I'm currently co-authoring a book-chapter with another scientist. We're writing a review of sea ice variability and trends in an "AGU Physical Monograph" (published by Wiley) on Earth's weather and climate. Other chapters are on stuff like paleoclimate, storms, physical oceanography, heat waves etc.

Why publish these works as a book/monograph, rather than as a special journal issue? It seems that there are a number of drawbacks associated with the book/monograph style:

  1. The publication timescale is extremely long
  2. Access will likely be restricted (i.e. the work will not be open access)
  3. This particular monograph will be online in colour, and printed in black/white. It's therefore quite restrictive in terms of how we make our figures.

I wonder slightly if the monograph/rev'd-book is a relic of when relevant information was hard to find. Now that the scientific paradigm has shifted from info-sparse to info-inundating, do we still need to link research works together like this, for purposes of discoverability? Given the above drawbacks, at what cost should we do this?

So what's the deal with monographs/peer-reviewed books? Am I just participating in a moneyspinner for an academic publisher? Or is this a distinct mode of scientific communication that we should value?

  • Just a comment on the second point: Wiley's books often are published in digital form alongside the hardcopy book, and the digital copies can be open access. If that is true for your project as well, then some of the differences between journal and book become fuzzy. I would try to figure out if parallel online publication is an option and, if so, propose it to the editors.
    – henning
    Feb 22, 2022 at 10:11
  • Yeah that's part of the problem: it'll be online in color and printed in bw. If it were just one style then we'd tailor our figs to that. But since it's both, it's hard to make bespoke figs that use all degrees of freedom. Feb 22, 2022 at 10:15
  • I would question why a monograph would ever be OA though? It seems that would seriously undermine the case for purchasing the physical copy. Feb 22, 2022 at 10:17
  • nobody purchases hardcopies anyway, so Wiley makes the authors (or their institutions) pay for OA.
    – henning
    Feb 22, 2022 at 12:03
  • Re color: I'd ask the editors and/or production team if you can submit different versions of your figures so they aren't simply converted to grayscale.
    – henning
    Feb 22, 2022 at 12:04

1 Answer 1


Your last barrage of questions borders on philosophy and ethics of publishing so it is treading dangerously close to the "opinion-based" territory. In your case (B/W printed book with colour online), it is more questionable than otherwise.

But in general, monographs are a valuable mode of scientific communication indeed - they appear more persistent than journal special issues, and are intended to last longer. When a (relatively) non-expert approaches the topic, they typically need some background before diving in right into current literature. Special issues give a slice of the state-of-the-art knowledge on the timescale of singular years, books are supposed to structure that knowledge well enough to carry on for more than a decade. That lends the text to more winded-up explanations than normal to provide enough context to a reader a decade or two from now, making it a poor fit for most journal formats.

And yes, it will not likely to be OA, but people do purchase good books (fueling that publishing machine) and authors also normally get a few free copies to distribute among friends and colleagues.

  • Yeah my "barrage" was intended to solicit points of view rather than factual answers. I checked the "how do I ask a good question" and this doesn't appear to be against the rules, but apologies if it is. Feb 22, 2022 at 10:44
  • @RobbieMallett Please consult what topics should I avoid instead, there is more to it. Opinion: people often do it for the glory and a sign of recognition ("trophy" publications). But some of these monographs are well-deserving of that - I have hard copies of a few books and zero regrets; (ir)regularly checking them out to this day. So, IMHO, the format is viable but not all the books in that format are. "Color online" option is bit eh, unless your field is not visualization-heavy (that might, however, work for CV/ML - ironically).
    – Lodinn
    Feb 22, 2022 at 11:23

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .