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The model, known as Knowledge Unlatched, exploits the collective purchasing power of the world’s libraries to make academic books freely available to all as fully downloadable PDFs. The pilot, which is open now, asks individual libraries to pledge a small amount towards the ‘unlatching’ costs of a fixed list of 28 books.

To support the pilot, HEFCE has agreed to make a grant contribution to higher education institutions in England that participate in the pilot. This contribution will be used to reduce the participation fee for English institutions by up to 50 per cent. The grant will be administered by Jisc Collections.

Lessons learned from this pilot will form a key strand of evidence for HEFCE’s monographs and open access project. Led by Professor Geoffrey Crossick, this project aims to develop a more detailed understanding of the open access publishing landscape for monographs and other long-form scholarly works. 

David Sweeney, HEFCE’s Director for Research, Innovation and Skills, said:

‘I'm delighted to be able to support this exciting new model. We believe that the pilot will play a vital part in helping to find solutions to the growing difficulties of publishing academic books in the humanities and social sciences. The lessons that we learn from this pilot will be of prime importance in testing the readiness of the scholarly book publishing world to support the open access agenda.’


  1. Further information on the Knowledge Unlatched scheme, including details of how to sign up to the pilot, is available on the Knowledge Unlatched web-site and the Jisc Collections web-site.
  2. More information on HEFCE’s monographs and open access project.