Open Publishing Models for the Humanities

Reading. 30th March 2017.

A research paper

Professor Martin Paul Eve, Birkbeck, University of London

What is a book and why do we write them?

To be read. To be assessed.

A book

Dissemination: Quality Control, Validation and Space-Time Compression

  • Dissemination of work
  • Preservation of record
  • Footnotes and scholarly genealogy (vs. science?)
  • Labour of reading: reading-avoidance techniques


Symbolic Economy

The Symbolic Economy Maps onto the Real Economy

Library Economy

How much does it cost to publish a (digital) book?

  • Mellon Ithaka study (2016): $15,140 - $129,909
    • (Don't tell the Deans)
  • Palgrave: $95 x 200 copies = $19,000
  • Palgrave: Book Processing Charge: $17,000
  • CUP: Book Processing Charge: $10,000
  • Ubiquity Press: Book Processing Charge: £6,020
    • [~$7k USD]

Where do these costs go?

Assume fixed costs:

  • 3x staff + on and estates costs
  • Travel
  • CLOCKSS, Crossref, COPE, COUNTER memberships
  • Crossref membership
  • Around £190k per year

Assume production costs:

  • Typesetting: £500
  • Copyediting: £500

How many books with 3x staff?

Book costs

Open Access (OA)

  • Peer-reviewed research
  • Free to read online
  • Permission to re-use

  • Gold: at publisher/source
  • Green: institutional/subject repository

  • Gratis: free to read
  • Libre: free to re-use
Background image © PLOS. Used under a CC BY-SA 3.0 license.

The Forthcoming REF Mandate for OA Books

We therefore intend to move towards an open-access requirement for monographs in the exercise that follows the next REF (expected in the mid-2020s). Given the length of time required to produce and publish monographs, we are signalling this now, to give due notice to the sector.

Consultation on the Second Research Excellence Framework, Annex C


  • Not all monographs will be OA
  • Version that is OA should be "academically equivalent"
  • Free to read and openly licensed ("CC BY-NC-ND" as acceptable)
  • Immediately OA
  • No single business model
  • Doesn't replace print

Monographs and OA Business Models

  • Monographs acknowledged as different
    • e.g. HEFCE mandate
  • Higher barriers to entry for new publishers
  • Open source platform development in infancy
  • Production toolchain likewise
  • Different discoverability and value-conferral sites

BPCs for monographs scale badly + concentrate costs

  • 5,023 monographs in UK in 2013 by largest 4 publishers (source: Crossick)
  • At a £5,050 BPC (UP price): £25,366,150
  • At a £6,500 BPC (CUP price): £32,649,500
  • At an £11,000 BPC (Palgrave price): £55,253,000
  • UK spend on all books 2010/2011: ~£60,000,000 (source: SCONUL)

BPCs for monographs scale badly

BPC graph

Alternative Models

  • Knowledge Unlatched (like OLH in journal space)
  • Print Subsidy (Open Book Publishers, Punctum Books, Open Humanities Press)
  • Freemium
  • Gradiated transition/library purchasing rules

The End

Thank you!

Presentation licensed under a CC BY-SA 3.0 license. All institutional images excluded from CC license. Available to view online at