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Lever Press: An open access monograph publisher

Globe surrounded by books

Discussions of open access often focus on journals, but monographs are another critical venue for publishing scholarship. The goals of an open access monograph are similar to those of a journal article (increased access, lower cost for users), but monographs often represent a greater investment than journal articles in terms of editing, layout, and peer reviewers’ time. A newer publisher called Lever Press—which estimates that the average cost to publish a book is $17,000—tries to spare authors and their institutions those costs through a consortial funding model.

Founded in 2016 by Michigan Publishing, Amherst College Press, and over 50 liberal arts college libraries, Lever Press was created to produce and disseminate fully open access scholarly monographs at no cost to the author or their institution. The publisher was founded on three essential principles: being a digitally native press; being a peer-reviewed, open access press that doesn’t charge fees to authors; and being a press aligned with the values of liberal arts colleges. Faculty and librarians of member institutions serve on the Lever Press’s oversight committee and editorial board, and the press began with a goal of producing 60 new titles by the end of 2020.

Lever Press notes that although its initial production goals were optimistic (it plans to publish just three titles in 2019), 20 more titles are under contract, and additional titles are in the pipeline. The press also added a 0.5 full-time equivalent acquisitions editor to solicit authors who might otherwise be wary of working with a new press or have reservations about making their work open access.

Lever Press is described as experimental, and explores and addresses other issues related to providing open access materials in addition to costs. Whether consortia funding is the best model to address costs going forward remains to be seen, but it may well be a better fit for academic presses than attempting to recover costs through sales. If authors also embrace open access for their scholarship, Lever Press may be creating a model for other institutions to follow.

Authors wishing to make their own materials digitally available can often place preprints or even published articles on institutional repositories such as our own ISU ReD. If you wish to discuss these options further, for current or already published research, please contact isured@IllinoisState.edu.

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