What good is a book if people can’t read it?
Calvin L. Warren, assistant professor at Emory University, studies “concerns of black existence, such as justice, anti-black violence, and black suffering.” When Warren talked with people about his work, he found many were interested in reading his book to learn more, but they could not afford to buy it and they did not have access to it through a library. He realized access to such information needed to be democratized, and was happy when TOME (Toward an Open Monograph Ecosystem) contacted him to “do exactly that.”
Shrinking academic library budgets have meant falling demand for purchasing monographs, causing difficulty for scholars who work in highly specialized areas of the humanities and social sciences, and the university presses that publish their work. These monographs were not being bought, and, therefore, not being read.
To address this problem, the Association of American Universities (AAU), Association of Research Libraries (ARL), and Association of University Presses (AUPresses) launched TOME in 2017. TOME is a five-year pilot program that is flipping the financial model of peer-reviewed university press books and making them freely available.
By participating in TOME, universities support their scholars all the way through dissemination of their open access books with grants. TOME universities are also supporting a network of university presses producing high-quality, peer-reviewed, fully accessible, digital books.
As several TOME-funded authors have noted, open access books are read by more people, finding an expanded readership around the world, among graduate students and other communities with limited budgets.
Danna Agmon, associate professor at Virginia Tech, said her book on French colonialism in India was recently taught in a seminar at UC Berkeley, where the syllabus noted that the book was available as a PDF. She observed, “The fact that the book is free means that it’s much more available for graduate instruction and undergraduate instruction….Having my book be open access means that a lot more people can read it, which is a fundamental aspiration that I have for it.”