Virginia Tech is one of only a dozen universities across the nation to be invited to participate in a pilot initiative, Toward an Open Monograph Ecosystem (TOME), to provide greater access to scholarly books in the humanities and social sciences.

Faced with dwindling buyers for printed monographs, book-length works written primarily for specialized audiences, universities are looking for creative ways to publish their faculty’s scholarship. TOME is tackling this issue head on.

“It is a great honor to be part of this forward-thinking national effort to reimagine the model for publishing scholarly monographs,” said Peter Potter, director of publishing strategy in the University Libraries. “The monograph remains the gold standard for scholarship in the humanities and humanistic social sciences. What makes the TOME initiative innovative is that it shifts the business model away from post-publication sales toward front-end publication grants.”

In TOME’s five-year pilot phase, Virginia Tech has committed to providing three baseline publishing grants of $15,000 per year to faculty who place their monographs with a university press. Presses that accept these grants agree to make high-quality, platform-agnostic, digital editions freely available. All books published as TOME books must be approved through the usual editorial and peer-review processes of the presses.

Danna Agmon, an assistant professor of history in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences, is the first scholar nationwide to receive a TOME grant. Agmon’s monograph, A Colonial Affair: Commerce, Conversion, and Scandal in French India, was published as a print volume in 2017 by Cornell University Press. Thanks to the TOME grant, an open access digital edition will be released in 2018, making it freely available to audiences everywhere, including international readers, who may not have access to libraries with comprehensive print collections.

“We are proud to be publishing our first open access title made possible by a TOME grant,” said Cornell University Press director Dean Smith. “For the past three years, we have been making dozens of classic out-of-print titles available on our open access website Cornell Open and on major research databases, and now thanks to TOME publishing grants, more frontlist titles can be included in our program. This looks to be a very promising new business model for university publishers.”

The TOME initiative fits with Virginia Tech’s mission to serve. “The expanded dissemination of scholarship within and beyond the academy advances the core mission of Virginia Tech as a land-grant university — to create and transmit new knowledge for public benefit,” added Potter.

The TOME initiative was launched in spring 2017 after extensive planning by a joint task force of the Association of American Universities, the Association of Research Libraries, the Association of University Presses, and 12 invited institutions, including Virginia Tech.

Potter believes the University Libraries is the natural focal point for the TOME initiative at Virginia Tech, which is being jointly funded by the University Libraries, the Provost’s Office, and the faculty member’s college.

“We are ideally positioned to coordinate Virginia Tech’s participation in TOME from the recruiting of prospective authors through the selection process, and ultimately the release of publication grants,” said Potter. “We also advocate for the broadest possible access to scholarship everywhere, which fits perfectly into TOME’s objective.”

Written by Ann Brown