Abstract

What does it cost to make a high quality, digital monograph? What may sound like an obvious question turns out to be a very knotty one, driving to the heart of the essence of scholarly publishing today. It is particularly relevant in an environment where the potential of a sustainable open access (OA) business model for monographs is being explored. Two complementary studies funded by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation in 2015 have explored this question to understand the costs involved in creating and disseminating scholarly books.

The team at Ithaka S+R studied the full costs of publishing monographs by gathering cost data on a sample of 382 titles across 20 presses. This process involved working with directors, CFOs, and many operational staff to understand the way staff time and effort contribute to the publishing process. In parallel, a separate project at Michigan and Indiana used a top‐down model to identify those costs related to monograph publishing at the University of Michigan Press and Indiana University Press. This cost study was part of a larger project in which focus groups and interviews were conducted with faculty and administrators to explore institutional openness to a flipped business model where the costs of producing a monograph would be borne by the author’s parent institution.

The data from these two projects will help to understand how an OA monograph model could work. The studies also get at issues critical to the future of scholarly publishing: Which activities are critical to the creation of scholarly books? When does authoring end and publishing begin? How great a role do publishers play in not just producing a book, but in asserting its place in the scholarship and in current debates? A flipped model of funding monographs has major implications for publishers, libraries, and faculty, so a deep understanding of such questions is essential for the long‐term health of the scholarly communication ecosystem, especially in the humanities and social sciences.

DOI

10.5703/1288284316322

Maron_Fig 1.tiff (224 kB)
 

How Much Do Monographs Cost? And Why Should We Care?

What does it cost to make a high quality, digital monograph? What may sound like an obvious question turns out to be a very knotty one, driving to the heart of the essence of scholarly publishing today. It is particularly relevant in an environment where the potential of a sustainable open access (OA) business model for monographs is being explored. Two complementary studies funded by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation in 2015 have explored this question to understand the costs involved in creating and disseminating scholarly books.

The team at Ithaka S+R studied the full costs of publishing monographs by gathering cost data on a sample of 382 titles across 20 presses. This process involved working with directors, CFOs, and many operational staff to understand the way staff time and effort contribute to the publishing process. In parallel, a separate project at Michigan and Indiana used a top‐down model to identify those costs related to monograph publishing at the University of Michigan Press and Indiana University Press. This cost study was part of a larger project in which focus groups and interviews were conducted with faculty and administrators to explore institutional openness to a flipped business model where the costs of producing a monograph would be borne by the author’s parent institution.

The data from these two projects will help to understand how an OA monograph model could work. The studies also get at issues critical to the future of scholarly publishing: Which activities are critical to the creation of scholarly books? When does authoring end and publishing begin? How great a role do publishers play in not just producing a book, but in asserting its place in the scholarship and in current debates? A flipped model of funding monographs has major implications for publishers, libraries, and faculty, so a deep understanding of such questions is essential for the long‐term health of the scholarly communication ecosystem, especially in the humanities and social sciences.