“We will be the first university or college press to publish books solely under an open-access model,” said Geffert. “Although several university presses publish a few books each year under such a model, I do not know of another university press in the United States doing all books, all open-access.”
It will not, however, be the first press run by an academic library: Among the presses’ ancestors cited by Geffert are the University of Michigan Library’s Mpublishing imprint, which has four titles out, and Stanford University Library’s High Wire Press.
The idea for the press “emerged out of frustration with the current publishing model,” he told LJ; a feeling he previously expressed in opinion pieces for the Chronicle of Higher Education and Inside Higher Ed.
Geffert espouses the ideals of universal access, but he is not shy about admitting that the growing financial pressure on libraries played a role in the decision as well. “It’s time for libraries to begin producing for themselves what they can no longer afford to purchase and what they can no longer count on university presses to produce,” said Geffert. “The hope is not only to make academic literature universally available, but to create a model which saves libraries and our institutions significant amounts of money.”
Funding for the press will come from the Frost Library, where it will be housed, and from an endowed position for which the college is currently raising money. In the long run, the college plans to hire a director and two editors to provide what the college called “a level of editorial collaboration not typically available in traditional academic publishing houses.” However for now, Geffert told LJ, until the college finishes raising the money, the director will be the press’s sole employee. “We are planning a nationwide search,” he said, for someone “extraordinarily entrepreneurial” who can persuade top scholars to take a chance on an untried publisher.
Geffert doesn’t want to commit to a target number of titles for the press’s first year, but told LJ, “We would be very happy if after a few years we were publishing maybe 15 titles a year.”
Those titles will focus solely on humanities and social sciences scholarship, at least to start with. “There are not as many online venues for high-quality writing and scholarship in the humanities as there are in the sciences,” said Amherst president Biddy Martin. “Our open-access press will place Amherst at the forefront of a movement that we hope will be embraced by leading scholars in the humanities.”
Although the focus is primarily on digital distribution, print-on-demand may be available in future.