The Heidelberg University Library launched the open access publisher Heidelberg University Publishing (heiUP) five years ago. The first book was published on 23 July 2015; meanwhile over 70 publications have appeared. The publisher operating on behalf of Heidelberg University follows the forward-looking strategy of publishing research results online with free access. "We have two principles: very high quality and online first," says Dr Veit Probst, who is both library and publishing director. That makes heiUP an alternative to the major academic publishing houses, an option which authors appreciate. At the same time, with this publishing activity the University Library has successfully tapped into a new field of work in close cooperation with the classical responsibilities of a library.
The aim of open access is to make academic literature available to all users free of technical and legal barriers. Two strategies are available. The first one is for the primary publication to appear in "gold open access", which heiUP also implements. The second strategy is publishing in "green open access", where the printed book is made available in open access as a second step. In this case, academic literature obtainable from Heidelberg University Publishing is on offer in traditional form as a printed edition in a bookshop, but is notably available for download free of charge on the heiUP website.
Figures prove the success of this model. According to information from the University Library, heiUP in 2019 registered about 340,000 downloads on its website from e-journals alone - that is more than twice as many as in 2018. In all there were approximately 400,000 downloads last year. "We have to initiate a change in mindset," says Dr Maria Effinger, managing director of heiUP. "The primary publication is the online version, and the printed edition is a derivative. It is about making research results machine-readable, which gives rise to completely new opportunities for academic publishing." Once it is published online in HTML format a publication can, for example, be linked with the underlying research data or supplementary information such as photos or videos.
The heiUP managing and publishing directors are both convinced that commitment in the field of open access is unavoidable if academic libraries are to successfully hold their own in future. In the words of Dr Probst, their task will increasingly move from merely making knowledge available to actual publishing. "If media transformation and user customs continue as they have to date, university libraries that do not, like us, have outstanding historical collections and have not established new services, will struggle to survive," says the director of the Heidelberg University Library. The open access publisher Heidelberg University Publishing is therefore an important building block for ensuring the library’s sustainability.