Open books from OBP: A showcase

Author Posts Apr 09, 2020

The importance of freely available, openly accessible academic books is more evident now than ever. During the current crisis, we have been looking for ways to let people know about the availability of open resources: free to access, with no institutional membership required, now and always.

As part of this effort, we asked our authors to send us a few lines about the Open Access books they have written and published with us. The brief was very wide: authors could write whatever they liked about their book and why a reader might want to (digitally) pick it up. The posts below are their generous responses to this request.

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Alessandra Capodacqua

As a professor of photography at NYU Florence, since the late 90s, I have had the privilege to research the Acton Photograph Archive collection housed at the campus, which is a 37-acre estate, with olive groves and gardens, five villas that provide a home to the university and include Villa La Pietra with its house museum, and formal gardens. In more recent years I have become more involved and interested in the rich presence of photographs of women in the above-mentioned Archive, and how these photographs convey not only interesting sub-textual information about the period - the property was acquired by the Acton-Mitchell family in 1907 - but also social, political and cultural contexts: the fashion, lifestyle and influences. This interest lead me to research the Archive in more depth, and this resulted in a lecture and my contribution to the publication Women and Migration.

Women and Migration: Responses in Art and History, ed. by Deborah Willis, Ellyn Toscano and Kalia Brooks Nelson (2019) is free to read and download.


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J. David Velleman

As of next month, almost all of my life’s work will be available in open access volumes — two volumes originally published in OA format by Open Book Publishers, and two converted from print to OA by MPublishing at the University of Michigan. I also co-founded and co-edit Philosophers’ Imprint, the first open-access journal in philosophy. Why do I believe in the open-access movement?

The movement has two main aims: (1) to make academic research available to a wider audience and (2) to spare academic institutions from having to pay additional charges for research they have already paid to produce, referee, and edit. Unfortunately, for-profit publishers have succeeded in co-opting the term 'open access' for online publication that serves the first goal but not the second, because they levy excessive charges on authors — or, more precisely, their funders — to make their work openly accessible online. In a world where the very existence of higher-education is threatened by lack of funds, this ploy is a direct attack on the academy.

To authors who have not yet switched to publishing in genuinely open-access form, I would point out that my open-access publications have garnered far more readers, from far more countries, than anything I have published in print, and they have done so at minimal or no cost to me or my institution.

J David Velleman's books,Beyond Price: Essays on Birth and Death (2015), and Foundations for Moral Relativism: Second Expanded Edition (2015) are free to read and download.

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Robert Kolker

This is a good time (if this time can be called ‘good’) to catch up on films you’ve been wanting to see. The Altering Eye is an excellent guide to the golden age of postwar international cinema from Italian neorealism to Brazilian cinema novo. Many of the films discussed in the book are available for streaming, especially on the Criterion Channel in the U.S.

The Altering Eye: Contemporary International Cinema by Robert Kolker (2009) is free to read and download.


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Andrew Fisher

Ethics for A-Level does what it says on the tin. The expense and lumpy quality of introductory books on ethics is astounding. We wanted to give a student/teacher/academic/parent assurance and confidence that all the key material needed to tackle the Ethics A-Level was of the highest quality, in one place, and free. The book is split into discrete sections, includes loads of examples, and so isn't overly demanding. It has useful questions to guide study and links to further resources. If people want to revise, learn, prepare lessons, or are just interested in ethics then we believe this is the best gateway to the debates - and did we mention, it's free?

Ethics for A-Level by Mark Dimmock and Andrew Fisher (2017) can be read and downloaded without charge.


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Maurice Wolfthal

I chose to translate Bernard Weinstein's Di yidishe yunyons in amerike; bleter geshikhte un erinerungn [The Jewish Unions in America: Pages of History and Memories] because labor history has largely vanished from American schools and universities, and it is vitally important to remember the history of those who work for a living, including Jewish workers.

I translated Nokhem Shtif's Pogromen in Ukrayne: did tsayt fun der frayviliger armey [The Pogroms in Ukraine 1918-19: Prelude to the Holocaust] because it sheds light on the vicious antisemitic stereotypes that fueled those atrocities, inspired the rise of Nazism, and are fueling the resurgence of antisemitic violence in Europe and the United States today.

The Jewish Unions in America: Pages of History and Memories by Bernard Weinstein, and The Pogroms in Ukraine 1918-19: Prelude to the Holocaust by Nokhem Shtif, both translated by Maurice Wolfthal (2018 and 2019), are free to read and download.

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Agner Fog

This book explores how our collective response to fears and dangers has deep evolutionary roots - and how it has a profound influence on politics. It draws on many different fields of both the social sciences and the natural sciences, and examines issues of war and peace, the rise and fall of empires, the mass media, economic instability, ecological crisis, and much more.

Warlike and Peaceful Societies: The Interaction of Genes and Culture by Agner Fog (2017) is free to read and download.


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David Weissman

The coronavirus disrupts and destroys many things. It also inverts ordinary relations. Cooperation is one of those. It usually requires partnerships that satisfy shared interests or needs, in work or friendship. Each partner has a role, all the roles need be satisfied if the task at hand (raising children, driving safely in traffic) is to be accomplished. Managing the virus alters this paradigm. For now, we cooperate by cutting our relations to other people, staying home to avert sickening others or ourselves.

This is autonomy as it enables cooperation. The trees of a copse or wood are an analogue. Each tree is a node; it has effects on the many things dependent on it when living in or under its branches and foliage. Yet each tree depends in turn on the ecosystem established by the array of trees. Do we emphasize individual trees or the system they form when speaking of a copse? An adequate account requires both. So does our isolation imply the greater good of the society we work to preserve.

Agency: Moral Identity and Free Will by David Weissman (2020) is free to read and download.

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Ruth Finnegan

“Shall I quote you?

N-no ...

I’d rather YOU quoted ME.

But you’ll only do it with full understanding if you look first at this

and this:

Why Do We Quote? The Culture and History of Quotation by Ruth Finnegan (2011) is free to read and download.”

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Catriona Seth and Rotraud von Kulessa

Faced with the current pandemic, borders are being reinforced all over Europe. Rather than thinking of a common strategy to fight the virus which threatens us all in the same manner, countries are retreating behind the banner of national sovereignty; threats are seen as located outside one’s own territory; a post-pandemic return to the Schengen area seems unthinkable at this stage. More than ever it is worth reflecting on the European project as envisaged by Enlightenment thinkers. See for instance ‘Europe without frontiers’ by Masson de Pezay (extract 74 in the book).

Face à la pandémie actuelle, nous pouvons observer le retour aux frontières à l’intérieur de l’Europe. Au lieu de penser à une stratégie commune pour combattre le virus qui nous menace tous de la même manière, chaque pays se retranche derrière la souveraineté nationale; on définit des zones à risques en dehors du propre pays, et un retour à l’espace Schengen semble désormais hors de portée. En ces temps-ci, il nous semble d’autant plus important de rappeler à tous l’importance du projet européen, déjà reconnue par les penseur(e)s du 18e siècle. Article recommandé 74. L’Europe sans frontières (Alexandre-Frédéric- Jacques de Masson de Pezay, Les soirées Helvétiennes, Alsaciennes et Franc-Comtoises, 1771), p. 142.

Angesichts der aktuellen Bedrohung durch die Pandemie lässt sich in Europa eine Rückkehr zu den Grenzen beobachten. Anstatt an einer gemeinsamen Strategie zu arbeiten, um das Virus und seine Folgen zu bekämpfen, bzw. gemeinsame Ausstiegsstrategien aus dem Shutdown zu entwickeln, verschanzen sich die Länder Europas hinter ihrer nationalen Souveränität, und eine Rückkehr zu Schengen scheint erst einmal nicht in Aussicht. Deshalb ist es umso wichtiger an die Bedeutung des europäischen Projektes zu erinnern, wie es nicht zuletzt von den Gelehrten der Aufklärung anerkannt war. S. Artikel 74 : Europa ohne Grenzen.

The Idea of Europe: Enlightenment Perspectives (2017), L’idée de l’Europe au Siècle des Lumières (2017) and Die Europaidee im Zeitalter der Aufklärung (2017), all edited by Catriona Seth and Rotraud von Kulessa, are all free to read and download.


For a list of other platforms and presses that publish Open Access books (and a few resources for journals too) click here.

Open Book Publishers

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