Five hundred thousand downloads and counting

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Just a few of the impressive and diverse range of book titles under the AU Press imprint. Photo by Megan Hall

At the launch of AU Press in 2007, Alvin Finkel, a member its editorial committee, told the crowd he is often asked by authors: “Will I make any money if I publish with an open-access press?”

He quipped: “Well, you don’t make any money publishing a scholarly monograph anyway, at any press—but AU Press can offer you immortality!”

And if download numbers are a further indication of immortality, Finkel was right.

We recently reached the milestone of more than 500,000 books downloaded by customers under our imprint.

At the time of the Press’ establishment, Frits Pannekoek was president of Athabasca University. He felt strongly that an open-access press would show AU’s commitment to removing barriers to learning and knowledge.

Meanwhile, the digital revolution of the book industry was underway causing traditional publishers to rethink the way they delivered content to students, professors, and readers of all kinds.

In fact, in 2007, the Association of Canadian Publishers came out with a report on the impact of digitization on the book industry. Though the authors of the report were still in the early stages of determining the effect digitization would have on the future profitability of the industry, they declared changes were “profound and all encompassing.”

It was an uncertain time for established publishers—let alone any newcomers to the market. It did not appear to be a good time to launch a new university press.

We recently reached the milestone of more than 500,000 books downloaded by customers under our imprint.


But Athabasca University persevered with its vision  for an academic press that would reflect the values of the institution: openness, accessibility, and lifelong learning.

Just days after the ACP report came out, AU Press officially launched as the first open-access university press in North America publishing in the humanities and social sciences.

Speaking at the launch, John Willinsky, an open-access advocate, told the audience AU Press had taken “a particularly important step by moving beyond journal publishing toward open-access book publishing” —something that had rarely been done.

Our books span a range of topics from anthropology to digital technologies to the letters of van Gogh. They have been translated into many languages including Portuguese and Mandarin.

Today, AU Press has published more than one hundred books—but most notably, is the fact there have been HALF A MILLION book downloads from our website!

This milestone is certainly a clear indication we are reaching our intended audience: Everyone.

∼ Megan Hall is marketing and production coordinator at AU Press∼  @au_press