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RE: Changing the game

I would be very happy if universities would more broadly spread the
cost of supporting the system of scholarly monograph publishing in a
collective fashion. This was a recommendation made back in 1979 by
the National Enquiry into Scholarly Communication. We can all see how
completely unresponsive the university community was to that

I daresay, with all the budget crises affecting universities today (I
hear that faculty at the University of California don't even have
phones in their offices anymore), there is no chance whatsoever of
this happening anytime soon, if ever. Nor is it likely in the U.S.,
where "big government" is a fear of a large segment of the
population, that we'll see any widespread federal government support
for subsidization either. And Jean-Claude should realize that, in the
humanities at least, what public money is available hardly ever funds
100% of any research project. So, an NIH-type mandate is likely to
prove ineffective.

Canadian press directors can speak for themselves, but I feel
confident in predicting that $8,000 does not come close to covering
the full cost of publishing a monograph, OA or otherwise, for them.
My guess is that these presses also, like ours, have to depend on
some sales in the normal marketplace, whether for e-editions or POD
editions, to cover their costs.  I would estimate $20,000 to $25,000
for a monograph of average length just to publish the first copy,
exclusive of any costs associated with paper, printing, binding,
warehousing, and distribution.  So Jean-Claude's assumption that
$10,000 per book would do the trick is off the mark also.

For our Romance Studies series, which is offered OA, we still have to
sell between 100 and 150 copies of each title in cloth and between
500 and 600 in paper POD just to break even.  None of our books in
the series so far has yet to reach that point.

Now, if we were to abandon prepublication peer review and rely on
just post-publication review alone, the costs would lower
significantly. But then how different would we presses be from
commercial publishers? And what would our "brand" then be worth to
faculty who need to get tenure and promotion?

I share Jean-Claude's enthusiasm for OA as an ideal for monographs as
well as articles. I just don't see how we can get there anytime soon
without a huge sea change in thinking within university
administrations about how to pay the costs.

Sandy Thatcher
Penn State Press

>Sorry for a slow answer to both Jim O'Donnell and Sandy Thatcher.

>Now, let me turn to first Sandy Thatcher's remark.
>I am glad that he admits that at least 10% of university press
>expenses are not
>paid for by revenues. This means, from his own estimate, that at least 10% of
>the expenses are subsidized.
>It is clear that the universities that have presses are, in a sense,
>the universities without presses. Perhaps universities should band together on
>this and recognize for a collective support of university presses.
>Several university presses are now offering books in OA (and electronic) form:
>HSRC in South Africa, ANU in Australia, Athabasca in Canada. Most intriguing,
>perhaps, is the OAPEN project that brings several U. presses in Europe to
>explore the OA production (or conversion) of monographs. Public, European,
>money is behind OAPEN. In short, a new form of competition is rising
>and it may
>force many presses to move a little faster than Sandy believes.
>Finally, it might be worthwhile to go back to the motives behind the
>creation of
>the first U. Press in the US, at Johns Hopkins. The idea was to disseminate
>knowledge beyond the walls of academe. And to make this feasible, it was
>thought normal to subsidize important pieces of work that would never be
>popular (for example because they are too specialized, or difficult
>to read, or
>whatever). Subsidizing university presses was the background against
>which they
>started. Then, in the last twenty years or so, they met the changing financial
>circumstances of their mother institutions and this has wrought rather bad
>consequences for scholarly publishing in the U. Presses, particularly in the
>US. In Canada, of course, there is a programme that subsidizes monographs to
>the tune of $8,000/volume and over 180 books are published in this fashion
>(ASPP managed by CFHSS). Apparently, Canadian U. presses, particularly UBC
>Press, U. of Toronto press and McGill-Queens press, seem to come to the tacit
>conclusion that this is fine to ensure publishing such monographs without
>endangering the press. It also places a price tag on how much is needed to
>publish one monograph on average, without losing too much, and with reasonable
>prices. In the US, multiplying the number by a bit over ten (which
>reflects the
>relationship of the US to Canada), this would lead to roughly 2,000
>volumes that
>could be published each year for a cost of less than 20 million dollars.
>Bankers' bonuses appear stratospheric by comparison.