What Are the Costs of an Open Access Monograph?

Andreas Kirchner —  December 11, 2013 — 2 Comments

The recently published Final Report of the Dutch OAPEN-NL project gives first answers to a still open question.

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In October 2010, OAPEN Foundation, NWO and SURF started the pilot “OAPEN-NL: A project exploring Open Access monograph publishing in the Netherlands” which combines qualitative and quantitative methods to provide information about the perceptions and expectations of authors and publishers, the costs of monographs, and the effects of Open Access (OA) on sales and scholarly impact.

To obtain valid and comparable data, 50 monographs in various subject areas were published in OA by nine participating publishers between June 2011 and November 2012. The publications were funded with up to € 5,000 each. For every OA title the publishers provided a similar title that was published conventionally. OAPEN-NL pursued a hybrid approach to OA books, which means that not only OA editions, but also printed editions were published and offered for sale. The costs of the OA edition were calculated as the first copy costs of a book, based on all the costs that go into producing the digital file of the publication (cf. p. 3).



Now, three years after the initiation of the project, its findings were published in a Final Report written by Eelco Ferwerda, Ronald Snijder and Janneke Adema. Although the official press release highlights that “Open Access publishing has no negative effect on book sales, and increases online usage and discovery considerably” (which is, in my opinion, only a snapshot which will sooner or later lose validity in the course of the ongoing digitalization of the academic book market), the most interesting and valuable outcomes of the pilot arise from the attempt to quantify and itemize the costs of an OA monograph.

So what are the costs of an OA monograph? By now, only the fees charged by publishers as, for example, “SpringerOpen (15,000 euro), Palgrave Macmillan (11,000 pounds), or Manchester University Press (5,900 – 7,700 pounds, depending on length)” (p. 23; see also Mercedes Bunz’ post “Why I couldn’t publish my book open access” on this blog) or the grants provided by research funders as the Austrian FWF (€ 14,000 – 20,000) or the Dutch NWO (€ 5,000) could be used to get at least a rough idea about the actual costs.

Thanks to OAPEN-NL, we don’t have to refer (exclusively) to these figures any longer. The project doesn’t only show that the average total costs of creating a (hybrid) monograph are slightly over € 12,000; it also reveals that approximately half of that amount is spent on creating a first digital copy. On top of that, the costs for 15 different cost categories (OA and print) including Peer Review (1,7%), Platform (0,9%), Editing (16,2%), Desk top publishing (14,4%), Printing/Binding (23,6%) and Distribution (12,3%) were identified (cf. pp.41-53).



Of course, the samples of books (N=50) and publishers (N=9) are quite small, the defined cost categories may be questioned and – as the authors don’t forget to mention  – the outcomes are limited to the Netherlands. However, this pioneering project makes an important contribution to the necessary quantification and itemization of the costs of producing OA monographs and should be followed up and extended by bigger studies in other countries. Its findings couldn’t only function as a basis for research funders to reshape and elaborate their OA policies, they also contain helpful hints for publishers which seek to optimize their workflow. In the long run, studies like this could help to overcome the still existing uncertainties and doubts by authors, publishers and research funders and help to develop sustainable OA business and financing models.

Project Description, Research Plan and Final Report can be downloaded here.

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Andreas Kirchner


2 responses to What Are the Costs of an Open Access Monograph?

  1. Thank you for discussing our report. For those who are interested in the costs in more detail, the Appendices contain detailed information for each book.

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