Sunday, March 31, 2019

Coming Soon: Brown Judaic Studies (BJS) Online

From Michael L Satlow's Then and Now
Over the past few years I have served as Managing Editor of Brown Judaic Studies (BJS), a scholarly monograph series.  I am very excited to announce that after a few attempts, we have succeeded in obtaining a grant from the Mellon Foundation, through the Humanities Open Book Program run by the National Endowment for the Humanities, to digitize and make freely available over the internet electronic copies (in different formats, of about fifty titles from our back list.  The press release is here.

BJS was established about forty years ago as an outlet for (mostly) high-quality, usually specialized, scholarly monographs.  Recently we began also to publish collections of scholarly papers, usually emerging from a conference or gathered as part of a Festschrift (a volume honoring an academic colleague).  Although we publish only a few volumes each year, over the years we have accumulated a significant backlist and many of our older volumes remain foundational in several different areas within Judaic studies.  We have also begun to develop projects that begin as invited lectured by distinguished scholars at Brown University (for our first publication as part of this initiative, see this book by Hasia Diner).

As a publishing outlet, BJS is unusual.  It is administered by the faculty of the Program in Judaic Studies at Brown University, who serve (without compensation) as acquisitions editors who can also help with the specialized contents of the volumes.  Once a volume is accepted, we outsource the copyediting and typesetting and then send then completed project to our partner, SBL Press, for printing, marketing, and distribution.  Since we maintain a lean budget, we are able to price our volumes relatively affordably, despite their specialized appeal.

We frequently receive requests, many from underfunded research libraries abroad, for free copies of our books, any of which had small print runs and are now out of print.  The primary goal of the Humanities Open Book Program is to begin to make these titles widely available.  Authors will have the option of making minor corrections or revisions to their volumes, and some will be invited to add retrospective essays.  It is our hope that opening access to these important and refreshed volumes will lower the barriers to access and allow their ideas to circulate widely.

At the same time, we also have other larger goals for this initiative:
  • We have partnered with the Association for Jewish Studies to make our digital titles accessible via their site as well.  Our mutual hope is that these titles will help to create an ecosystem that promotes and expands open access Judaica scholarship.
  • Is open access financial sustainable?  We hope to learn through this initiative whether we can feasibly extend our ability to incorporate open access routinely into the life-cycle of our publications.  Could we, for example, allow all of our titles to go to open access after some period of time (five years?) in print?
  • The world of scholarly publishing has long been in turmoil.  We hope that this grant will raise awareness of a model of publication that allows for publication of high-quality, peer-reviewed works outside of the structure of university presses, which might in turn productively further the conversation.
Stay tuned!

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