Open Access and the Latin American & Caribbean Studies Series

By Hendrik Kraay, Latin American & Caribbean Studies Series Editor


Launched in 2002 as a partnership between the University of Calgary’s Latin American Research Centre and the University of Calgary Press, the Latin American & Caribbean Series issued its first open-access (OA) title in early 2014. Since then, chapters from Joanna Page’s Creativity and Science in Contemporary Argentine Literature: Between Romanticism and Formalism have been accessed thousands of times by readers around the world. This is what OA publishing is all about: making scholarship available to those who may not otherwise have access to the University of Calgary Press’s books.

Anglo-American scholars of Latin America and the Caribbean face particular problems when it comes to distributing our work. Our books often have only limited circulation in the countries about which we write. University libraries in the region typically have restricted acquisition budgets and cannot afford costly international purchases and the associated shipping charges, while our colleagues in the region inevitably must be selective in what they purchase for their personal libraries. Our author copies are never enough to give to all the libraries and colleagues whom we would like to thank. Spanish and Portuguese translations of our work typically take years to come out, and many books are never translated. Much the same, of course, goes for scholarship published in Latin America and the Caribbean, but inequalities in library budgets and established scholars’ incomes mean that Anglo-American scholars have easier access to their Latin American counterparts’ work than vice-versa.

OA publishing, already well established for academic journals (especially in Latin America), levels the playing field. So do initiatives like the University of Calgary Press’s early commitment to publishing OA books. While maintaining established standards of peer review, copyediting, and production quality, the University of Calgary Press’s OA books are freely available in pdf format to anyone who does not wish to purchase a printed volume. Authors increasingly seek us out. for this reason. Joanna Page (University of Cambridge) explains that, back in the early 2010s, few presses published OA books, and this was something that she was "actively looking for. " She felt that "it was vital that Creativity and Science circulate in Latin America and that scholars there had the chance to read it." Since then, OA publishing has become part of what she calls her "ethical commitment as a researcher working on another part of the world where libraries are generally not well funded."

Juliette Storr (Pennsylvania State University), author of Journalism in a Small Place: Making Caribbean News Relevant, Comprehensive and Independent (2016), likewise explains that OA "was a key factor in submitting my manuscript [to the University of Calgary Press] as it meant that more people, especially from the Caribbean and throughout the world, would be able to access my work. " She attributes the more than 200 citations of her book to date to its OA availability.

Dan Russek (University of Victoria), author of Textual Exposures: Photography in Twentieth-Century Spanish American Narrative Fiction (2015), initially did not consider OA an important factor in choosing a press, but he "increasingly appreciate[s] the importance of OA.” He adds: “I can see now how important OA is for students and scholars. I myself have profited greatly from the works of researchers whose work is accessible online, and I hope my work has also benefited my colleagues nationally and internationally." Indeed it has. For a three-month period in 2016, Textual Exposures had over 20,000 page views. Evidently, it was being used in a course somewhere in the world. Such numbers testify to OA’s value.

Since publishing The Road to Armageddon: Paraguay versus the Triple Alliance, 1866-70 in late 2017, Thomas L. Whigham (Emeritus, University of Georgia) reports: "I’ve received all sorts of queries from interested people around the world, more than normal, asking me questions about the Triple Alliance War. It’s striking the places that I’ve received correspondence from – many places in Europe, a great many places in South America, and even a guy from Morocco. I see in all this correspondence a major success for the OA model…. [I]t also helps spur greater intercommunication between scholars and the interested non-professional public. This, it seems to me, is where scholarship ought to go in the 21st century, and the OA model will facilitate that process."

After a decade of OA publication, the University of Calgary Press looks forward to many more years of sharing peer-reviewed scholarship – books that make you think – around the world. The next title in the Latin American and Caribbean Series will soon be published: Annik Biolodeau’s Belonging beyond Borders: Cosmopolitan Affiliations in Contemporary Spanish American Literature. If you would like to explore the publication of your manuscript in this OA series, contact series editor Hendrik Kraay at or visit

Open Access Publishing Inspires Great Books

Open Access became a matter of daily discussion in my life when I started library school and began a job in academic publishing the very same week

That was years ago now, but as someone who holds an MLIS and who has made their career in scholarly publishing I’m always particularly interested in and excited by the ways in which OA publishing and open, online library resources can respond to and complement one another, and provide unique and engaging access to primary sources and scholarship about those resources at the same time.

One of my favourite examples from UCalgary’s Libraries and Cultural Resources (LCR) and UCalgary Press (which is part of LCR) is the history of The Rocking P Gazette. Sisters Maxine and Dorothy Macleay created this newspaper beginning in 1923 when they were 12 and 14, using it to recount their lives and experiences on their family’s ranch in Alberta, and to gather stories and insights from those around them, from their teacher to the ranch hands. The Rocking P Gazette. is in an incredible resource, offering a rare glimpse into the lives and perspectives of children from this place and time.

Thanks to the families who inherited The Rocking P Gazette., and UCalgary’s LCR, all the issues of the newspaper are available for perusal online. The issues of the newspaper are available for perusal online: By digitizing this collection, these delicate ephemeral items can now be widely used and enjoyed, whether for research or pleasure. Personally, I’m always enchanted by the beautiful covers and illustrations in The Rocking P Gazette., and find that the scanned notebook pages bring a wonderful immediacy to this resource—one can imagine the authors sketching and writing and pasting in the bits and pieces found in the newspaper. Being able to see the pages brings this resource to life.

The University of Calgary Press is the publisher of Rocking P Ranch and the Second Cattle Frontier in Western Canada by Clay Chattaway and Warren Elofson. As an Open Access publication, a free PDF of the book can be downloaded from our website or readers can purchase a print, ePub, or mobi version of the book if they prefer. This book provides a rich history of the Rocking P Ranch and its historical context, informed both by Clay Chattaway’s personal family connection to the ranch and Warren Elofson’s expert scholarly research on Western Canadian and ranching history.

Because both The Rocking P Gazette and Rocking P Ranch and the Second Cattle Frontier in Western Canada are available online, readers with internet access can easily consult both simultaneously. One can fashion a personalized approach to the works, moving between them, leaving them and coming back to them, spending time with one then the other at will, shaping one’s own experience of how to work through or enjoy these two open resources.

I think this combination of material—the primary resource and the peer-reviewed scholarly book on that resource—both being available together is an exciting example of how open resources from the publishing and library world can be brought together for the benefit of readers.

Open Access Publishing: A Leap of Faith

The solution seemed so logical.

Donna Livingstone, director of the University of Calgary Press in 2010, was faced with a dilemma: "We were publishing really important research, for example, research that could change public policy and education in Ghana or Botswana. But no one could read it because it cost $50 to mail a single book to Africa. Our motto at the time was ‘Making a difference. Making you think.’ We couldn’t make a difference if the people who wanted to read our books couldn’t access them." Open Access seemed the natural solution to that problem.

The Open Access movement initially caused concern among scholarly publishers who were being pushed to increase sales. “We were fortunate,” says Livingstone, now CEO of the Peter & Catharine Whyte Foundation in Banff, “that Tom Hickerson, the University Librarian at the time, believed that academic publishing was part of the purpose of a university. People come to be inspired, to research, to create, and finally to disseminate the results.” Just maybe, Open Access could be the most efficient way to achieve the latter.

Ten years later, that leap of faith has proven prescient. Readers from around the world have downloaded the University of Calgary Press’s more than a hundred Open Access books almost a million times.

The first Press book to be published Open Access was Grey Matters: A Guide to Collaborative Research with Seniors, written in collaboration with seniors who had been part of a national research project to teach them skills in patient-led research aimed at influencing programs and policy affecting seniors’ health and medical treatment. Nancy Marlett, now Director, Patient and Community Engagement Research at the Cumming School of Medicine, and co-author of Grey Matters with Claudia Emes, recalls, “When Donna asked if I would be willing to have my manuscript published in Open Access, I was thrilled. It seemed the ideal combination: the university reaching out to non-traditional learners and teaching an innovative research method that built social capital. Without this unimposing and free book, our research would have been impossible.” The program is now a university-approved professional certificate offered by continuing education across Alberta and increasingly across Canada.

But Open Access comes at a cost and requires strong institutional support–as a principle and as a business model. “As a pathfinder in Open Access book publishing in Canada,” says current Press Director Brian Scrivener, “we have been privileged to enjoy the sustained support of our University.” Looking forward, as Open Access gains greater acceptance in scholarly publishing, its benefits are becoming more and more evident.


Open Access Highlights

2010  UCalgary Press publishes its first Open Access book, Grey Matters: A Guide for Collaborative Research with Seniors

2011  A Century of Parks Canada, the first book in the fully Open Access series Canadian History and Environment is published.

2012  The Press joins the Directory of Open Access Books, beginning a decade of cooperative discoverability.

2013  The Open Access Backlist Project is begun, making previously unavailable books open to students and scholars everywhere.

2014  OA Books published in 2013-14 achieve a a remarkable 10 award wins and rankings over a single year.

2015  Over 50 Open Access book availalbe through the Press website, PRISM, and Open Access indexers.

2016  The Press celebrates the authors that make Open Access publishing possible at the Congress of the Social Sciences and Humanities.

2017  Arts in Action, a groundbreaking OA series in collaboration with Mount Royal University, begins with Understanding Atrocities.

2018  The Press partners with the Calgary Institute for the Humanities to bring books about the environment of Calgary to the community of Calgary.

2019  UCalgary OA books are downloaded over a million times.

2020   UCalgary Press celebrates ten years of Open Access publishing with 113 OA books accessible online . . . and counting!


Discover All Our Open Access Titles

Learn How to become an Open Access Author

Open Access Book of the Month


Edited by Pablo Policzer

Latin America is one of the most violent regions in the world. But is violence hard-wired into the region?

This is a critical reassessment of the ways in which violence in Latin America is addressed and understood. Previous approaches have relied on structural perspectives, attributing the problem of violence to Latin America’s colonial past or its conflictual contemporary politics. Bringing together scholars and practitioners, this volume argues that violence is often rooted more in contingent outcomes than in deeply embedded structures.