OAPEN Newsletter – February 2010

Digital Monographs in Humanities and Social Sciences: Report on User Needs

The OAPEN study of the prospects for scholarly publishing in the humanities and social sciences (HSS) points to the e-monograph, published in open access, as a promising publishing model for the future.

This model offers a satisfactory response to the crisis facing the printed monograph while connecting to the general trend in academia towards electronic research and study resources. Moreover, it fully embraces the advantages in terms of access and usability of e-monographs provided by academic libraries.


The printed monograph has become an endangered species: libraries spend an ever larger part of their already dwindling budgets on licences for online science, technology and medicine journals, leaving little to purchase monographs. For many publishers, paper monographs represent a prestigious but loss-leading part of the list, and they, as well as libraries and funding agents, are gradually becoming more open to new business models.

Last year, OAPEN conducted a broad study involving some 250 HSS scholars and 40 experts from the relevant stakeholder groups to investigate trends, practices and expectations regarding production and dissemination of monographs. The study focused on two main areas: the effect of digitisation on monograph publishing, and the expectations of various user groups regarding a possible new publishing model based on Open Access. The future of the monograph is particularly relevant for the HSS, where its position is much stronger than in science, technology and medicine (STM) where the journal article is the dominant format.

Although it appears that as many as 30 per cent of scholars are still not familiar with Open Access publishing, most of them, as well as universities and research funding institutes increasingly recognise its benefits, such as greater visibility of research results and the opportunity for universities and other funding institutions to become directly involved in electronic publishing agreements with publishers and libraries. The digital revolution allows libraries to expand their services, by building digital repositories and facilitating scholarly communication, thus turning them into integrated service and content providers. In all, the level of use of digital services in the scholarly community demonstrates fertile ground for a large-scale introduction of Open Access e-monographs.

The OAPEN study has also identified two areas, common to the different stakeholder groups, as the main obstacles to the development of Open Access e-monographs: firstly. perceptions of academic quality (e-monographs are not seen as adding value to a scholar’s career outlook, and they have limited pulling power in terms of research funding), and a general tendency to devalue ‘free’ online content; and secondly, anxieties regarding the financial viability of Open Access business models. However, these reservations help to formulate the desired attributes of the new model - broad and perpetual online access to trustworthy scholarship, combined with the print-on-demand paper monograph, peer-reviewed to ensure scholarly quality and the author’s research ratings, and upfront funding of publications.

Despite all the uncertainties, it is clearly essential that the scholarly and publishing communities continue to experiment with new models and practices on a flexible, learn-as-you-go basis, in order to preserve the benefits of the monograph from the no longer sustainable print model.

The full report can be found here.

For more information, contact Janneke Adema (Amsterdam University Press) tel. 0031 (0)20 420 0050 email JLIB_HTML_CLOAKING


OAPEN Meeting – February 25 to 26 – Naples, Italy

Bibliothekartag 2010 –  March 15 to 18 – Leipzig, Germany

OAPEN Meeting- March 17 to 19 – Florence, Italy

JISC Conference – April 12 to 13 – London, England

UKSG Conference – April 12 to 14 – Edinburgh, Scotland

London International Book Fair – April 19 to 21 – London, England

European Conference on Scientific Publishing in Biomedicine and Medicine 3 – May 27 to 29 – Leiden University, The Netherlands