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Lever Press

The business model of Lever Press. Last updated February 2022.

Published onFeb 15, 2022
Lever Press

OA book publisher business model

  • Context. Why and how was the press founded? Why certain books/lists/etc.?

    • Lever arose from an initiative of the Oberlin Group of Libraries that explored how liberal arts colleges could offer new and compelling alternatives to existing models of scholarly publishing.

    • We seek out, identify, evaluate, and advocate for transformative scholarship that spurs creative dialogue within and between traditional fields of inquiry, emphasizes disciplinary innovation, draws upon new models of collaborative research, and strives to reach the broadest audience possible. There are no list areas in the traditional sense.

    • The history of our work has been documented in a website begun when the Task Force was launched.

    • Note that while the initial agreement is between the publishing team and the Oberlin Group, participation is not limited to Oberlin Group members, and libraries committing to our work stand as equals in the governance of the Press.

  • Structure (including staffing and governance structure) and output (incl. no. of books per year)

    • We have both a governing board (Oversight Committee) and Faculty Editorial Board. Unlike other Open Access initiatives, Lever Press is a press governed by its participating members. An Editorial Board, composed of faculty from participating institutions, oversees the editorial and review process for our titles; an elected Oversight Committee, composed of representatives of participating institutions, directs the execution of Lever’s business plan. Lever Press is a member of the Association of University Presses.

    • Acquisitions was handled by 2 staff members at Amherst College Press who split their time between Lever and Amherst College Press. As of Jan 1, 2022, the acquisitions function will move from Amherst to Michigan Publishing Services and an acquisitions editor there will spend 80% of their time on Lever. A Publishing Services Librarian at Michigan Publishing services spends a portion of her time on Lever.

    • We have produced 4-8 books a year, depending on the complexity of the digitally enhanced titles.

  • Quality and recognition

    • Peer-review process

      • Lever Press is committed to the highest standards of peer review in evaluating the work it considers for publication and to communicating the nature of review to readers in a transparent fashion. As a process of independent and informed evaluation of both argument and originality of scholarly work, peer review is the principal means by which Lever assures the quality and merit of the work it publishes. Please see our Peer Review Commitments and Guidelines page for more details.

    • Marketing activities

      • We have employed marketing and promotions freelancers to do social media and other traditional marketing like creating a catalog, etc.

    • Usage figures: usage on Fulcrum is below, but there is usage in addition on other platforms

    • Community work and collaborations: The press is currently a partnership between Michigan Publishing Services and Amherst College Press

  • Brief description of OA model and why it was chosen

    • Platinum open access.

    • Lever Press is premised on the idea that it’s better to pay once for a work and create an open access result than to cover costs through a system demanding repeated payments—for purchasing, for copying, for long-term preservation, etc. This “pay-in-the-middle” membership model replaces paying at the consumer end or the producer end. Both of those models end up driving, not addressing, the growing inequality in access to scholarly information.

    • Libraries that provide support for Lever Press become part of the conversation shaping both the editorial program and objectives of the press and the principles by which we do our work.

  • Income (including sales -- give pricing for any paid-for editions -- BPCs and any waivers available, library membership programmes, grant money, institutional endowments, etc)

    • Institutional support

      • Sliding scale consortium membership model

  • Costs (including average costs per title) All in USD

    • Paid staff: 186,545.39

    • production direct costs per title stand at $5,295

    • acquisitions direct costs stand at $1,975 per title, mostly honoraria and review payments.

    • overheads per title stand at $26,025. $25,025 if you want to remove the Fulcrum fee from overheads. We aren’t including things like in-kind contributions of space and time from Michigan and Amherst

    • total including overhead is $33,294.53. excluding overhead, $7,269.87.

    • Marketing: $21,068.00 (this includes costs for membership campaign and not just for marketing individual titles)

    • Distribution: yearly $10,000 for Fulcrum

  • Please give details of two ‘case study’ titles.* These should be two very different titles (the intention is to give some indication of the range of possible costs, rather than only offering an average ‘costs per title’ which makes variation invisible): We have had production costs range from under 3k to almost 10k, depending on the complexity of the project and the amount of multimedia. We have two digitally enhanced projects in the production pipeline right now that will far exceed the upper end (10k) of what we have done in the past.

  • Has your business model changed significantly at any point? If so, why and how?

    • The press began without a dedicated acquisitions staff but the governing board then realized that it would not be possible to run a press, especially a press without a reputation, without an editor.

    • Future outlook: Lever is now in Phase two and expanding membership. The titles have gotten fantastic use and most of the original supporters have chosen to continue as part of the consortium.


Case study titles: If you are unable to give individual title costs that's fine, but if you can explain why, that would be helpful. If you are able to give costs, or at least rough costs, it would be ideal to be able to give costs for a 'standard' monograph (few/no images, straightforward editorial process, standard workflow etc) and an outlier in which more work was required, for whatever reason. Explain how the differences are funded -- add the context here. Can you say what percentage of the books would be in the 'outlier' category and why? It might be particularly useful if the 'outlier' was for a digitally enhanced/intensive book, to demonstrate potential costs here.

In general, context is helpful! So in your answers please say why as well as what, if you can.


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