Athena Unbound: Why and How Scholarly Knowledge Should Be Free for All
A clear-eyed examination of the open access movement: past history, current conflicts, and future possibilities.
Open access (OA) could one day put the sum of human knowledge at our fingertips. But the goal of allowing everyone to read everything faces fierce resistance. In Athena Unbound, Peter Baldwin offers an up-to-date look at the ideals and history behind OA, and unpacks the controversies that arise when the dream of limitless information slams into entrenched interests in favor of the status quo. In addition to providing a clear analysis of the debates, Baldwin focuses on thorny issues such as copyright and ways to pay for “free” knowledge. He also provides a roadmap that would make OA economically viable and, as a result, advance one of humanity’s age-old ambitions.
Baldwin addresses the arguments in terms of disseminating scientific research, the history of intellectual property and copyright, and the development of the university and research establishment. As he notes, the hard sciences have already created a funding model that increasingly provides open access, but at the cost of crowding out the humanities. Baldwin proposes a new system that would shift costs from consumers to producers and free scholarly knowledge from the paywalls and institutional barriers that keep it from much of the world.
Rich in detail and free of jargon, Athena Unbound is an essential primer on the state of the global open access movement.
Praise for Athena Unbound: Why and How Scholarly Knowledge Should Be Free for All
Included in Forbes's the Best Higher Education Books of 2023
"Baldwin is correct: the more open access, the better."
—the New York Review of Books
“Athena Unbound: How and Why Scholarly Knowledge Should Be Free To All by UCLA research professor of history Peter Baldwin argues for open access to scholarly knowledge, claiming that while the cost of such expansion is significant, it’s within reach if sufficient funds are repurposed. Baldwin covers the history of open access and related concepts like public domain, copyright, intellectual property rights, research funding, and knowledge creation. He discusses how to deal with the thorny differences in scientific research dissemination versus publication in the humanities and social sciences. Well-written, with plenty of wit and insight along the way.”
"For those already well-versed in the open access community, you know that there is an abundance of literature covering the theory, economics, and sociological dimensions of OA. But, it’s easy to lose the forest for the trees. Athena Unbound stands out by providing a comprehensive, high-level explanation of how we have reached the current state of open access affairs."
"A historian at UCLA and Global Professor at NYU probes the aim of open access (“a visionary quest whose ultimate ambition is an absolute: All knowledge should be freely available to anyone anywhere”) and the practical and other obstacles that hinder its realization. Important, at a time when institutions are creating ever more intellectual property of immense economic and social value. Practicing what he professes, his book is open access."
"There is a longstanding call to make scholarship free to all, known as the open access movement. Baldwin argues that this time when AI and ChatGPT are reshaping information could be a turning point that speeds up the move to open up scholarship. Baldwin’s latest book, Athena Unbound: Why and How Scholarly Knowledge Should Be Free for All, looks at the history and future of the open access movement. And fittingly, his publisher made a version of the book available free online."
"Baldwin (UCLA and NYU) describes the challenges of open access for humanities disciplines and also the possibilities for making scholarship open access. He points to Latin America’s success in making the transition to open access through government funding and the SciELO publishing network. He explores what it would take to digitize the public domain and out-of-print books and articles of the world. Baldwin is a professor of history, and his cross-disciplinary knowledge of scholarship in the humanities provides a perspective rarely seen in the literature on open access, a literature often dominated by scholars of the social sciences and so-called hard sciences. He omits insight into the market for scholarly literature that a professional librarian could provide. For example, in his calculations of the amount libraries spend annually on monographs, he uses an NCES “one-time expenditures” figure, which also includes serial back-files and audiovisual purchases, meaning he significantly overestimates the amount academic libraries spend on monographs. However, the book contributes a valuable humanist perspective to the existing understanding of the open-access ecosystem. Baldwin's polished prose marks him as a writer who cares about aesthetics as well as content in composition. Summing Up: Recommended. Graduate students, researchers, faculty, professionals."