Knowledge Unlatched

Knowledge Unlatched (KU) is an open access service provider registered a for-profit 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
Knowledge Unlatched Logo


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 2015, KU was fundamental in the announcement[8] that Google Scholar will start to index Open Access books hosted by OAPEN.

In 2016, the legal structure was changed from a British Community Interest Company (CIC) to a German GmbH. In this year, Sven Fund acquired parts of KU CIC's assets and transferred them into a for-profit company, Knowledge Unlatched GmbH, which is 100% owned by the consultancy fullstopp GmbH. Sven Fund is managing director of both companies.[9] The founder of KU CIC, Frances Pinter, was planning to retire in that period and became director of the then legally independent research unit, KU Research, which operates under the former founding organisation's name, KU CIC [10]. KU has an advisory board, the members of which represent a variety of backgrounds from within the field of academic publishing, libraries, and academic research[11].

As of 2018, KU has made more than a thousand books Open Access through its business model, with their titles reaching over 1 million downloads worldwide[12], and more than five hundred supporting libraries[13].

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[14] 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.[15]

KU Collections

Pilot Collection

In October 2013, Knowledge Unlatched launched its Pilot Collection,[16] 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[17] 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[18] with preliminary findings from the Pilot project.

Just under 300 libraries from around the world[19] 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.[20]

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.[18]

Round 2

In October 2015 the launch of a second collection[21] 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).[22]

KU Select 2017

On May 15th 2017, KU launched pledging for KU Select 2017. The 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.[23]

KU Select 2018

On May 1st 2018, KU launched pledging for KU Select 2018. KU Select 2018 consists of KU Select 2018 Books and KU Select 2018 Journals. The pledging deadline for this collection has been set on November 30th, 2018.

KU Select 2018 Books[24]

  • 443 books: 171 front list (October 2018-October 2019) and 272 backlist (2007-2017)
  • 19 subject areas in the Humanities and Social Sciences and 9 within the Science, Technology, Engineering and Medicine subject areas
  • Curated by the KU Title Selection Committee consisting of 160 librarians

KU Select 2018 Journals[25]

  • 10 journals available: 6 within the STEM subject areas and 4 within the HSS subject areas
  • All journals will be made available Open Access for the 2019 - 2021 period
  • Any researcher may publish Open Access and APC-free in these journals, a seamless process for researchers and eliminating APC-handling
  • All journals will be hosted on publisher platforms and will be indexed by the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ)

KU Products

KU Open Analytics

Together with Cornell University Press (CUP), Edinburgh University Press (EUP), Liverpool University Press (LUP) and University of Michigan Press (UMP), Knowledge Unlatched (KU) has developed a usage reporting and analytics tool. The service is called KU Open Analytics and provides publishers and libraries with a single reporting tool for aggregate Open Access (OA) eBooks usage, allowing for reporting on the usage of their OA books[26].

KU Open Funding

KU Open Funding is a central database for financing Open Access books. It enables publishers to make their offerings transparent and thus enables scientists and libraries to find publication partners for book projects. Suitable offers can be found on the basis of more than 20 criteria, such as the subject area, the services of publishers, forms of licensing and publication costs. KU Open Funding makes it possible to contact the publisher directly. If the latter accepts the manuscript for publication after quality control, KU organises the approval and handling of payment with the library. More than twenty publishers such as Berghahn, Duke University Press, Intellect, Michigan University Press, Taylor & Francis, Transcript Verlag and Ubiquity Press participated with their OA offerings during the launch in November 2018.[27].

KU Open Services

KU Open Services is a tool to help publishers achieve greater impact for their Open Access books. The goal of the service is to comply with the increasing demands from publishers, libraries, and researchers for greater discoverability of their OA titles. KU Open Services uses hosting platforms, indexing databases, and archives, alongside importation into library catalogues and measures to reduce double-dipping. At the launch in 2017 eight publishers expressed their support for the initiative: Transcript Verlag, Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Böhlau, V&R unipress, Academic Studies Press, The University of North Carolina Press, University Press of Hawaii, and The University Press of Colorado[28].

KU Partners

Knowledge Unlatched partners with several open access initiatives, which includes collects funding. To date KU has partnered up with 12 different initiatives including OAPEN, IntechOpen, Language Science Press, the Peter Lang publishing group, and Transcript Open Library Political Science[29].

Subject Areas

Books currently available through Knowledge Unlatched are in the fields of Humanities and Social Sciences, and Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.[17] 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.

In addition, Journals available through Knowledge Unlatched are in the fields of Humanities and Social Sciences. With a collection of journals in the field of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics becoming available Open Access from 2019 on.

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 average 1205 downloads per book. KU also released an interactive map to track geolocation data across the world.[30]


"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".[31]


Knowledge Unlatched was shortlisted for the ALPSP Awards for Innovation in Publishing 2016.[32]

In September 2015, Knowledge Unlatched won the Curtin University Award for Best Innovation in Education 2015.[33] 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.[34] 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.'[35]

Knowledge Unlatched was named by Outsell, Inc., as one of their 10 to companies to watch.[36]

See also


  1. ^ "Site notice – Knowledge Unlatched". Retrieved 2017-10-09.
  2. ^ OASPA member record
  3. ^ "Knowledge Unlatched announces its fifth pledging round KU Select 2018 – Knowledge Unlatched". Retrieved 2018-05-07.
  4. ^ No Shelf Required blog
  5. ^ a b ACU Research Net
  6. ^ The KU Team
  7. ^ Open Access and Research Conference
  8. ^ Google Scholar Press Release
  9. ^ Knöchelmann, Marcel. "Knowledge Unlatched, failed transparency, and the commercialisation of open access book publishing". LSE Impact Blog.
  10. ^ "Knowledge Unlatched – Scaling Up In 2016 – Knowledge Unlatched". Retrieved 2018-11-15.
  11. ^ "About us – Knowledge Unlatched". Retrieved 2018-11-15.
  12. ^ "Knowledge Unlatched titles reach over 1 million downloads in 2018 – Knowledge Unlatched". Retrieved 2018-11-15.
  13. ^ "Knowledge Unlatched – Free access to scholarly content for every reader across the world". Retrieved 2018-11-15.
  14. ^ The Wellcome Trust
  15. ^ "Knowledge Unlatched announces its fifth pledging round KU Select 2018 – Knowledge Unlatched". Retrieved 2018-05-07.
  16. ^ Press Release
  17. ^ a b KU Title List
  18. ^ a b Pilot Progress Summary Report
  19. ^ KU Pilot Press Release
  20. ^ Knowledge Unlatched Slidecast
  21. ^ Round 2 Press Release
  22. ^ "Knowledge Unlatched makes 343 HSS books Open Access". Knowledge Unlatched. Retrieved 23 February 2017.
  23. ^ "Press Release" (PDF).
  24. ^ "KU Select 2018 Books – Knowledge Unlatched". Retrieved 2018-11-15.
  25. ^ "KU Select 2018 Journals – Knowledge Unlatched". Retrieved 2018-11-15.
  26. ^ "Knowledge Unlatched develops KU Open Analytics together with four founding partners – Knowledge Unlatched". Retrieved 2018-11-15.
  27. ^ "KU Open Funding simplifies financing of Open Access books – Knowledge Unlatched". Retrieved 2018-11-15.
  28. ^ "Knowledge Unlatched Launches KU Open Services – Knowledge Unlatched". Retrieved 2018-11-15.
  29. ^ "KU Partners – Knowledge Unlatched". Retrieved 2018-11-15.
  30. ^ "Press Release".
  31. ^ Fund, Sven (2016). "Stop, Look, Listen — Learning from Knowledge Unlatched 2016: Making OA Work". Against the Grain.
  32. ^ ALPSP Website Archived 2015-12-11 at the Wayback Machine
  33. ^ Curtin University Award for Best Innovation in Education 2015
  34. ^ IFLA/Brill Open Access Award Press Release
  35. ^ IFLA/Brill Open Access Award website
  36. ^ Outsell, Inc 'Humanities and Social Sciences Publishing: Market Size, Share, Forecast, and Trends' report

External links

Amsterdam University Press

Amsterdam University Press (AUP) is a university press that was founded in 1992 by the University of Amsterdam in the Netherlands. It is based on the Anglo-Saxon university press model and operates on a not-for-profit basis. AUP publishes scholarly and trade titles in both Dutch and English, predominantly in the humanities and social sciences and has a publishing list of over 1400 titles. It also publishes multiple scholarly journals according to the open access publishing model. From 2000 until 2013, the AUP published the journal Academische Boekengids (Academic Book Guide) with book reviews written by editors from multiple Dutch universities.

Brill Publishers

Brill (Euronext: BRILL) (known as E. J. Brill, Koninklijke Brill, Brill Academic Publishers) is a Dutch international academic publisher founded in 1683 in Leiden, Netherlands. With offices in Leiden, Boston, Paderborn and Singapore, Brill today publishes 275 journals and around 1200 new books and reference works each year. In addition, Brill is a provider of primary source materials online and on microform for researchers in the humanities and social sciences.

Cambridge University Press

Cambridge University Press (CUP) is the publishing business of the University of Cambridge. Granted letters patent by King Henry VIII in 1534, it is the world's oldest publishing house and the second-largest university press in the world (after Oxford University Press). It also holds letters patent as the Queen's Printer.The press mission is "to further the University's mission by disseminating knowledge in the pursuit of education, learning and research at the highest international levels of excellence".Cambridge University Press is a department of the University of Cambridge and is both an academic and educational publisher. With a global sales presence, publishing hubs, and offices in more than 40 countries, it publishes over 50,000 titles by authors from over 100 countries. Its publishing includes academic journals, monographs, reference works, textbooks, and English language teaching and learning publications. Cambridge University Press is a charitable enterprise that transfers part of its annual surplus back to the university.

Duke University Press

Duke University Press is an academic publisher and university press affiliated with Duke University. It was founded in 1921 by William T. Laprade.

It publishes approximately 120 books annually and more than 50 academic journals, as well as five electronic collections. The company publishes primarily in the humanities and social sciences but is also particularly well known for its mathematics journals.

Edinburgh University Press

Edinburgh University Press is a scholarly publisher of academic books and journals, based in Edinburgh, Scotland.

Frances Pinter

Frances Pinter (born 13 June 1949) is the founder and executive director of Knowledge Unlatched, a not-for-profit company creating a global library consortium enabling sustainable open access academic book publishing. She was also the CEO of Manchester University Press from 2013-2016.

Jan Velterop

Johannes (Jan) Josephus Marinus Velterop (born 18 March 1949) is a science publisher.

Language Science Press

Language Science Press is an open access scholarly publishing house specializing in linguistics. This publishing house was formally set up in 2014, in a context of perceived overcharging by traditional publishing houses.

“Writing books, reviewing books for publishers, and copying them afterwards takes a lot of time. This time is usually paid for by state institutions or funding agencies. The publishers do not pay for it. On the contrary, some even require money from the authors to keep the book prices low (...). When libraries buy our books, the state pays a second time.”

Language Science Press publishes books on a central storage and archiving server in combination with print on demand services. Language Science Press uses the Creative Commons CC-BY license as a standard. As of October 2017, 40 books had been published.

Liverpool University Press

Liverpool University Press (LUP), founded in 1899, is the third oldest university press in England after Oxford University Press and Cambridge University Press. It specialises in modern languages, literatures, history, and visual culture and currently publishes approximately 70 books a year, as well as 25 academic journals. LUP's books are distributed in North America by Oxford University Press.

Manchester University Press

Manchester University Press is the university press of the University of Manchester, England and a publisher of academic books and journals. Manchester University Press has developed into an international publisher. It maintains its links with the University.

Open Book Publishers

Open Book Publishers (OBP) is an open access academic book publisher based in the United Kingdom. It is a non-profit social enterprise and community interest company (CIC) that promotes open access for full academic monographs, critical editions and textbooks in the Humanities, Social Sciences, Mathematics and Science. All OBP books are peer-reviewed.All OBP titles are available in free, open access editions in PDF and XTML formats on the publisher’s website, and a number of platforms including Google Books, Worldreader, OpenEdition, DOAB, The European Library and Europeana. Some editions are hosted on Wikiversity in socially editable format (e.g. In the Lands of the Romanovs: An Annotated Bibliography). Readers in developing countries can access OBP titles using e-readers and 2G mobile phones via Worldreader.

Open access in Australia

Open access (OA) has seen extensive growth in Australia since the first open access repository was launched in 2001. There are Open Access policies at the two major research funders: The National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) and Australian Research Council (ARC) . Around half of Australian Universities have an OA policy or statement; most policies are for Green (repository based) OA and OA has become a fundamental part of the scholarly publishing and research landscape in Australia. The Australasian Open Access Strategy Group (AOASG), the Council of Australia University Librarians (CAUL), and the Australian Library and Information Association (ALIA) are advocates for Open Access and related issues in Australia.

Open access in Germany

Open access to scholarly communication in Germany has evolved rapidly since the early 2000s. Publishers Beilstein-Institut, Copernicus Publications, De Gruyter, Knowledge Unlatched, Leibniz Institute for Psychology Information, ScienceOpen, Springer Nature, and Universitätsverlag Göttingen belong to the international Open Access Scholarly Publishers Association.

Project DEAL

Project DEAL (Projekt DEAL) is a consortium of university libraries and research institutes in Germany, negotiating large deals with e-journal publishing houses. The goal of this project is to revise nationwide licensing agreements for electronic journals from major academic publishers from the 2017 licence year, in order to bring about significant changes in content access and pricing of the e-journals. On realization of this deal, most scientists in Germany would get full online access to 2,500 or so Elsevier journals, at about half the price that individual libraries have paid in the past.

Rutgers University Press

Rutgers University Press is a nonprofit academic publishing house, operating in New Brunswick, New Jersey under the auspices of Rutgers University.

Temple University Press

Temple University Press is a university press founded in 1969 that is part of Temple University (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania). It is one of thirteen publishers to participate in the Knowledge Unlatched pilot, a global library consortium approach to funding open access books.

Timeline of the open-access movement

The following is a timeline of the international movement for open access to scholarly communication.

University of Michigan Press

The University of Michigan Press is part of Michigan Publishing at the University of Michigan Library. It publishes 170 new titles each year in the humanities and social sciences. Titles from the Press have earned numerous awards, including Lambda Literary Awards, the PEN/Faulkner Award, the Joe A. Callaway Award, and the Nautilus Book Award. The Press has published works by authors who have been awarded the Pulitzer Prize, the National Humanities Medal and the Nobel Prize in Economics.

Walter de Gruyter

Walter de Gruyter GmbH (German: [ˈɡʁɔʏ̯tɐ] or [ˈxʁɔʏ̯tɐ]; brand name: De Gruyter) is a scholarly publishing house specializing in academic literature. The company has its roots in the bookstore of the Königliche Realschule in Berlin, which had been granted the royal privilege to print books by King Frederick II of Prussia in 1749. In 1801 the store was taken over by Georg Reimer. In 1919, Walter de Gruyter (1862–1923) merged it with 4 other publishing houses into the company that became Verlag Walter de Gruyter & Co in 1923, and Walter de Gruyter GmbH in 2012.De Gruyter maintains offices around the globe, in Berlin, Basel, Boston, Munich, Beijing, Warsaw, and Vienna.

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