In December 2012, the Amherst College Library made headlines by announcing plans “to launch the first open-access, digital academic press.” It acknowledged a couple predecessors: Rice University Press, which switched to an all-digital, paid format before folding; and especially University of Michigan Press, for working with its Library to offer certain publications for free. Amherst College Press aimed to be the first exclusively open-access, completely digital academic press.
The announcement got a little attention at VCU, for a few reasons. British Virginia already had its first potential publication out to peer reviewers. We already had our publication mechanism in place at the library. In fact, since 2010, we had been working with VCU Libraries to design a publisher that already had all of the components that Amherst College Press was promising: British Virginia likewise publishes only open-access, digital, peer-reviewed publications in the humanities, with Creative Commons licenses. There are differences between the projects: we don’t see what use a digital publisher would have for a “press” exactly. The main difference now, though, is that British Virginia has actually started publishing.
This is not to complain that anyone at Amherst College overlooked British Virginia: we had decided to announce nothing until we had actually published something. The point, rather, is to ask what other publishers and projects we are overlooking. What other libraries are involved in publishing originally digital, open-access, peer-reviewed scholarship? Have any of the member institutions of the Library Publishing Coalition published anything that meets these criteria? Lots of libraries have digital repositories, or even a “press,” such as Ball State University Beneficence Press. Which of them involve blind peer review? Which of them use not just Creative Commons licenses, but “free culture” licenses? Please expose and eliminate our ignorance.