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The MIT Press Open Monograph Model: Direct to Open
It has long been recognized that conventional market models do not provide a viable economic basis for publishing specialized scholarly monographs. Indeed, the very existence of North American university presses represents an attempt to provide an alternative to commercial publishing imperatives.
In this context, the MIT Press, supported by a generous grant from the Arcadia Fund (a charitable fund of Lisbet Rausing & Peter Baldwin), has undertaken to develop and implement a business model capable of disseminating the Press’s scholarly monographs open access. The model’s design needs to provide sufficient and stable revenue, while being equitable to authors, readers, libraries, and other stakeholders. To accelerate market acceptance, the open monograph offering leverages existing Press distribution channels and library procurement processes.
The model, christened Direct to Open (D2O), covers the Press’s scholarly books, defined here as original foundational scholarship, intended primarily for specialists, as distinguished from “trade” titles, which synthesize prior research and aim for a more general audience. MITP currently publishes between 90 and 100 specialized monographs a year, representing about 30% of each year’s frontlist, and anticipates maintaining that output on an ongoing basis.
The feasibility assessment summarized in this report describes the support fee and offer uptake assumptions necessary for the D2O open monograph model to be financially viable. The analyses suggest that D2O satisfies the design criteria established for the model and can be implemented with an acceptable amount of risk.
At the same time, D2O is being introduced into a library market experiencing significant budget retrenchment that makes it difficult to add any new serial commitments and that increasingly deprioritizes monograph purchases. This environment poses significant challenges for existing sales models, and innovative open approaches face even greater hurdles to understanding and acceptance. In this context, the success of D2O and other open monograph models will largely depend on academic libraries acting with enlightened self-interest to pursue collective support approaches that provide viable alternatives to conventional market models.