Humanities Indicators
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Trends in the Price of Academic Titles in the Humanities and Other Fields
(Updated December 2015)

Within the humanities, the monograph is still very much the “gold standard” for scholarly achievement, and thus trends in academic publishing serve as a particularly important barometer of the field’s health.[1] The number of new titles published in the humanities increased from 2009 to 2013, and the graphs below depict the average price of those titles relative to that of books published by scholars in other fields.

Findings and Trends

  • The inflation-adjusted average list price of humanities print books was consistently lower than that of other fields—and by a considerable margin (Indicator IV-12c). Humanities books cost an average of $61.02 in 2013, as compared to $133.87 for engineering, the most expensive category. Books in the behavioral and social sciences—the field closest in average price to the humanities—cost $86.68 on average.
  • Among the major fields, the humanities had the largest increase in average list price from 2012 to 2013 (after adjusting for inflation), rising 4.1%. Medicine was the only other field to experience an increase in average price (2.2%). The average price declined for titles published in the remaining fields (by 1.4% for books in the behavioral and social sciences, 2.6% for natural sciences, and 3.1% for engineering titles).
  • Adjusted for inflation, the average list price of humanities print books increased 11.3% from 2009 to 2013. The price increase was greater than the change in price for texts in the natural sciences and engineering (which increased 2.3% and 6.1% respectively) but less than that for books in the behavioral and social sciences (with an increase of 16.3%) and medicine (12.7%).
  • Among humanities print titles published in 2013, archeology volumes were the most expensive in the field at an average price of $87.40 (Indicator IV-12d). Literature texts had the lowest average price in the humanities at $40.13.
  • From 2009 to 2013, archeology texts experienced the largest percentage price increase among humanities print titles (33.3%). Price changes in other disciplines over the same period ranged from 4.2% for religion titles to 19.5% for history.
  • The average list price of academic ebooks was considerably higher than that for print titles. In 2013, humanities ebooks cost an average of $127.84 (Indicator IV-12e). As was true of print titles, ebooks in nonhumanities disciplines had a higher average price, the highest being the $191.15 charged, on average, for engineering texts.
  • In every academic field examined here, the average price of an ebook was higher in 2013 than in 2009, even when inflation is taken into account. The largest price increase occurred among texts in the behavioral and social sciences, which saw an average price increase of almost 60%. The average price for humanities ebooks increased by 46.2% over the same span.
  • Among humanities academic ebooks published in 2013, new titles in language and linguistics were the most expensive, with an average price of $199.63 (Indicator IV-12f). Literature texts had the lowest average price in the humanities, at $95.69.
  • Academic ebooks in religion experienced the largest percentage price increase from 2009 to 2013 (55.6%), but new ebooks in history, language and linguistics, and the study of the arts, also each increased by more than 50% over the same time period, with ethnic and gender studies and philosophy also coming close to a 50% increase.
IV-12c: Average List Price of New North American Academic Print Books, by Field, 2009–2013 (Adjusted for Inflation)*

* “Print books” are titles that first appeared in print form but may have been released in an electronic format later. Print titles include hardcover and paperback books. Please see the supplemental table for information about which disciplines were included in the broad field categories used in the graph.

Source: Developed from a compilation by Stephen Bosch, University of Arizona, of data provided by Ingram Content Group (Coutts Information Services) and YBP Library Services. Prices adjusted for inflation using the gross domestic product deflators produced by the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Economic Analysis.

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IV-12d: Average List Price of New North American Academic Print Books on Humanities Subjects, by Discipline, 2009–2013 (Adjusted for Inflation)*

* “Print books” are titles that first appeared in print form but may have been released in an electronic format later. Print titles include hardcover and paperback books. The graph includes all categories in the Library of Congress Classification of titles that refer to subject matter or disciplines that are within the humanities as the field is conceptualized for the purposes of the Humanities Indicators. See the supplemental table for details.

Source: Developed from a compilation by Stephen Bosch, University of Arizona, of data provided by Ingram Content Group (Coutts Information Services) and YBP Library Services. Prices adjusted for inflation using the gross domestic product deflators produced by the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Economic Analysis.

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IV-12e: Average List Price of New North American Academic Ebooks, by Field, 2009–2013 (Adjusted for Inflation)*

* “Ebooks” are titles that were released first in electronic form but may have been released in print form later. Please see the supplemental table for information about which disciplines were included in the broad field categories used in the graph.

Source: Developed from a compilation by Stephen Bosch, University of Arizona, of data provided by Ingram Content Group (Coutts Information Services) and YBP Library Services. Prices adjusted for inflation using the gross domestic product deflators produced by the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Economic Analysis.

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IV-12f: Average List Price of New North American Academic Ebooks in the Humanities, by Discipline, 2009–2013 (Adjusted for Inflation)*

* “Ebooks” are titles that were released first in electronic form but may have been released in print form later. The graph includes all categories in the Library of Congress Classification of titles that refer to subject matter or disciplines that are within the humanities as the field is conceptualized for the purposes of the Humanities Indicators. See the supplemental table for details.

Source: Developed from a compilation by Stephen Bosch, University of Arizona, of data provided by Ingram Content Group (Coutts Information Services) and YBP Library Services. Prices adjusted for inflation using the gross domestic product deflators produced by the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Economic Analysis.

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Endnotes

[1] See, for instance, Leigh Estabrook, with Bijan Warner, The Book as the Gold Standard for Tenure and Promotion in the Humanistic Disciplines (Chicago: Committee on Institutional Cooperation, 2007); and MLA Task Force on Evaluating Scholarship for Tenure and Promotion, Report of the MLA Task Force on Evaluating Scholarship for Tenure and Promotion (New York: Modern Language Association, 2006).