How is the funding landscape for monograph publishers changing?

Updated: Jul 29, 2019


Gone are the days when publishers could make vast amounts of revenue by publishing academic monographs and selling the print versions to thousands of institutional libraries at high costs. The popularity of eBooks, along with plummeting library budgets, means that monograph publishers have had to take a serious look at their funding models and give them an overhaul. In many ways, this is no bad thing. The traditional funding model is not sustainable for researchers or libraries, and overhauling it gives publishers the opportunity to increase access and usage of their titles through open access (OA), whilst supporting the scholarly community in a time of budget constraints and higher funder expectations.


At the University of Huddersfield Press I oversee the strategic development of our OA monograph programme, and one of the big changes we have had to make has been around our funding process and production costs.


Who pays for the publication of OA monographs?


The combination of low volume sales and increased requirements for OA content means publishers can no longer expect unconditionally high revenue from their monograph portfolios. Instead, they are looking to diversify the way these titles are funded.


Our biggest challenge remains the low sales of scholarly monographs, such as revised dissertations or scholarly books with a narrow focus in a small field. Libraries share copies, and individuals don’t purchase the new books in their fields as they did 20 years ago. We want to publish these books. They are the building blocks of our own reputation and they are often groundbreaking, field-changing works. We’re looking for publishing grants to support them, and we try each season to publish enough profitable books to cover the losses on monographs.

Jennifer Crewe, Columbia University Press (Cassuto, 2019)


As Jennifer alludes to, publishers are increasingly looking to support their production costs through research funding to make the decision to carry on publishing monographs more sustainable. Some smaller publishers and university publishers can do this through a dual funding method (Taylor and Jensen, 2018) whereby research grants are the first point of call, and a small production budget supported by an institution is the back up.


How much does it cost to publish a monograph?


Book production costs vary wildly depending who you ask. Of course, publishers have different business models, levels of resource and expectations of revenue, so no two predictions are the same. I have compiled some of the most recent funding information in relation to monographs to give us an idea of the breadth of costs.


  1. Wellcome Trust (quoted by Cambridge University Press) (University of Cambridge, 2018) - £9,500

  2. Ithaka (Maron et al., 2016) - £21,923

  3. UKSG (Eve et al., 2017) - £6,725

  4. Cambridge University Press (University of Cambridge, 2018) - £9,500


Based on this information, book production can cost anywhere from £6,725-£21,923. But what is included in these costs? Ithaka’s data stands out at the highest estimation, but they did point out that they included resources such as staff time in their calculations, whereas others focused more on typesetting, design and printing costs.


Why is book production expensive?


A recently published model (Taylor and Jensen, 2019) for designing the processes for a university press is a handy visual way of spotting where some of these costs can occur:



(Taylor and Jensen, 2019)


Just at a quick glance at the six stages it is clear that there are a range of processes involved in producing a book that require budget or funding. Production is an obvious one, with typesetting, design and layout all requiring specialist skills either in house or outsourced to 3rd parties and freelancers. This stage is further complicated by the increase in demand for not only OA, but also open data, open formats and open citation, all of which require the production of specific formats, often at additional expense. All these potential costs are just within the production section – without mentioning the costs of editorial, preservation, dissemination, communication and analytics. A detailed analysis of each stage and the costs involved along the way would be a useful piece of work to do and share with the scholarly community – watch this space!


The funding landscape for monographs is constantly changing and current developments such as Plan S and the incoming requirements for OA monographs to be included in the post-2021 REF mean that the pressure is only going to increase. One thing is certain – the traditional funding model, and the OA model based on a set BPC are not sustainable ways to support the continued publication of academic monographs (Tanner, 2017). Innovation is what is needed, and this is what we will be looking at in the next blog post in our monograph series.


References


CASSUTO, L. 2019. Worried About the Future of the Monograph? So Are Publishers. Chronicle of Higher Education.

EVE, M. P., INGLIS, K., PROSSER, D., SPEICHER, L. & STONE, G. 2017. Cost estimates of an open access mandate for monographs in the UK’s third Research Excellence Framework. UKSG Insights, 30.

MARON, N. L., MULHERN, C., ROSSMAN, D. & SCHMELZINGER, K. 2016. The Costs of Publishing MonographsToward a Transparent Methodology. Ithaka.

TANNER, S. 2017. Gold is a dead model for Open Access Books. When the Data Hits the Fan [Online]. Available from: http://simon-tanner.blogspot.com/2017/06/gold-is-dead-model-for-open-access-books.html [Accessed 10/07/2019 2019].

TAYLOR, M. & JENSEN, K. S. H. 2018. Engaging and Supporting a University Press Scholarly Community. Publications 6.

TAYLOR, M. & JENSEN, K. S. H. 2019. Developing a model for university presses. UKSG Insights, 32. Available: https://insights.uksg.org/articles/10.1629/uksg.469/ [Accessed 10/07/2019 2019]

UNIVERSITY OF CAMBRIDGE. 2018. OA Monograph costs [Online]. University of Cambridge. Available: https://osc.cam.ac.uk/monographs/open-access-and-monographs/oa-monograph-costs [Accessed 10/07/2019 2019].

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