Why I Chose to Publish Open Access

by Thomas Patteson, author of Instruments for New Music: Sound, Technology, and Modernism

This guest post is published in conjunction with the just-concluded annual conference of the American Musicological Society where Instruments for New Music was awarded the 2017 Lewis Lockwood Award


I chose open access because I want people to read my book. For purposes of academic capital, gaining tenure, and the like, simply being published is enough. But what really matters is being pondered, discussed, enjoyed, and criticized. I want my writing to be available not only to other inhabitants of the sprawling yet exclusionary university-industrial complex, but to anyone who happens to share an interest in my somewhat esoteric field of research. Let’s be honest: having your book accessible during a limited print run, and then only through university libraries, is not a great way to broadcast your little contribution to human knowledge.

The other main reason I chose open access is what I would call a feeling of reciprocity. The fact is, neither my book nor my existence as a scholar would have been possible without the freely available resources of Project Gutenberg, Archive.org, Ubuweb, Monoskop Log, and many others. These sites, some of them at best quasi-legal, are the foundation stones of a truly universal library, offering the ability to search and read on demand, unfettered by paywalls and password protection. Contributing to this project, with the sanction of a major university press to boot, was an opportunity I was happy to take. At a time of widespread privatization and profiteering, open-access publishing suggests another world is possible.


Thomas Patteson is Professor of Music History at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia. He is also Associate Curator for Bowerbird, a performing organization that presents contemporary music, film, and dance.

Instruments for New Music is published in University of California Press’s Luminos open access book program. Click here to download a free digital copy.

Sign up for the Luminos eNewsletter to learn more about future Luminos publications and other Luminos news.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *