The landscape of scholarly monograph publishing has become increasingly complex, with some business models straddling digital and print realms and others guided by the principles of open access. While the transition towards e-books has prompted numerous publishers to establish proprietary platforms for hosting their content, distribution and aggregation services remain pivotal within this ecosystem. Despite this increasingly multi-faceted landscape, there is a notable scarcity of comparative analysis regarding the costs and benefits of emerging models in the publishing landscape. Likewise, there has been no comprehensive study that considers the broader academic ecosystem in which publishing and distribution models operate.

Against this backdrop, Ithaka S+R is pleased to announce a new research study to explore and assess the current state of scholarly monograph publishing in humanities and social sciences disciplines, as well as in STEM disciplines, across the US, UK, and Europe, with support from the Mellon Foundation. The project will analyze the market fit of various models within the academic e-book sector to understand how these models are functioning for their consumers. Our analysis will particularly examine the needs of academic libraries, which not only represent a primary market for publishers at universities but also serve as critical links between authors and researchers.

The guiding research questions to our analysis will focus on several key areas:

  1. How are authors, readers, and libraries being served by the market?
  2. What current and future role does print play?
  3. What do hybrid models look like from both a cost and service perspectives?

Previous Ithaka S+R research studies will also inform this new project. As a recent research report on The Second Digital Transformation of Scholarly Publishing explores, the entities that pay for content also provide incentives to innovation; in this regard, academic and research libraries occupy a central position within this ecosystem. In addition, an Ithaka S+R study of print revenue and open access monographs found that print and e-commerce sales play an important role in the cost recovery and effective dissemination of OA monographs.

This research project will result in a report to offer a critical analysis of the existing models and will propose innovative directions for future development. We anticipate publishing this report in late spring 2025. As part of this research, Ithaka S+R will conduct a series of targeted interviews with various stakeholders and would welcome feedback from interested librarians or publishers who wish to share their perspectives on the current marketplace.

For questions or to provide feedback regarding this research project, please contact Tracy Bergstrom (