price ( is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.