January 18, 2022

Academic Publishing: A New Report From Ithaka S+R Looks at the Cost of Publishing Monographs

Direct to Full Text Report: The Cost of Publishing Monographs: Toward a Transparent Methodology

From the Executive Summary:

2016-02-05_14-48-14The University Press business model faces numerous challenges today, with revenues under pressure due to a host of factors, from the decline of bricks-and-mortar stores and shifting library purchase patterns to the still emerging distribution and revenue models made possible by digital books. Over the last few years, certain forces have emerged and intensified—federal mandates for Open Access, declining sales reach, and the desire of university presses to build a greater audience for scholarly works—encouraging university presses to seriously consider what it would take to make their scholarly monographs openly available. While there have been numerous efforts to understand the costs of publishing a scholarly monograph, this study is unique in that we worked with an advisory group of university press publishers to identify all of the cost components in scholarly monographic publishing and to work with a wide variety of university presses to calculate their costs of each of those components in a bottom-up fashion.

From an Ithaka Blog Post by Deanna Marcum:

There were three goals for this project:

  • provide a comprehensive list of all of the activities needed in order to produce and disseminate a high-quality digital monograph;
  • generate empirical data on what it costs presses today (what activities they are undertaking today) to produce those books; and
  • offer recommendations of general principles to guide presses in seeking to establish price points for author-side payments for Open Access digital monographs.

[Our emphasis] The importance of this study is that it is a detailed, activity-based breakdown of operating expenses at the press level, aggregated to determine the true costs of publishing a scholarly monograph. The study looked at 382 titles from 20 presses, five in each of the four AAUP membership size brackets, and found a wide range of costs per title, from a low of $15,140 to a high of $129,909.

There are many explanations for this wide range, so it is important to look at costs with a careful eye. Still, the data from the presses suggest that monograph publishing is more expensive than current price points for publishers with OA models would suggest.

The curatorial work associated with manuscript acquisitions proves to be a notably high share of the total costs at many presses, which has substantial implications for business and service models going forward. A publisher able to rethink this aspect of the publishing process creatively may be able to drive substantial reform in the system.

The report was written by Nancy Maron, Christine Mulhern, Daniel Rossman, and Kimberly Schmelzinger.

Direct to Full Text Report ||| PDF Version (52 pages)

On a Related Note…See Also: A Study of Direct Author Subvention for Publishing Humanities Books at Two Universities: A Report to the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation by Indiana University and University of Michigan (October 6, 2015)

About Gary Price

Gary Price (gprice@mediasourceinc.com) is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at Ask.com, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.