During the month of Open Access week (October 24-30, 2016) we will be highlighting a number of guest posts from University of Iowa Faculty and Staff who have personal experience making work Open Access. We appreciate their contributions.
The fourth guest post is by Ed Folsom, the Roy J. Carver Professor of English at The University of Iowa. He is the editor of the Walt Whitman Quarterly Review, co-director of the Whitman Archive , and editor of the Whitman Series at The University of Iowa Press. He is the author or editor of numerous books and essays on Whitman and other American writers.
The Walt Whitman Quarterly Review (WWQR) is now in its second year as an online open-access journal, and we could not be more pleased with our new format and open distribution. We are reaching a wider audience than ever before, since scholars, students, and the general public can now freely access the entire thirty-three-year run of the journal. Our third online-only issue, published last fall, was a testament to (and a test of) our new open-access platform. We published the complete book-length text of Whitman’s newly discovered Manly Health and Training along with an introduction by Zachary Turpin, who made the find. The discovery received front-page coverage in the New York Times and was the subject of feature articles in The Guardian, the Los Angeles Times, The Observer, and over a hundred other newspapers and websites around the country and around the world. Interviews about the discovery were broadcast on NPR, BBC, and CBC. Most outlets that reported on the find linked to the WWQR website, where readers and listeners could (and still can!) freely access the complete text of Whitman’s journalistic series. There were over 20,000 downloads of Manly Health during the first weekend following the Friday New York Times story. This meant we had thousands of first-time visitors to WWQR, and we hope many of those folks will return often to check out the latest work on Whitman. The journal is always free and open, and we welcome our new readers from every continent. Our website offers a daily map of downloads from WWQR, which demonstrates that our readers do indeed come from around the world.
While not every issue of WWQR contains a new book by Whitman, every issue contains important new discoveries and readings. The online open-access format of the journal has now allowed us to enhance articles by including high-quality scans of Whitman manuscripts. We are working now to add an HTML version of each new issue along with the PDF format. Our ability to publish longer works, like Manly Health, is a tremendous advantage, and WWQR has another major surprise in store for our forthcoming winter/spring 2017 issue—a discovery that will again generate international media coverage. The details are a secret for now, but everyone should be watching for another dose of big Whitman news this coming February.
One more interesting development resulting from last fall’s publication of Manly Health is worth mentioning. While WWQR offered PDF, Kindle, and eBook versions of the complete text of Whitman’s newly discovered journalistic series, print publishers sensed that there was still a market for a commercial edition of the find—in fact, our 20+ thousand downloads indicated that there were probably many readers who would welcome a print edition of Manly Health for their personal libraries. Regan Arts, a New York publisher, approached WWQR about publishing Manly Health as a book, enhanced with illustrations from nineteenth-century newspapers and periodicals. Stefan Schoeberlein, WWQR’s managing editor, and Stephanie Blalock, Digital Humanities Librarian and Associate Editor of the Walt Whitman Archive, joined Zachary Turpin and me in selecting illustrations. The book will be published in December, and WWQR will receive a modest royalty from the publisher, which will help support the journal, now that we no longer have paying subscribers. The evolving interactions between the new online open-access WWQR and the world of print publishing are fascinating and unpredictable. It’s an exciting new era we have entered into, and we remain optimistic about next thirty years of the journal.