The Cost to Publish TOME Monographs


In the announcement of this report’s release, Brenna McLaughlin noted the foundational drivers of the TOME (Toward an Open Monograph Ecosystem) pilot as including  “expanding financial support for valued modes of publishing book-length scholarship, opening up humanities and social sciences monographs to a broad global readership, and supporting the research and publication efforts of university faculty in those fields.” Now at the end of its fifth and final year, the three sponsoring bodies of the pilot (the Association of University Presses, the Association of Research Libraries, and the Association of American Universities) commissioned Nancy Maron and Kim Schmelzinger to research the costs incurred by publishers in bringing these OA monographs to the public.  

Again from McLaughlin’s blog announcement, 

In late 2021, Maron and Schmelzinger surveyed 15 university presses on the costs of publishing 57 titles through the TOME program. They assessed these costs in the context of TOME’s program design and foundations, and also conducted limited interviews to address publishers’ perceptions of OA, of TOME, and of changing publishing workflows. 

The TOME project represents something of a deeper dive into the work begun back in 2014 with a Mellon-funded project by Ithaka S+R investigating the real costs of publishing monographs. The 2016 Ithaka study had noted a bare-bones minimum of $15,000 in costs incurred by a university press in bringing a manuscript to market. The sponsoring bodies of this TOME report agreed to begin with that baseline figure in studying OA monographs, recognizing it as imperfect due to the variety of requirements that individual works might have. 

A key quote explains the approach,

This study should not be considered a definitive re-assessment of the costs of OA monograph publishing…This report is intended to provide a useful starting point for presses and their partners to reach a common understanding of the activities, costs, and risks associated with OA monograph publishing, so they can work together and build upon the TOME model to create a sustainable way to support the production of scholarly works, available to all who wish to read them.”

A few points of interest from the report:

  • Presses noted that there are some additional costs involved in supporting OA publication. Beyond simply choosing to make the books OA, publishers also must prepare appropriate licensing and funding metadata. 
  • Several presses cited metadata as a particularly thorny issue for OA editions: “more challenging than we expected.” Specifically, making sure that the TOME books are properly listed in all distribution outlets is currently a problem. One press respondent noted that pricing books at “$0” posed metadata challenges as some book distribution partners do not easily recognize the zero-price editions.
  • Most respondents also reported that actively pursuing author-side subventions to support the costs of publishing is a common activity for all publications and not just for OA titles.
  • The impact of OA book publishing on long-term press operations – whether the effect on print and backlist sales over time is negative, positive, or neither – remains an area where research and modeling is needed. 
  • Most books in the study…cost more than $15,000 to publish and there are reasons to believe that these costs will rise over time.

The full text of the report can be downloaded through a direct link included in Brenna McLaughlin’s blog post on the AUPresses site.