Books have been published for hundreds of years, so surely there must be a clear answer to this question. But in fact, it’s not so simple, and estimates from press directors, experienced consultants, and researchers in the field vary widely—from less than $10,000 to more than $25,000 per book. Determining what it costs to produce a single high-quality digital monograph is complex, and depends on the publishing house, its practices, and even its methods for accounting. That said, understanding the per-book costs of publishing monographs will only become more important as new business models continue to emerge.

Thanks to a grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Ithaka S+R is embarking on a new study to research the costs of publishing monographs. The Study of the Costs of Publishing Monographs, which begins this month and runs through the end of the year, will gather financial data from twenty presses, representing publishers of all sizes with the aim of capturing the full costs of publishing a high-quality digital monograph. The study is intended to capture the costs of all aspects of the process, including acquisitions, editorial development, design, production, marketing and administrative costs. A final report will be published by Ithaka S+R and made freely available to the public. An initial grant from the Mellon Foundation in spring 2014 funded the planning stages and development of the study methodology.  We’ll be working very closely with the leadership of the American Association of University Presses (AAUP) as well as its member presses. As Peter Berkery, AAUP’s Executive Director describes, “The results will benefit our member presses in myriad ways, and there is no more authoritative source for the raw data than the university press community itself.”