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University of London Press reaches one million downloads of its Open Access titles

UoL Press is widening access to humanities research to diverse audiences through open access, as well as other innovative publishing models.

2023 was an incredibly busy year for the Press, having undergone a rebrand, the launch of its new website, the introduction of a new interactive online reading platform, and a profile piece in The Bookseller in November 2023. 

UoL Press has also established a Training Hub for humanities researchers, which offers useful resources and guidance on books and journal publishing, including information on the benefits of Open Access (OA) publishing.

This is in addition to the Press being included in the second year of Jisc’s innovative Open Access Community Framework project. Following the success of this funding scheme in 2022, when the Press secured funding from UK libraries (enabling it to publish an additional nine books in its popular New Historical Perspectives series), UoL Press was accepted into the scheme again in 2023

The Press’s shift to being a predominantly open access publisher for researchers and institutions began in 2018 but has ramped up in recent years. About 70% of its new books each year are now published open access, with a goal to increase this to 85% within the next few years. To support this ambition and its profile in open access humanities publishing, UoL Press was recently accepted into another funding pilot, the Open Book Collective (OBC). OBC is a charity seeking to partner with OA publishers, service providers, and knowledge institutions such as libraries, to work collaboratively to create a sustainable and equitable future for OA publishing.

The new strapline for the Press, ‘Opening up humanities research’, summarises its mission of widening access to humanities research to diverse audiences through open access, as well as other innovative publishing models. This mission also reflects the integral role it plays as part of the School of Advanced Study, supporting the School's national role to promote and facilitate research, impact and engagement in the humanities. 

UoL Press has developed a wide collection of humanities-related publications across subject areas, including English Studies, Law, Human Rights, Latin American and Caribbean Studies, History, and Classics. The Press is now moving into new areas including Environmental Humanities and digital cultural heritage, with several series launching over the next two to three years – key strategic priorities for the School of Advanced Study.

One million open access downloads

By securing over one million global downloads of its books, UoL Press’s small team of seven has demonstrated the benefits of open access publishing in increasing access to important new research.

The most downloaded book from UoL Press is Human Rights Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity in the Commonwealth, co-edited by Dr Corinne Lennox (Co-Director of the Human Rights Consortium and Senior Lecturer in Human Rights in the Institute of Commonwealth Studies) and Dr Matthew Waites (University of Glasgow). This text is the first book to platform the experiences of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex (LGBTI,) and all non-heterosexual people in the Commonwealth. This title has now been downloaded almost 75,000 times.

The Press’s second-most downloaded title is Envisioning Global LGBT Human Rights (edited by Nicol et al, 2018), with almost 57,000 downloads. This book was based on a five-year international collaboration project that focused on the shared legacy of British colonial laws criminalising same-sex intimacy and gender identity/expression around the world.

Speaking in the recent Bookseller article, Paula Kennedy, Head of Publishing at UoL Press, said: ‘Two of our three top OA titles are about LGBTQ+ in places across the Commonwealth where those sexual identities are criminalised. It’s important to get these books into OA for audiences in regions where people are otherwise not going to be able to access them through a university library model.’

Brazil: Essays on History and Politics, published in 2018 in association with the Centre for Latin American and Caribbean Studies, has so far garnered over 51,000 downloads. This book of collected essays by one of the most respected scholars of Brazil, Leslie Bethell (Emeritus Professor of Latin American History, University of London), touches on a range of topics related to Brazilian history and politics. including the decline and fall of slavery, the Paraguayan War, populism, and the failure of the left.

Another highly downloaded (over 40,000 downloads) and topical book is Electronic Evidence and Electronic Signatures, co-edited by Stephen Mason and Daniel Seng. Bringing together several experts to provide an overview of the use of electronic evidence in the legal field, the book offers insights for those who want to better understand the role of electronic evidence in the recent Post Office Horizon scandal.

You can see a wealth of statistics related to UoL Press’ open access books and a full list of its most downloaded titles on the UoL Press website.

Award-winning and nominated books

Included in the UoL Press’ catalogue of more than 750 books are a number of award-winning and shortlisted titles.

Freedom Seekers: Escaping from Slavery in Restoration London by Simon P Newman (published in 2022), was a joint-winner of the 2023 Fredrick Douglass Prize awarded by Yale University for outstanding non-fiction books on the study of slavery, resistance, and/or abolition. The book was also a finalist for the American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS) and Arcadia Open Access Book Prize, which recognize exceptional, innovative, and OA humanities books.

Giving Birth in Eighteenth-Century England by Sarah Fox (2022) was shortlisted in 2023 for the Royal Historical Society’s Whitfield Prize. The book offers a radical rewrite of all that we know about eighteenth-century childbirth in the country and centres women’s voices in its narrative. This book is part of the Press' ‘New Historical Perspectives’ series, published in association with the Royal Historical Society and the Institute of Historical Research.

Ewan Gibbs’ Coal Country (2021), is another title from the ‘New Historical Perspectives’ series and was shortlisted for a prestigious Scottish National Book Award in 2022. This book covers the deindustrialization of the country’s coal mining industry by sharing accounts from former miners and their families and drawing from the records of the nationalized coal industry, trade unions, and the UK government.

All of these books are open access and are available to download for free from the UoL Press website. 

As an integral part of SAS and the University, UoL Press plays an important role in stimulating intellectual exchange and public engagement, with activities including its recent ‘Future of Humanities Publishing’ event. The Press has placed supporting humanities disciplines and researchers at the heart of its mission. It is committed to realising the benefits of OA for humanities research, particularly in enabling this work to address contemporary critical challenges and to reach a growing, diverse, and global readership for its books.

University of London Press

Find out more about the Press and its publications on the UoL Press website.

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