Knowledge Unlatched

Knowledge Unlatched

Knowledge Unlatched (KU) is an award-winning open access service provider registered as GmbH in Berlin, Germany.[1][2] It offers a crowdfunding model[3] to support a variety of Open Access book and journal content packages as well as financial funding of partnerships.


Knowledge Unlatched was established in September 2012 by publisher and social entrepreneur Frances Pinter. Knowledge Unlatched was the formalisation of the ‘Global Library Consortium’ model for supporting open access books, developed by Pinter as a response to a protracted crisis in monograph publishing and the opportunities presented by digital technology and open access.

Pinter first aired her vision for a Global Library Consortium approach to supporting open access monograph publishing at the Charleston Conference in 2010.[4]

In September 2011 Pinter embarked on a speaking tour of Australia. Her tour included a keynote presentation[5] on academic publishing and the future of the monograph at Queensland University of Technology,[5] arranged by Dr. Lucy Montgomery, who would go on to become Deputy Director of Knowledge Unlatched.[6] While at QUT, Pinter met with DVC for Technology, Library and Information Services, Professor Tom Cochrane.[7] This trip played a key role in securing support for Knowledge Unlatched from three founding Australian libraries: Queensland University of Technology, The University of Melbourne and The University of Western Australia.

In 2012,[8] then Harvard University Librarian Robert Darnton hosted a meeting of leaders of major US libraries and academic presses to discuss the Global Library Consortium concept.

In 2015, KU was fundamental in the announcement[9] that Google Scholar will start to index Open Access books hosted by OAPEN.

Business model

In its first two collections (the Pilot and Round 2), Knowledge Unlatched piloted a collective procurement approach to open access books. The model[10] put forward by Frances Pinter in 2011 depends on many libraries from around the world sharing the payment of a single title fee to a publisher, in return for a book being made available on a Creative Commons licence via the open access repository service "Open Access Publishing in European Networks" (OAPEN) and the HathiTrust Digital Library as a fully downloadable PDF.

Through the launch of its 5th pledging round in 2018, Knowledge Unlatched's business model developed into a broader crowdfunding platform that offers a variety of content packages and partners, which can be made Open Access or be supported financially.[11]

Pilot Collection

In October 2013, Knowledge Unlatched launched its Pilot Collection,[12] intended to be a ‘proof of concept’ exercise to gauge the willingness of libraries and publishers to support a collective procurement approach to open access books.

The Pilot Collection consists of 28[13] new Literature, History, Politics and Media & Communication titles from the following scholarly publishers: Amsterdam University Press, Bloomsbury Academic, Brill Publishers, Cambridge University Press, De Gruyter, Duke University Press, Edinburgh University Press, Liverpool University Press, Manchester University Press, Purdue University Press, Rutgers University Press, Temple University Press and University of Michigan Press.

In May 2014, Knowledge Unlatched published its Pilot Progress Summary Report[14] with preliminary findings from the Pilot project.

Just under 300 libraries from around the world[15] agreed to support the Pilot Collection, therefore publishers were paid a pre-agreed fee ('title fee') in return for making the books available on a Creative Commons licence via OAPEN and HathiTrust immediately upon publication.

As more than the minimum number of 200 libraries signed up for the Pilot Collection, the cost per-library of supporting the collection was adjusted down from $1680 to $1195. This works out to an average of $43 per title whereby the target average was $60.[16]

The geographic spread of the participating Pilot libraries was: 46% from North America, 26% from the UK and 28% from the rest of the world.[14]

Round 2

In October 2015 the launch of a second collection[17] of 78 new Humanities and Social Sciences books curated into eight packages (six subject-specific and two published-specific) was announced. Around 300 libraries plus consortia pledged their supported and the entire collection was successfully unlatched throughout 2016.

KU Select 2016

KU's third collection, KU Select 2016, shows KU moving out of its Pilot phase as it expands its offering to 343 books - including both front list and backlist titles, submitted by 54 publishers from 5 continents. In February 2017 it was announced that all of these books would now be 'unlatched' (made open access).[18]

KU Select 2017

On May 15th 2017, KU launched pledging for KU Select 2017. The new collection includes 364 titles across 17 humanities and social sciences subjects areas. KU Select 2017 incorporates a frontlist of 151 titles, a backlist of 192 titles, and a collection of 21 journals. The collection was selected by the KU Title Selection Committee, made up of 40 librarians from 12 countries.[19]

Language Science Press

In 2017, KU launched Language Science Press[20], a not-for-profit initiative in the field of Linguistics. Language Science Press aims to publish around 30 Open Access titles per year. The initiative began taking pledges on March 23rd 2017.[21]

Subject areas

Books currently available through Knowledge Unlatched are in the fields of Humanities and Social Sciences.[13] The Pilot Collection concentrated on History, Politics, Literature and Media & Communications, with Round 2 adding a further package covering Anthropology. KU Select 2016 further added: Archaeology, Classics, Economics & Management, Information Science, Languages & Linguistics, Music, Philosophy, Sociology, Theology & Religion as subject-based packages.

Usage Statistics

In May 2017, KU published geolocational usage data for its Pilot and Round 2 collections. As of the 3rd May, there had been more than 130 000 downloads of Pilot and Round 2 titles, across 180 countries. The represents an average1205 downloads per book. KU also released an interactive map to track geolocation data across the world.[22]


"Double-dipping" is a term used when the same content is paid for twice - in this instance, both through publisher subscription fees and through pledges. In Round 2, KU began to provide libraries with information, in the form of skeleton MARC records, to be used to avoid "double-dipping".[23]


Knowledge Unlatched was shortlisted for the ALPSP Awards for Innovation in Publishing 2016.[24]

In September 2015, Knowledge Unlatched won the Curtin University Award for Best Innovation in Education 2015.[25] The competition attracted a record 46 applications from across Curtin University with 12 applicants shortlisted to present to a panel of judges looking at novelty, level of development, market potential and competitive advantage.

In June 2014, Knowledge Unlatched was selected as the 2014 winner of the IFLA/Brill Open Access Award.[26] The jury for the prize awarded by the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA) and Brill Publishers voted unanimously for Knowledge Unlatched, recognising it as the most outstanding and game-changing initiative in the field.

The jury said that they are ‘deeply impressed with the simplicity and elegance of the original concept, with the daring scope of the project, bringing together libraries, publishers and other organisations from around the world, and with the highly successful outcome of the pilot phase that tested the concept.'[27]

Knowledge Unlatched was named by Outsell, Inc., as one of their 10 to companies to watch.[28]

See also


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