The Humanities Open Book Program is designed to make outstanding out-of-print humanities books available to a wide audience. By taking advantage of low-cost “ebook” technology, the program will allow teachers, students, scholars, and the public to read humanities books that have long been out of print. Humanities Open Book is jointly sponsored by NEH and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
Traditionally, printed books have been the primary medium for expressing, communicating, and debating humanistic ideas. However, the vast majority of humanities books sell a small number of copies and then quickly go out of print. Most scholarly books printed since 1923 are not in the public domain and are not easily available to the general public. As a result, there is a huge, mostly untapped resource of remarkable scholarship going back decades that is largely unused by today’s scholars, teachers, students, and members of the public, many of whom turn first to the Internet when looking for information. Modern ebook technology can make these books far more accessible than they are today.
NEH and Mellon are soliciting proposals from academic presses, scholarly societies, museums, and other institutions that publish books in the humanities to participate in the Humanities Open Book Program. Applicants will provide a list of previously published humanities books along with brief descriptions of the books and their intellectual significance. Depending on the length and topics of the books, the number to be digitized may vary. However, NEH and Mellon anticipate that applicants may propose to digitize a total that ranges from less than fifty to more than one hundred books. Awards will be given to digitize these books and make them available as Creative Commons-licensed “ebooks” that can be read by the public at no charge on computers, mobile devices, and ebook readers. The final ebook files must be in EPUB version 3.0.1 (or later) format, to ensure that the text is fully searchable and reflowable and that fonts are resizable on any e-reading device.
In its initial competition the Humanities Open Book Program received fourteen applications and made ten awards, for a funding ratio of 71 percent.
The potential applicant pool for this program is limited, since the program supports only institutions with access to collections of previously published humanities books. On the one hand, this resulted in a small number of applications in the program's first year. On the other hand, the applications were very strong, which led to a high funding ratio.
Contact the NEH Office of Digital Humanities (ODH) via e mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Applicants wishing to speak to a staff member by telephone should provide in an e-mail message a telephone number and a preferred time to call. Applicants who are deaf or hard of hearing can contact NEH via TDD at 1-866-372-2930.