When I first heard of Open Access in my Digital Humanities course, I considered it an ingenious initiative – “public access to publicly funded research” (Suber, 2015), the corrupted system of paywalling exposed and academic library costs reduced. However, on rethinking the whole situation, this utopic concept hardly seemed realistic: how does the noble idea of Open Access survive in this money-hungry, financially-driven world if it really is free? This is why I have decided to research and blog on the topic of Open Access in the light of pragmatism.

To my surprise, there are numerous financially possible and easily adaptable business models out there for Open Access publishing companies. The most widespread one is Article Processing Charges (APCs) – that is, charging authors fees for publishing their articles. PLOS is a popular OA publisher which practices this business model. Depending on the journal, varying fees are charged, ranging from 1,495 USD for publishing in the PLOS ONE journal to 2,900 USD for PLOS Biology (PLOS, no date). Similar to the idea of publication fees, submission fees are also used by some publishers, such as JMIR, who charge for the submission of a paper, regardless of whether it is accepted after peer-review or not. For instance, the submission fee for a regular paper to JMIR is $90. A consequence of this is that the final publication fee is considerably smaller, totalling in $950 in the case of JMIR (JMIR, 2015). Personally, I think JMIR’s system is more efficient, since paying a submission fee would eliminate most authors who are not fully confident of having their work accepted, thus reducing peer-reviewers’ workload and saving money.

You would think that such fees impact quite heavily on authors who want to publish their findings but can’t afford it. However, there exist many OA funds and institutions who cover these costs and about 88% of fees are paid in this way, not out of authors’ pockets. (Suber, 2015) For instance, the University of Calgary in Canada operates an Open Access Author’s Fund, which offers subsidies for articles (provided they have been accepted for publishing) with a grant of up to 2,500 USD. (University of Calgary, 2015) Many institutions, including universities, research centers and government agencies subsidise journals, sometimes in part and other times in whole. The Journal of Insect Science is supported by the University of Wisconsin Libraries (OAD, 2015), while Acta Palaeontologica Polonica is mostly covered by government subsidies to the Institute of Paleobiology of the Polish Academy of Sciences in Warsaw; it charges nothing for papers under 10 pages. (van Noorden, 2013)

Business models for Open Access publishing companies are not solely limited to the above. We also have advertising, fundraising and even volunteer work. [8] There exist Hybrid OA publishers, which leave it up to the author to decide whether their article should be Open Access or not.

OA publishers aren’t just economically sustainable; they are profit-making as well. Take for instance Hindawi, a publishing company which converted to full Open Access in 2007. According to Paul Peters, Hindawi’s head
of business development, Hindawi made a 50% profit on the articles it published last year. [9]

Regardless of an OA publisher’s business model, it is indubitable that the Open Access publishing industry is abounding with business potential.


JMIR (2015) Instructions for Authors of JMIR. Available at: http://www.jmir.org/content/author-instructions#Open_Access

OAD (2015), OA journal business models. Available at: http://oad.simmons.edu/oadwiki/OA_journal_business_models#Institutional_subsidies

PLOS (no date). Available at: https://www.plos.org/publications/publication-fees/

Suber, P. (2015) Open Access Overview. Available at: http://legacy.earlham.edu/~peters/fos/overview.htm (Paragraphs 5 and 9)

University of Calgary (2015), Open Access Author’s Fund. Available at: http://library.ucalgary.ca/open-access-authors-fund

van Noorden, R. (2013), Open Access: The true cost of science publishing. Available at: http://www.nature.com/news/open-access-the-true-cost-of-science-publishing-1.12676


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