Cornell University Press Launches Open Access Program for Classic Books

Cornell University Press, the first university press in the United States, has been honored to receive an $83,635 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) to make many of the classic, out-of-print books in its archive available online for free.

This grant is among the first awarded by the Humanities Open Book Program, which is co-sponsored by NEH and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and whose goal is “to make outstanding out-of-print humanities books available to a wide audience.” The majority of scholarly books printed since 1923 are not in the public domain, and with limited print runs are thus not readily available to the public; this means an enormous resource of scholarly research remains untapped. It is the mission of the Humanities Open Book Program to leverage today’s digital publishing technology to render these valuable materials accessible once again.

It is heartening that such archived titles are being resurrected online, particularly as the concept and definition of the public domain is revisited during the ongoing debate over the United States Copyright Act (which is being updated for the first time since 1976, notably). With many materials held in limbo between outdated copyright restrictions and their release into the public domain (which is not exactly guaranteed), initiatives such as the Humanities Open Book Program fight the good fight to keep scholarly research and knowledge living and accessible in the digital space.

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