March 10, 2016
Lever Press is making academic publishing free (for at least five years)
by Chad Felix
As regular MobyLives readers know, academic publishing is an expensive mess—one that’s seen protest after protest, ineptitude, corruption … and more corruption. No, it’s not a pretty picture, that ivory tower, but the Oberlin Group—a consortium of university libraries that includes the likes of Bard, Oberlin, Skidmore, and Wesleyan—is doing its best to make the publishing realm of the industry a bit less awful.
As reported Digital Book World’s Kristine Hoang, the Oberlin Group recently announced a new venture: Lever Press, an open access publishing project that allows academics to publish selected works for free. Further, because Lever Press is founded on the principles of open access, Lever’s list will be available to readers for free, too.
It’s simple, really. Lever Press is a digital publisher. Thus, titles and articles published by Lever will exist only in digital spaces, so there are no printing or material expenses. The costs of book production are thereby minimized and covered by the network of liberal arts college libraries who have already vowed to provide financial support: over 1 million dollars for use over the next five years.
With this funding in place, Lever’s next task is to establish an editorial board that will uphold the press’s stated aims:
Lever Press is distinguished by three key commitments: editorial alignment with the mission and ethos of liberal arts colleges, a “platinum” approach to open access in which the pledging institutions rather than authors pay all publishing costs, and digitally-native production processes designed to support innovative projects that go “beyond the book.”
Lever hopes to publish 60 titles—on the subjects of art, humanities, and social sciences—by the end of 2020. As they say, “With a place to stand, and a lever long enough, we can move—or at least change—the world.”
Chad Felix is the Director of Library and Academic Marketing at Melville House, and a former bookseller.