Untapped Literary Heritage Project

Measuring the value of libraries and Australia’s untapped literary heritage

An exciting new collaboration between libraries, authors and researchers

Too much of Australia’s literary heritage is out of print. Our research team is working with the Australian Society of Authors and Australian public libraries on a collaborative project to breathe new life into important out-of-print Australian books—by digitising them, licensing them into public libraries for digital lending and making them available for sale as ebooks. Our funding will fully cover digitisation and proofreading costs and authors will receive royalties from libraries on loans as well as royalties on any retail sales. Libraries around Australia will promote the titles to their readers, raising awareness of these valuable books to new generations.

As part of this work, we will be conducting research that seeks to understand better the value of out-of-print books, library promotion activities and the relationship between library lending and sales.

Who can participate in this project?

We have pilot funding from libraries to digitise a number of out-of-print titles. If you’re an author of a culturally important work of Australian literature that has gone out of print (or represent such an author, or the estate of such an author), we’d love to hear from you to see whether it might be suitable for inclusion in this exciting project.

We’re looking to select titles from a diverse range of Australian authors, geographically spread around the country, and covering different publication dates. We especially encourage authors from Western Australia, South Australia, Tasmania and the ACT to apply, as libraries in these areas are key project supporters.

The key conditions are that the title proposed:

  1. is out of print or otherwise eligible to have the rights revert to the author;
  2. has enduring cultural value to Australia (there are many indicators of this – it may have won or been short-listed for a prize, have been critically acclaimed, or perhaps represent a significant contribution to cultural understanding or the development of Australian literature); and,
  3. has an author with a connection to Australia (e.g. the author was born here or wrote the book while a resident).

As funding is limited, we won’t be able to digitise all books that are offered to this new collection. We will prioritise titles for inclusion according to the advice provided by library collections experts.

To help us select titles, expressions of interest should reach us by 1 September, 2020, and include relevant information about the proposed title, in particular:

  • title
  • author
  • year of original publication (and any subsequent reissuing)
  • publisher and imprint
  • reversion status (that is, if out of print reversion has been sought or granted)
  • state or territory with which the title or author has the strongest association (this does not need to be limited to one)
  • a sentence or two about why it is important

For more information or to offer an expression of interest, please contact Dr Airlie Lawson, airlie.lawson@unimelb.edu.au

When will be the results of this project be available?

We’ll report the results of this research in blog posts, online articles and academic publications. Information about publications will appear on this page. You can also sign up to a mailing list if you want to be notified about the results of this research.

Who is funding this project?

This pilot project is funded by (or receiving in-kind support from) the University of Melbourne, Macquarie University, Northeastern University (Boston), the State Library of Western Australia, Public Library Services (South Australia), Libraries Tasmania, Libraries ACT, the Australian Library and Information Association, and the Australian Society of Authors.

About the researchers

This project is being led by Associate Professor Rebecca Giblin of the Melbourne Law School, with Dr Paul Crosby (Macquarie University), Professor Imke Reimers (Northeastern University) and Dr Airlie Lawson (University of Melbourne).

Where can I get further information about this project?

If you would like more information please contact Dr Airlie Lawson, airlie.lawson@unimelb.edu.au