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Wayne State University's Old Main Building. Daily Detroit File Photo.
Wayne State University's Old Main Building. Daily Detroit File Photo.

Wayne State University Press will digitize 59 out-of-print titles thanks to a $94,000 grant from a joint project between the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH).

The Titles selected for the project fall into several sub-topics that reflect current programs: Industrial and labor history, maritime history, Detroit history and biographies of significant individuals as well as Jewish Studies. They will will be freely accessible to the public through the websites of the Wayne State University Library System and the Press.

“Adding these titles back into the public sphere allows them to be discovered for the first time by new audiences,” said Jane Hoehner, director of Wayne State University Press. “Having this rich information available and accessible in a digital format helps us increase awareness and knowledge of key issues in the region’s history.”

The grant to Wayne State University is one of ten being awarded to a variety of institutions across the country.

“Through modern technology, these titles can be far more accessible than they are today,” said Earl Lewis, president of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. “These books represent an untapped resource for scholars, teachers, students, and members of the public, many of whom turn to the Internet as their first stop when looking for information.”

Most academic books printed since 1923 are not in the public domain. As a result, access to their knowledge is limited. Making them e-books and putting them online, for free, could unlock the potential of these books.

Under the new Humanities Open Book program, NEH and Mellon awarded grants to publishers to identify great humanities books, secure all appropriate rights, and make them available for free, forever, under a Creative Commons license.

In addition to making the books available, this new collaborative effort between NEH and Mellon will also better define the costs and benefits of digitizing out-of-print scholarship and making it available, at no charge, to the general public.

It is estimated that all titles will be made available by December 2017. This is the Mellon Foundation’s first grant to Wayne State University.