In today’s post, as a part of our series of open access success stories that spotlight noteworthy openly accessible books and their authors, we’re featuring Peter Kaufman of MIT Open Learning. Kaufman made his new book, The New Enlightenment and the Fight to Free Knowledge, available for free under a CC-BY license upon its publication by Seven Stories Press. In the book, Kaufman discusses “the powerful forces that have purposely crippled our efforts to share knowledge widely and freely.” By releasing his work under an open access license, Kaufman has pushed back on these forces while also ensuring that his work reaches a wide audience. You can find the open access edition of the book here.
Authors Alliance: Can you tell us why you opted to make The New Enlightenment and the Fight to Free Knowledge openly available?
Peter Kaufman: My book is about the forces that have constrained our access to knowledge in the modern world, some of the angels that have fought to increase that access, and some of the monsters that continue their efforts to suppress it. The book was made available from the very date of publication as a downloadable free edition – and under a CC-BY license, to boot, which allows for the broadest use and reuse possible. My publisher, Dan Simon of Seven Stories Press, is a progressive deeply committed to releasing “works of the radical imagination,” as he puts it – and to media experimentation of the kind we all support.
AuAll: Did your audience or the subject matter of your book influence your decision to publish openly?
PK: Yes, beyond the history in the book – it opens in the 16th century – and the contemporary debates that I cover from the 20th century on, I’m addressing progressives who benefit from encouragement and example, and those on the fence about the many advantages – social, cultural, economic – of open access. I have been a long-time OER advocate and work at MIT Open Learning – the pearly gates for open access in higher education.
AuAll: What results have you seen from publishing your book openly?
PK: Because of the subject matter but also because of the license, the book launched with public online discussions at law schools, book stores, libraries, universities, and other organizations at the cutting edge of the freedom-to-know, including the Internet Archive and Creative Commons. A program with Wikipedia is forthcoming. I believe that the progress resulted in numerous social media impressions that otherwise we would not have seen – and postings by advocates in media reform, copyright reform, and free software.
AuAll: Could you share some lessons learned or other suggestions for authors?
PK: Do it. My book makes the point that in the end – in the long term, as John Maynard Keynes used to say – we all wind up in the public domain. Accelerate that process. Gain new readers. Get the right kind of attention. Find like-minded advocates. Contribute knowledge freely to the world a little faster than you otherwise would have.
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