May 2014 survey of DOAJ journals charging APCs

Just published in MDPI’s Publications!

For further background on this suite of research projects see the Sustaining the Knowledge Commons project page.

Abstract: As of May 2014, the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ) listed close to ten thousand fully open access, peer reviewed, scholarly journals. Most of these journals do not charge article processing charges (APCs). This article reports the results of a survey of the 2567 journals, or 26% of journals listed in DOAJ, that do have APCs based on a sample of 1432 of these journals. Results indicate a volatile sector that would make future APCs difficult to predict for budgeting purposes. DOAJ and publisher title lists often did not closely match. A number of journals were found on examination not to have APCs. A wide range of publication costs was found for every publisher type. The average (mean) APC of $964 contrasts with a mode of $0. At least 61% of publishers using APCs are commercial in nature, while many publishers are of unknown types. The vast majority of journals charging APCs (80%) were found to offer one or more variations on pricing, such as discounts for authors from mid to low income countries, differential pricing based on article type, institutional or society membership, and/or optional charges for extras such as English language editing services or fast track of articles. The complexity and volatility of this publishing landscape is discussed.

Citation: Morrison, H.; Salhab, J.; Calvé-Genest, A.; Horava, T. Open Access Article Processing Charges: DOAJ Survey May 2014. Publications 2015, 3, 1-16.

Scholarly journal article publishing: profits at below 30% of current revenues

Thanks to Mark Ware, Michael Mabe and the International Association of Scientific, Technical and Medical Publishers (STM) for releasing the 2012 STM report as open access.

Based on data from the Executive Summary, we can calculate that the current average revenue per scholarly journal article published globally is approximately $5,000 US. BMC is making a profit charging an average APC that is 37% of this amount, and PLoS is bringing in a 23% surplus at less than 30% of this amount.

This is based on Ware and Mabe’s report of:

9.4 billion in revenue for english-language STM journal publishing
1.8 – 1.9 million articles published per year in 28,100 actively scholarly journals
=  approximately $5,000 in average revenue

BioMedCentral average of $1,874 is based on data downloaded from the BMC website as part of the open access article processing fee research project

The average article processing fee for an article in the profitable BioMedCentral journals is $1,874 US – that’s profit-making at an average of 37% of the current average revenue. PLoS is now enjoying a 23% profit rate, charging $1,350 per article for PLoS ONE – that’s a high profit rate at 27% of the revenue of the current average.

It should be noted that PLoS was not originally designed to be a model of publishing efficiency, but rather a combined advocacy and publishing organization meant to compete primarily at the high end of the scholarly publishing market. PLoS’ costs reflect this original mission: well-paid professional staff and headquarters in one of the world’s costliest real estate markets, San Francisco. 

This is yet an another indication, as I have argued elsewhere, that high quality scholarly publishing can be accomplished for a small fraction of existing spend – something that every faculty member and university administrator in today’s tough economic times ought to know.