Leuven University Press celebrates 50th birthday
For fifty years now, Leuven University Press supports scientists from both in and outside KU Leuven with the publication of academic books. Since some six years ago, the publisher also stimulates free access to science with a steadily growing range of free e-books.
In 1972, Leuven University Press published its first seven books. Since then, a lot has changed in the scientific world and in the publishing industry. Veerle De Laet, manager and publisher of Leuven University Press, particularly notices that scientific publishing is becoming increasingly international. “That applies, for example, to the profile of our authors - about 35 percent of the authors is linked to KU Leuven, the other authors come from all around the world. Books are also more widely distributed today, and the production process has become more international.”
Partly because of the COVID-19 pandemic, digitalisation has boomed as well. “The access to places where we traditionally organise education or do research, like the library or the campus, was suddenly cut off due to COVID-19. You then feel very clearly that the switch to the digital world is inevitable.”
But also before the corona crisis, a need for more digitally accessible scientific publications existed. That’s why in 2015, Leuven University Press started with the implementation of Open Access, one of the most drastic evolutions in the publishing industry. “Open Access publications are not only digital, and hence available worldwide, but also completely free of charge to everyone. Consequently, numerous financial and logistic barriers that emerge with the traditional Closed Access publications (in which the access to research results is protected by a paywall – ed.) disappear. If, for example, a researcher from Latin America orders a book from us, there is a chance that the book will never reach him or her, or that it will be in bad condition.”
According to Veerle De Laet, Open Access is the ideal method for researchers to participate in broad knowledge transfer. “Researchers who publish in Open Access, notice that their research results are picked up faster”, she says. Although it took some time to convince them. “In the very beginning, Open Access was unknown to most authors and thus unloved. That resistance was in part inspired by the idea that something free could not be of high quality. That idea is of course unfounded: all our books, digital or printed, go through the same quality control.”
These days, Open Access is no longer under discussion. More and more researchers recognise the advantages of freely downloadable research results. Will Leuven University Press ever switch over completely to free e-books? “Printed books have withstood the ravages of time gloriously, and I think they are here to stay, but of course we as a publisher are willing to package scientific knowledge in increasingly innovative ways to bring it to the public. Undoubtedly, more new trends and publication methods will follow after Open Access.”
In addition to scientific and educational publications, Leuven University Press also publishes books for a wider readership. In those publications, researchers shed light on current topics, like gender, quality of education and postcolonialism, or for example, the shared, but also divided way in which Walloons and Flemings view the history of Belgium.