Higher Education

TOME Thinks OER Is the Solution for a Sustainable Academic Publishing Model

By Henry Kronk
December 06, 2019

Toward an Open Monograph Ecosystem (TOME) is hoping to fundamentally change the economic model followed by academic publishers. On December 3, the initiative announced the launch of, an online resource center to support its work and further its mission.

The academic publishing industry has been under threat for many years. Large online journals and journal libraries like SAGE Publishing, Taylor & Francis, and Elsevier have stayed afloat by consolidating and hiking their subscription fees. But that option is not available for academic presses who do most of their work publishing scholarly monographs.

A New Site for an Innovative Initiative

Monographs are academic books focusing on a single title that usually range in length between a novel and a novella. They remain among one of the primary media for academic publishing in the humanities, and many successful PhD students try to revise their dissertations into a monograph to be published. Getting a monograph published might make or break the career of a young scholar.

Unfortunately for publishers, sales have been way down over the past two decades. As Association of University Presses (AUP) President Jennifer Crewe told Chronicle Vitae in April, “Our biggest challenge remains the low sales of scholarly monographs, such as revised dissertations or scholarly books with a narrow focus in a small field. Libraries share copies, and individuals don’t purchase the new books in their fields as they did 20 years ago.”

How TOME Works

In 2017, the AUP, the Association of American Universities (AAU), and the Association of Research Libraries got together to try to develop a new model for monograph publishing. Their solution was TOME.

The initiative essentially shifts the revenue source from the individual consumer to the university. Institutions that want to participate must give a minimum grant of $15,000. These grants allow TOME to conduct the crucial aspects of academic publishing—editing, peer review, layout and design—and then publish their monographs on an open license. The model allows publishers to continue to release academic monographs based on their academic merit, without worrying about their mass appeal and revenue potential.

“The humanities and social sciences right now face real questions over how the ideals of open access can benefit fields that communicate scholarship through long-form arguments most often published using nonprofit, editorially rigorous, and peer-review-driven processes,” said Peter Berkery, AUPresses executive director, in a statement. “Experiments with sustainable models are really blossoming throughout our community and we have been proud to partner in an initiative as successful as TOME. Not only has it been an opportunity for all partners to learn, the books so far published and in the pipeline are significant achievements themselves. The new website will help share that scholarship, our lessons, and the opportunity to join in this movement very effectively.”

“With more than 15 universities and 60 university presses currently part of the TOME initiative, the presence of humanities and social science scholarship on the web continues to open up such work to more audiences and drive institutional change and acceptance,” said Jessica Sebeok, AAU deputy vice president for federal relations and counsel for policy, in a statement. “The TOME website is a powerful tool that helps to showcase TOME books, share lessons learned, and better connect the network of academic institutions, publishing partners, and the larger open access community.”

Featured Image: Enrico Mantegazza, Unsplash.


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