New From AUPresses & Ithaka S+R: “Print Revenue and Open Access Monographs: A University Press Study”
From a Joint News Release:
The Association of University Presses (AUPresses) and Ithaka S+R today publish “Print Revenue and Open Access Monographs: A University Press Study.” This report is the result of research funded by a Level I Digital Humanities Advancement Grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) to investigate the effect of open digital editions on the sales of print monographs.
The study sought to understand the print sales performance of scholarly books that are also available in a free-to-read open digital edition. Twenty-six (26) university press members of the Association contributed data for 976 OA titles published between 2005 and 2022. One of the key insights from the investigation is that print sales can be a significant contributor to offsetting the costs of publishing such works, with median print sales of close to $6000—and (excluding outliers) average sales of nearly $8000. The analysis looks more closely at disciplinary differences, high-sales outliers, print format choices, and the potential for consumer ebook sales for supporting OA book publishing programs. While the research team was not able to collect comparable non-OA monograph data from participants, the OA-titles data set has been made freely available, and will be a valuable tool for publishers to study their own lists and sales data.
“I think many publishers will find both the report and the data set immensely useful in analyzing business decisions and determining paths forward. It is another evidence-based piece of the puzzle as we work toward sustainable and open scholarship in the humanities and social sciences,” said AUPresses Executive Director Peter Berkery. “They complement research already undertaken—by AUPresses and others— on the costs of publishing scholarly monographs, on the impact of OA books, and on researcher attitudes towards OA, and towards print versus digital formats. There are also very interesting questions still to answer in this sector of university press publishing and we hope to be able to continue down some of the paths laid out in the report’s conclusions.”
The full report has been published by Ithaka S+R and an anonymized data set is available at Humanities Commons. Report authors include the study co-principal investigators John Sherer (University of North Carolina Press) and Erich van Rijn (University of California Press), Ithaka S+R researchers Laura Brown, Maya Dayan, and Roger Schonfeld, and AUPresses project staff Brenna McLaughlin.
Study team members will speak about the research and findings at a number of conferences over the coming months, including the Open Access Scholarly Publishing Association 2023 Conference on Open Scholarship on September 19, and the Virtual Charleston Conference in mid-November. Study team members Brown, Schonfeld, Sherer, and van Rijn will present the findings during Open Access Week 2023 in an AUPresses-hosted public webinar on Tuesday, October 24, 10-11AM Eastern. Registration information available soon at https://aupresses.org/resources/oa-impact-on-print-book-sales/
- OA titles can generate significant print revenue. While there may be some tradeoff between OA editions and print sales, publishers can produce print sales revenue from their OA lists. Publishers may wish to take such revenue into account in considering business models for OA publication today.
- OA titles can generate meaningful digital revenue. When made available through consumer channels such as Kindle, ebooks that are available openly on other platforms can in parallel generate meaningful consumer sales. Publishers may benefit from giving focused consideration specific to OA monographs to their pricing and windowing tactics for such channels.
- Outliers are essential. A small number of OA titles sell particularly well, just as is historically the case in traditional monograph sales models. Publishers bearing this in mind will be thinking in terms of the sustainability and growth of their lists overall rather than each title individually.
- Titles with both hard and soft cover formats generate the most revenue. This may be the result of format choices publishers based on market forecasting, so from our data we cannot be sure that there is a causal relationship. Still, publishers may wish to give additional attention to their format strategy for OA books.
- Sales vary widely by field. History, arts, and humanities saw lower unit sales while social sciences saw higher unit sales and STEM fields saw the greatest. Publishers may need to pursue different sustainability models for OA books based on their field.
- An opportunity to increase print sales? There is currently significant friction for users in navigating from digital to print editions. Publishers and digital distribution platforms should work together to create a more seamless reader experience from digital discoverability of and engagement with the OA version to potential print sales.
Direct to Full Text: “Print Revenue and Open Access Monographs: A University Press Study.”
About Gary Price
Gary Price (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. He earned his MLIS degree from Wayne State University in Detroit. Price has won several awards including the SLA Innovations in Technology Award and Alumnus of the Year from the Wayne St. University Library and Information Science Program. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at Ask.com.