KU for Beginners


Who We Are
Who We Are
  • We are an Open Access organization that facilitates the publishing of Open Access books and journals and makes them freely available worldwide.
  • Our mission is to assist in the process of publishing and funding Open Access titles by working directly with publishers (the producers of scholarly content) and libraries and academic institutions (the funders).
  • Our main goal is to develop sustainable Open Access business models that work for all sides, including researchers, authors, publishers, libraries, library patrons, and general users.
  • We are based in Berlin, Germany, but our team is very global, and our employees are located in various parts of the world.
  • We are best known to libraries for our collaborative Open Access ‘pledging’ campaigns, in which libraries worldwide join forces to co-finance the publishing of a wide range of Open Access books and journals.
What We Do
What We Do
  • We collect funds from libraries and supporting academic institutions each year (during our pledging campaigns) and pass them on to publishers to cover the cost of publishing scholarly books and journals Open Access.
  • Publishers use the funds from participating institutions to produce and publish content Open Access and pay the authors as well as to cover production costs. This way authors avoid book-processing and article-processing charges.
  • The KU process is highly transparent, and participating libraries are informed every step of the way how their funds are used and when the titles and collections they support are made Open Access.
  • Titles published Open Access through KU are either ‘born Open Access’ (never-before published) or transitioned from ‘paid-for content’ to Open Access (backlist titles already published get ‘flipped’ to Open Access).
  • We seek input from libraries along the way in various ways to make sure the titles and collections funded are relevant and timely.
  • We work with a wide and growing variety of academic publishers around the world, from the largest and leading publishing houses to small niche publishers and university presses.
  • We continually test business models to ensure long-term sustainability of book and journal collections made Open Access so that libraries can continue investing in them.
How KU Works
How KU Works
  • Each year in May, KU announces the start of a new pledging round, inviting libraries worldwide to invest in the Open Access collections offered. The pledging continues through the end of November of the given year. After the pledging closes, the results are assessed, and the unlatching process begins soon thereafter.
  • The more funding KU receives from libraries, the more books and journals are published Open Access each year.
  • Libraries may ‘pledge’ in two ways: by contacting their KU representative or by logging into the KU portal and making a pledge.
  • Any library may register in the KU portal without any obligation to pledge and take advantage of its many benefits (e.g., to download usage reports for their institution, receive regular updates from KU via email).
  • KU offers libraries many different Open Access initiatives to support each year in a wide range of disciplines in the Humanities and Social Sciences as well as Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.
  • Publishers who work with KU are required to submit content for consideration only after it has been previously submitted for peer review according to the established academic standards.
  • Some KU collections are multi-disciplinary, some are subject-specific, while others are publisher-specific. The new brochure is shared with libraries in May of each year and may also be downloaded on the KU homepage.
  • Libraries around the world know us best for our legacy collection, KU Select HSS Books, which was first piloted in 2013. It is a multidisciplinary collection of titles covering various HSS disciplines. Libraries can choose to support the full KU Select HSS package each year, or specific subject packages (e.g., Anthropology, History, Politics, etc.).
  • The price of each KU collection depends on the size of the collection and how many titles are frontlist (born Open Access) or backlist (older titles becoming Open Access).
  • The KU Selection Committee, made up of about 200 librarians from around the world, reviews title suggestions (submitted in advance by publishers and shared with the Committee early in the year) and the Committee then votes for the titles it believes should receive the funding. The titles that receive the most votes become part of the KU Select HSS Books collection.
  • In addition to KU Select HSS Books, KU offers libraries many other subject-specific or publisher-specific collections to support each year, depending on their interests and their institution’s focus.
  • You may browse current KU offerings by subject by visiting our homepage. There you may also download a PDF of the latest KU brochure.
Why Libraries Participate
Why Libraries Participate
  • The success of KU’s initiatives depends on libraries worldwide working together to co-finance the publishing of the chosen titles, all for the benefit of the global scholarly community.
  • Once ‘unlatched’ (published Open Access), KU titles can be integrated into library catalogs and accessed on various platforms, which allows librarians to promote the content freely to their users.
  • Libraries appreciate that even if they do not participate in annual crowdfunding each year, they are free to use the KU content and integrate it into their systems, as that is the basic principle of Open Access: to make content freely available to anyone, anywhere, for use and download (under Creative Commons licenses).
  • Every library ‘pledge’ (funds received) counts toward creating a sustainable route to Open Access for as many scholarly books and journals as possible.
  • Not all collections are priced the same, so even libraries on modest budgets can participate in crowdfunding by selecting the initiatives and collections they can afford.
  • Librarians are also invited each year to join the KU Selection Committee (already comprising over 200 librarians from around the world) and participate in the democratic voting process to help KU select the most relevant titles to be published Open Access.
  • KU invests a great deal in a reliable infrastructure that helps us keep track of the usage of KU books. Libraries may easily obtain our detailed usage reports for their institutions by registering and logging into the KU portal or request them from their KU representatives at any time.
  • KU usage reports show libraries exactly which books are used in their institutions and where (e.g., JSTOR platform, the OAPEN platform). More information on how to interpret KU usage reports is available by following this link.
The Availability of KU Content
The Availability of KU Content
  • The basic premise of Open Access is to make scholarly knowledge free and widely available and discoverable to users worldwide, regardless of who finances its publishing. For this reason, KU works with a wide range of organizations that help us distribute and organize our content. Please follow this link to see the listing of those organizations.
  • KU titles are hosted on JSTOR, OAPEN, Project Muse, and the Open Research Library platforms, where they are available for free access and download.
  • KU titles may be integrated into library systems via several indexing and discovery services, including EBSCO Discovery Service, ProQuest’s Ex Libris Primo and Summon, and the OCLC.
  • Libraries can follow the ‘unlatching’ process by referring to KU’s public spreadsheet, which is updated regularly to keep libraries informed when new books are ‘unlatched.’
  • Free MARC records for all KU titles can be found on this page on our web site.
  • Free KBART files for all KU content can be found on this page on our web site.
KU Impact
KU Impact
  • Since KU launched in 2013, some 630 libraries worldwide have financially supported one or more of KU’s Open Access initiatives. Please follow this link to see the institutions that have invested and continue to invest in KU collections, organized by country.
  • KU collaborates with over 100 scholarly publishers who supply quality content on a rolling basis for ‘unlatching’ each year. Please follow this link to see the publishers that have participated in one or more of KU initiatives to date.
  • Titles made Open Access through KU are downloaded and viewed across more than 200 countries. Please follow this link to see where KU books are used the most (note: this information gets updated annually when KU announces its Open Access Heroes results).
  • The number of total user interactions (including downloads and views) for KU titles has grown year on year by 20 percent and now stands at ten million.
  • On average, each KU book gets 2,200 user interactions.
  • Over 2,000 books have been published OA to date owing to KU’s initiatives, and this number will grow to 2,700 titles by the end of 2021.
  • Nearly 6,500 institutions worldwide use KU books.
  • KU has also helped make some 50 scholarly journals Open Access.
KU’s Global Team
KU’s Global Team
  • Open Access is constantly advancing and presents various challenges in different regions of the world. Please follow this link to learn about our library team and to find out who represents your country or region. Our global team aims to include the voices of librarians in every corner of the world, particularly the emerging markets of the Global South, where librarians are facing unique challenges. The KU representatives who cover the emerging markets include:
We’d Appreciate Your Feedback
We’d Appreciate Your Feedback