Knowledge Unlatched

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Knowledge Unlatched
Knowledge Unlatched Logo.png

Knowledge Unlatched (KU) is an open access service provider registered as 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 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[edit]

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[edit]

Pilot Collection[edit]

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. 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] 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]

Round 2[edit]

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[edit]

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[edit]

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[edit]

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][edit]

  • 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][edit]

  • 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[edit]

KU Open Analytics[edit]

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 called KU Open Analytics. It provides publishers and libraries with aggregate Open Access (OA) eBooks usage statistics[26].

KU Open Funding[edit]

KU Open Funding is a database for financing Open Access books. It enables scientists and libraries to compare offerings from different publishers. 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. 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[edit]

KU Open Services is a tool to help publishers increase discoverability of their OA titles. 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[edit]

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[edit]

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[edit]

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]


Knowledge Unlatched was shortlisted for the ALPSP Awards for Innovation in Publishing 2016.[31]

In September 2015, Knowledge Unlatched won the Curtin University Award for Best Innovation in Education 2015.[32] 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.[33] The jury for the prize awarded by the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA) and Brill Publishers voted unanimously for Knowledge Unlatched[34]

Knowledge Unlatched was named by Outsell, Inc., as one of their 10 to companies to watch.[35]

See also[edit]


  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. ^ ALPSP Website Archived 2015-12-11 at the Wayback Machine
  32. ^ Curtin University Award for Best Innovation in Education 2015
  33. ^ IFLA/Brill Open Access Award Press Release
  34. ^ IFLA/Brill Open Access Award website
  35. ^ Outsell, Inc 'Humanities and Social Sciences Publishing: Market Size, Share, Forecast, and Trends' report

External links[edit]