The University of Michigan Press, which publishes 50-60 monographs each year (many with relevance to medievalists: a list, an ITM mention of a book from this list), is shifting to primarily digital publishing. From Inside HigherEd:
Michigan officials say that their move reflects a belief that it's time to stop trying to make the old economics of scholarly publishing work. "I have been increasingly convinced that the business model based on printed monograph was not merely failing but broken," said Phil Pachoda, director of the Michigan press. "Why try to fight your way through this? Why try to remain in territory you know is doomed? Scholarly presses will be primarily digital in a decade. Why not seize the opportunity to do it now?"
While Pachoda acknowledged that Michigan risks offending a few authors and readers not ready for the switch, he said there is a huge upside to making the move now.
Because digital publishing is so much less expensive -- with savings both in printing and distribution -- the press expects to be able to publish more books, and to distribute them electronically to a much broader audience. Michigan officials said that they don't plan to cut the budget of the press -- but to devote resources to peer review and other costs of publishing that won't change with the new model. Significantly, they said, the press would no longer have to reject books deemed worthy from a scholarly perspective, but viewed as unable to sell.
"We will certainly be able to publish books that would not have survived economic tests," said Pachoda. "And we'll be able to give all of our books much broader distribution."
I'd like to believe this move isn't just a cost-cutter ... and that such an embrace of digital publishing might herald the demise of the $90 book.