MDPI pricing: discussion with MDPI CEO Franck Vazquez and Heather Morrison

Thanks to MDPI CEO Franck Vazquez, PhD, for permission to re-post his contributions to a discussion on APC pricing on the SCHOLCOMM listserv and my replies. This is useful information and a good model of how transparency can help to advance our understanding of how to move toward sustainability in open access.


Highlights: this post presents data on MDPI’s APCs and an explanation of MDPI’s business practice: new journals are free to publish in, later APCs and APC increases are based on market value. It is important for publishers and funders to understand that there is an essential conflict with funders of scholarly communication, that is, universities and their libraries, and research organizations. For these organizations,  budgets tend to be based on cost with little or no flexibility to accommodate pricing and price increases based on market value. This incompatibility of organizational strategy is equally relevant whether the revenue model is subscriptions, APC, or other production-based support.

Recent APC price changes for 4 publishers (BMC, Hindawi, PLOS, and PeerJ)

Following is a summary of recent APC changes for 4 publishers, prepared on request but posted in case this might be of interest to anyone else. In brief, each publisher appears to be following a different pricing strategy ranging from flat pricing over many years with one rare exception, to a tenfold increase from 2016 – 2017.

Taylor and Francis article publishing charge finder | Sustaining the Knowledge Commons / Soutenir les savoirs communs

A year ago (February 7, 2017) we were able to screen scrape pricing details for all Taylor and Francis fully open access open select journals, in multiple currencies. Today, to find the price one has to select a journal, type of article, and country to find the open access article publishing charge (APC) list price.  This is a useful service – and a barrier to pricing transparency. 

OA Cooperative: Final Report, December 2017 – Google Docs

“The Open Access Publishing Cooperative Study was a two-year investigation, undertaken under the auspices of the Public Knowledge Project with the support of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. The intent of this initiative was to examine whether scholarly publishing models, involving cooperation between the relevant stakeholder, might provide a means of moving subscription journals to a sustainable form of open access publishing. The study explored potential cooperative associations involving disciplines, national initiatives, and regional models. It utilized a series of (a) three case studies, (b) a publishing industry/library survey and interviews, (c) a publishing internship, and (d) a number of related technical developments with Open Journal Systems.

By way of an executive summary, what was found in the course of this investigation was that the organizations involved, including research libraries, scholarly publishers, learned societies, and research funding agencies, generally recognized the value of cooperation and cooperatives in principle. However, while the vast majority of the research libraries surveyed were prepared to explore the setting up of an open access cooperative with publishers that would initially be based on providing a subscription-equivalent level of support for the journals converting to open access, the journal editors and publishers were not nearly as inclined or prepared to consider such an strategy….”