A very useful report has been published by ITHAKA on the costs of publishing scholarly monographs. Twenty US University Presses took part in the study, which analysed the costs of 382 different titles published in 2014. The study looked at staff time, direct costs and also press overheads.
Reported total costs of publishing a scholarly monograph ranged from a low of $15,140 to a high of $129,909. In other words – considerably higher than you might think. The report also concludes that “for most university presses, monographs are rarely profitable on per-title basis”.
A key finding was that the largest cost is staff time, especially relating to acquisitions but also to author support during the process of polishing and preparing the book for print.
Data from the study suggest that smaller presses produce monographs at a lower cost than the largest presses. Are small presses more efficient, or do smaller presses under-invest in their books?
In the “funder pays” OA model, how much will the funders be willing to pay for the high-cost curation, selection and author support functions that the traditional university press model offers? Or will a low intervention, low cost, fast dissemination model prevail?