Monographs and the Humanities
The submission to the 2008 Research Assessment Exercise (RAE) demonstrated what was already widely known - that communication outputs vary considerably depending on the discipline. The RAE showed that monographs are important in most of the Humanities and much less in many of the Social Sciences. Journal articles are overwhelmingly dominant in some of the Social Sciences, notably Economics, Geography and Psychology, whereas journal articles are of minor importance in Art and Design.
There are many concerns about the modern monograph, with claims and counter claims about a 'monograph crisis'. Researchers in many disciplines have an imperative to publish a monograph to launch their academic career, however the business model for monographs is challenged by a dramatic decrease in the average sales of monpgraphs. Some estimates are a decline from average sales of 2000 down to 200 worldwide over the last 30 years. This in turn has pushed the individual price of a monograph up, creating a difficult cycle. However, there are recent reports that claim it is 'not appropriate to talk of a crisis of the monograph'.
The landscape is more complex when considering open access to monographs. The model developed for providing open access to journal articles is not easily translated to books, not least because there is a different business model associated with the production of books. Unlike journal articles where the original articles, the peer review and often the editing is provided for free by the academic community, the production of a monograph involves considerable content and copy editing by the publisher. The business model to regain these costs is also very different as the whole item is bought as a unit, rather than through a subscription model. For these reasons open access to monographs is generally not as simple as providing secondary open access (the 'green' option of providing an author copy of the work in a repository). This discussion has become more acute now the Wellcome Trust require open access to monographs from funded research.
That said, there is a considerable amount of work underway looking at current and possible future models for scholarly monograph publishing. These pages provide information and links to some of this work.