Skip to main content

Newsroom

Humanities Open Book: Unlocking Great Books

photo: open books in library
Credit:

Flickr

WASHINGTON (January 15, 2015) — A new joint grant program by the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation seeks to give a second life to outstanding out-of-print books in the humanities by turning them into freely accessible e-books.

Over the past 100 years, tens of thousands of academic books have been published in the humanities, including many remarkable works on history, literature, philosophy, art, music, law, and the history and philosophy of science. But the majority of these books are currently out of print and largely out of reach for teachers, students, and the public. The Humanities Open Book pilot grant program aims to “unlock” these books by republishing them as high-quality electronic books that anyone in the world can download and read on computers, tablets, or mobile phones at no charge.

The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation are the two largest funders of humanities research in the United States. Working together, NEH and Mellon will give grants to publishers to identify great humanities books, secure all appropriate rights, and make them available for free, forever, under a Creative Commons license.

The new Humanities Open Book grant program is part of the National Endowment for the Humanities’ agency-wide initiative The Common Good: The Humanities in the Public Square, which seeks to demonstrate and enhance the role and significance of the humanities and humanities scholarship in public life.

“The large number of valuable scholarly books in the humanities that have fallen out of print in recent decades represents a huge untapped resource,” said NEH Chairman William Adams. “By placing these works into the hands of the public we hope that the Humanities Open Book program will widen access to the important ideas and information they contain and inspire readers, teachers and students to use these books in exciting new ways.”  

“Scholars in the humanities are making increasing use of digital media to access evidence, produce new scholarship, and reach audiences that increasingly rely on such media for information to understand and interpret the world in which they live,” said Earl Lewis, President of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. “The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation is delighted to join NEH in helping university presses give new digital life to enduring works of scholarship that are presently unavailable to new generations of students, scholars, and general readers.”

The National Endowment for the Humanities and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation will jointly provide $1 million to convert out-of-print books into EPUB e-books with a Creative Commons (CC) license, ensuring that the books are freely downloadable with searchable texts and in formats that are compatible with any e-reading device. Books proposed under the Humanities Open Book program must be of demonstrable intellectual significance and broad interest to current readers. 

Application guidelines and a list of F.A.Q’s for the Humanities Open Book program are available online at www.NEH.gov. The application deadline for the first cycle of Humanities Open Book grants is June 10, 2015.

The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation endeavors to strengthen, promote, and, where necessary, defend the contributions of the humanities and the arts to human flourishing and to the well-being of diverse and democratic societies.  To this end, it supports exemplary institutions of higher education and culture as they renew and provide access to an invaluable heritage of ambitious, path-breaking work.  Additional information is available at: http://www.mellon.org/

###

About the National Endowment for the Humanities

Created in 1965 as an independent federal agency, the National Endowment for the Humanities supports research and learning in history, literature, philosophy, and other areas of the humanities by funding selected, peer-reviewed proposals from around the nation. Additional information about the National Endowment for the Humanities and its grant programs is available at: www.neh.gov.

Media Contacts: Paula Wasley at (202) 606-8424 or pwasley@neh.gov
See video