At the end of his blog post reflecting on the closure of the U of Missouri Press, Frank Donoghue asks, among other things, "Have the monographs that university presses produce become so costly that individual scholars can’t purchase them?"
Surely we know this by now?
Let's take a trawl through my ever-growing Amazon wishlists (which primarily exist to remind me of books to ILL, not buy, because...well, see Donoghue's question). I'd love to own volume seven of the Cambridge History of Christianity, but I'm somehow unenthusiastic about paying $257 for it. Alan Harding's book on the Countess of Huntingdon's Connexion retails for the low, low price of $199. If I want to ask What Is a Lollard?, I'll need to shell out $125 (or, right now, $121.43). The study of nineteenth-century archaeology requires me to excavate $175. A brief monograph on Novel Professions will still set me back $119.95. At $89, sinning turns out to be financially as well as morally costly. Etcetera, etcetera, etcetera. Oxford and Cambridge tend to be the biggest culprits among the university presses--it's hard to get your hands on a hardback monograph from either of them for less than $100, although they'll occasionally lowball a more commercial title; their paperbacks regularly retail for anywhere from $40-$60. (To be fair, some university presses, like Chicago and Princeton, can be relatively reasonable.) Presumably, those legendary academics who earn $200K per annum (the .0025?) can afford to turn out their pockets for a new university press monograph; the rest of us, whose earnings are not quite so stratospheric, will stick to secondhand purchases or the magic of ILL. If university presses want individuals to purchase their monographs, then perhaps they need to price said monographs accordingly?