Australia has a rich and diverse literary heritage, but much of it is out of print and unavailable to buy or borrow. Many acclaimed novels, powerful poetry collections, ground-breaking plays, award-winning works that explore our country’s history, and much-loved children’s books have dropped out of circulation, often because they’re no longer commercially viable to publishers. Yet they have enormous cultural value and should be available—and able to be accessed by readers everywhere.  

Now more of them will be, as part of Untapped: the Australian Literary Heritage Project. This collaborative project brings together authors, the Australian Society of Authors, the Australian Library and Information Association, other library organisations from around the country, Ligature Press and researchers from Melbourne Law School, Macquarie University and Northeastern University, Boston. We’re working together to digitise important out-of-print Australian books to make them available once again, including from libraries via digital lending.

Authors will receive royalties from libraries on loans of their books plus royalties on any retail sales. Partner libraries will promote the titles to their readers, raising awareness of these valuable books to new generations. The project also supports arts workers affected by COVID, who we’re hiring to assist us with the proofreading necessary to get the scanned books up to library quality.

Crucially, this project will also support vital research into the economic value of out-of-print rights for authors, the value of libraries’ book promotion efforts, and the relationship between library lending and sales.

The results will be fed into public policy discussions about how we can best support Australian authors and literary culture.

The initiative will launch with a free online gala on November 24 at 6pm AEDT, hosted by Rebecca Giblin and the Hon Julie Dodds-Streeton QC, with special appearances from some of Australia’s favourite writers. Click here to register.

We are still selecting titles. If you’re an author or reader and want to nominate a book, get in touch and give us details! For more information about the project and how to nominate, visit untapped.org.au.

Post written with Dr Airlie Lawson

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