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Economics of Scholarly Monographs

The Economics of Scholarly Monographs, a Bibliography

There is ongoing tension between the desire of scholars to share their work widely and openly, and the need to fund the infrastructure and labor of publishing. One place in which this tension is most evident is in the sale of scholarly monographs. While they are a smaller fraction of scholarly communications volume, market, and readership — academic monographs continue to play an important role in the humanities (and in some qualitative social science) where they are understood to represent an important form of long-form scholarship — not readily expressible through journal-length publication; and a critical component of tenure and evaluation. 

To characterize the current state of the art and practices in the economics of scholarly monographs we developed this selective bibliography

The bibliography is designed to reflect scholarly analysis and published industry reports in this area, as of Summer 2020. It has been developed using a combination of systematic indexed literature searches; exhaustive review of targeted publication venue content over the last five years; forward and backward citation tracking; and monitoring of emerging research and policies in scholarly communication.  It is not intended to reflect the historical development of ideas in this area. 

Recommended resources:

For those seeking an introduction to the topic, the following four reports provide a broad overview of the issues: 

  • Guide to open access monograph publishing for arts, humanities and social science researchers. Describes the essentials of open access monographs and types of business models for monographs, and the comments on common concerns about open access monograph publishing. 
  • A Rational System for Funding Scholarly Monograph. White paper detailing the market failure for scholarly monographs and proposes solutions through a well-designed solution design criteria. 
  • The State of Open Monographs. Describing the pros and cons of each business model, the largest global consortia that covers OA monographs, and complications of transitioning to OA. 
  • Briefing Paper on Open Access to Academic Books. Succinct report by EU nonprofit research organization describing principles and challenges for publishers and funders who aim to transition scholarship to open access monograph publishing. 

The reports are also identified in the full bibliography using the tag: Recommended: Read First, and key readings within each subject category (using the tag “Recommended: Key Readings”)

Subject Categories: 

The bibliography uses the following subject categories, which were derived by an analysis of the corpus. 

      1. Significance of OA Economics for Monographs:
        This category encompasses reasons for caring about the economics of OA, as well as the benefits, importance, and the role of monograph OA.
      2. Potential Approaches to Advance OA:
        This category includes various proposed economic models, methods, and recommendations for stakeholders to apply to advance OA.

            1. Business Models for OA:
              This subcategory specifically talks about different business models that are proposed to advance OA.
            2. Libraries for OA:
              This subcategory specifically talks about how libraries can advance OA.
      3. Defining Characteristics of Monographs:
        This bucket describes the specific environment or process of monographs to better set up the intervention.
      4. Evaluation of OA Interventions:
        This category includes the various in-depth evaluations and perspectives that authors have on OA for monographs.

            1. Positive Outlook
              This subcategory details positive feedback and outlook from the authors for OA for monographs.
            2. Negative Outlook
              This sub-category details potential challenges and limitations of OA for monographs.
      5. Related Economic Models:
        This category includes related economic models for non-monographs and industries that already have data for the past and present to explore potential implications for monographs.


We thank CREOS Research Assistant Shelley Choi for invaluable assistance in compiling, refining, and taxonomizing this bibliography.