"Simon Chaplin: The humanities matter. Books matter. Through open access, they can reach a wider audience than ever before. A policy requiring open access to academic books? Surely that's asking for trouble? After all, it was only a few months ago that many humanities researchers were up in arms when Research Councils UK (RCUK) implemented its new policy on open access to journal articles. Although such measures are broadly accepted in the sciences, the RCUK policy was criticised by the Royal Historical Society, among others, for being a blunt instrument, insensitive to the differences that mark out historians from histologists.
Given the anguish that RCUK's policy caused, the announcement last week that the Wellcome Trust – a major funder of biomedical research – has now extended its open access policy to include books and book chapters might seem a little, well, insensitive. After all, the Trust's long-standing policy on open access to journal articles was seen by many as having beaten the path for RCUK's approach. So why books, and why now?"