MIT Press to develop a sustainable framework for open access monographs

$850,000 grant from Arcadia will allow exploration of alternatives to the traditional market-based business model for professional and scholarly monographs.


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The MIT Press has received a three-year $850,000 grant from Arcadia, a charitable fund of Lisbet Rausing and Peter Baldwin, to perform a broad-based monograph publishing cost analysis and to develop and openly disseminate a durable financial framework and business plan for open-access (OA) monographs. The press, a leader in OA publishing for almost 25 years, will also undertake a pilot program to implement the resulting framework for scholarly front- and backlist titles.

Amy Brand, director of the MIT Press and principal investigator for the grant, sees it as an opportunity to explore alternatives to the traditional market-based business model for professional and scholarly monographs. “Until the mid-1990s, most U.S. university presses could count on sales of 1,300–1,700 units, but today monograph sales are typically in the range of 300–500 units,” says Brand. “Many presses make up this difference with internal subsidies or subventions from institutional or philanthropic sources, but this is not sustainable and often unpredictable. While there is no one-size-fits-all solution, this generous award from Arcadia will allow us to develop and test a flexible OA sustainability model that can then be adapted to the needs of our peers.”

There is growing consensus within the university press community that publishing academic monographs through a durable OA model may be the best way to advance scholarship and fulfill their mission. The U.S.-based Association of University Presses comprises 148 member presses that collectively publish approximately 15,000 monographs per year. Crafting and promoting a viable OA model for this community — and leading the way, as the MIT Press intends to do — would represent a major breakthrough.

Work on the grant is scheduled to start in 2019 and the first grant-funded OA monographs will be available in 2020. At the conclusion of the grant in June 2022, MIT Press will openly share a robust, blended OA model that the university press community can adopt, and adapt, paving the way for the many scholarly monographs published each year by university presses and other mission-based scholarly publishers to be more readily discovered, accessed, and shared.

“We know the content we produce is highly valued by scholars and librarians. Broad and comprehensive availability of OA scholarly works published by university presses will increase the impact of research and contribute significantly to the knowledge-sharing mission of the academy,” concludes Brand.


Topics: MIT Press, Open access, Open source, Digital humanities, Grants, Books and authors, Technology and society

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