The OLH model.

We’ve spent 10 years building a sustainable business model for funding diamond open-access publishing.

Our model places equity at the heart of scholarly publishing — for readers, authors, editors, libraries, and funders. Unlike many open-access publishers, we will never demand author fees. Instead, we work with library partners worldwide to fund the cost of publishing articles that are free for authors to publish and readers to access.

The library partnership subsidy model.

The OLH was one of the first publishers in Europe to launch a library membership network at the beginnings of the open-access movement in 2015.

We worked with library colleagues for 2 years before launching our Library Partnership Subsidy model to find an alternative to commercial journal subscriptions. This was informed by the shared belief that Article Processing Charges (APCs) and Transformative Agreements (TAs) for funding open-access publishing are unaffordable and unfair. They don’t work for humanities scholars and perpetuate publishing legacies that privilege wealthier institutions in the Global North at the expense of scholars working in the Global South.

The OLH provides a sustainable alternative to the “author-pays” model. More than 340 university and public libraries worldwide have joined the OLH to date, diverting small sums from their open-access budgets to fund our journals. Increasing funding to scholar-led and not-for-profit alternatives strengthens libraries’ bargaining power with large commercial publishers. This puts pressure on these publishers to adopt more transparent business models and reduce their fees to reflect the realities of library budgets.

Collectivity is working.

Because we are not-for-profit and have brought our publishing technology in house, we can offer extremely cost-effective diamond open-access publishing.

It’s cheaper for your library to join the OLH and pay an annual membership, which funds the publication of 500 articles across 30 journals each year, than to pay a single Article Processing Charge (APC) to publish one article open access with a legacy publisher. (Typically, it costs a humanities researcher c.£2,500 / €2,894 / $3,067 for an APC to publish their journal article open access with a publisher whose profits derive from library subscriptions).

By contrast, OLH membership starts from as little as £750 / $916 / €861 per year. Keeping our basic membership rates low helps libraries keep their costs under control. Our fees are banded by country, and we have higher-tier membership rates available at bronze, silver, gold, and platinum levels for libraries operating with larger budgets. Our model works from each according to their ability, to each according to their needs.

How it works.


A stack of coins

Many universities and libraries contribute small, affordable sums.

Keeping our basic membership rates low helps libraries keep their costs under control. For libraries operating with larger budgets for open-access publishing, we can offer higher-tier membership rates.


These funds cover OLH publishing expenses and journal funding.

By diverting small sums from their commercial open-access budgets, OLH partner libraries provide the financial support we need to expand our portfolio of journals and build open-source publishing technologies that benefit the entire academic community.


OLH journals publish research that is archived, secure, and free to access.

Articles are assigned DOIs, journals are widely indexed, metadata is harvestable, and sector-leading archival practices ensure the long-term availability of all published research.

As membership grows, we grow.

Over 340 university and public libraries worldwide already support us, which makes our platform safe and sustainable. As this support grows, we expand our portfolio of humanities journals by “flipping” subscription titles. This provides a route to diamond open access that is affordable and sustainable.

We also invest in building open-source publishing technologies that benefit the entire academic community. Investing in our own publishing platform means we can offer cutting-edge technology to our journals at a sustainable cost for our international library partners. It also safeguards the OLH against acquisition, ensuring our ongoing independence from commercial publishers.

Made for the humanities.

The OLH model has been built around the specific needs of humanities scholars. It works because we are embedded in the academic communities that we serve. Our model harnesses support from libraries and funders to protect niche fields and preserve research cultures that are at risk from austerity cuts to humanities research funding.

It is also grounded in an understanding that humanities disciplines face specific challenges. They are often poorly funded and less likely to benefit from research investment than the sciences. Postgraduates, independent scholars, less “research-intensive” institutions, and academics in the Global South are also disproportionately disadvantaged by an “author pays” system of open-access publishing.

Our model has been influential in the shift towards community-governed, not-for-profit open-access publishing because it addressed these issues. And it continues to work because we are aligned with the mission of libraries. Despite competitive market forces, we work in partnership with our library network to maximise societal access to research in the broadest sense.

Articles and insights about the OLH model.

  • Eve, M P, Vega, P C, & Edwards, C (2020). Lessons From the Open Library of Humanities. LIBER Quarterly: The Journal of the Association of European Research Libraries, 30(1), 1–18.