» Why publication services must not be negotiated

“Recently, the “German Science and Humanities Council” (Wissenschaftsrat) has issued their “Recommendations on the Transformation of Academic Publishing: Towards Open Access“. On page 33 they write that increasing the competition between publishers is an explicit goal of current transformative agreements:

publishers become publication service providers and enter into competition with other providers

This emphasis on competition refers back to the simple fact that as content (rather than service) providers, legacy publishers currently enjoy monopolies on their content, as, e.g., the European Commission has long recognized: In at least two market analyses, one dating as far back as 2003 and one from 2015, the EC acknowledges the lack of a genuine market due to the lack of substitutability…

Without such prestige, the faculty argue, they cannot work, risk their careers and funding. Arguments that these ancient vehicles are unreliable, unaffordable and dysfunctional are brushed away by emphasizing that their academic freedom allows them to drive whatever vehicle they want to their field work. Moreover, they argue, the price of around one million is “very attractive” because of the prestige the money buys them.

With this analogy, it becomes clear why and how tenders protect the public interest against any individual interests. In this analogy, it is likely also clear that academic freedom does not and should not trump all other considerations. In this respect, I would consider the analogy very fitting and have always argued for such a balance of public and researcher interests: academic freedom does not automatically exempt academics from procurement rules.

Therefore, ten experts advocate a ban on all negotiations with publishers and, instead, advocate policies that ensure that all publication services for public academic institutions must be awarded by tender, analogous the the example set by Open Research Europe and analogous to how all other, non-digital infrastructure contracts are awarded.”

Who’s afraid of Green? Market forces and the Rights Retention Strategy | Plan S

“Publishers state that the version of record (publisher’s version or VoR) is the product that readers and authors prefer, want, and specially seek out. In fact, Springer Nature published a white paper describing their findings from their own survey on this very topic. If it is the case that authors and readers prefer the VoR, then authors (or their agents such as libraries) will pay for it. That is how the free market works. If a company provides a product or service people want, customers will pay for it. People will cancel if the service is not delivering what they need, is too expensive, or a competitor provides an alternative that’s better, cheaper, has more widgets, etc. 

So what’s the big deal? Why are major publishers trying to discredit repositories and the use of AAMs? What are they frightened of?

They should have nothing to worry about. They’ve even got years’ worth of external evidence in the form of Arxiv (hosting >2M articles), which, every year, disseminates thousands of physics and related subject preprints and AAMs very similar to the VoR. Journals continue to publish those same papers, despite content being freely available in Arxiv. If Springer Nature and other publishers believe their own statements, readers and authors will seek out the VoR. Repositories even help them to do this; one of the benefits of repositories is the free publicity they provide for publishers. Each discoverable record in a repository includes the DOI of the VoR for users to easily locate the VoR with a single click, and either access the full text immediately, or pay to access it (e.g. here and here). 

If an author wants to make an unformatted AAM version available, then so be it. Provided the VoR offers the features that customers want, then publishers have no cause for concern. If it doesn’t, then the publisher will have to rethink – but that’s how it should be, and how markets work. According to the publisher produced white paper cited above, there is nothing for publishers to worry about. As Peter Suber, arguably the father of the OA movement, stated, ‘There are no good reasons to put the thriving of incumbent toll-access journals and publishers ahead of the thriving of research itself’.

Perhaps it is true that services like Unsub and the SPARC log of journal big deal cancellations mean that ‘green’ OA is having an effect on subscriptions. If it is, then why? Could it possibly be because what is on offer is too expensive, rights are too restrictive, and the product is not what the customer wants in some way? This is what the competitive market entails, and any services that are losing out clearly need to re-evaluate and reconsider what they are offering. …

Publishers that talk about self-archiving as “The false promise of Green OA” are missing the point. Green OA isn’t promising anything – it is an expression of the right of authors and institutions to disseminate and use the research finding papers and other outputs they created, or were created with their affiliation, in a way that they choose. If supporting that right happens to result in a service that users prefer and choose to use in preference to a publisher’s VoR, then so be it. But publishers should not be so disingenuous to the authors that contribute content for the publisher’s use at no charge by trying to deny them the rights to disseminate their own work in the ways they choose. The content belongs to the author. 

It would appear that these publishers don’t want a normal market to operate. They are creating a monopoly (“the exclusive possession or control of the supply of or trade in a commodity or service” » Small changes, big effects

“EU regulators long-since recognize in principle that academic publishers are monopolies, i.e., they are not substitutable, justifying the single-source exception granted to academic institutions for their negotiations with academic publishers (another such negotiation round just recently concluded in the UK). Openly contradicting this justification for the single source exemption, the EU Commission nevertheless classifies academic publishing as a market and, moreover, demonstrates with Open Research Europe, that public, competitive tenders for publishing services are possible. This now offers the opportunity for the first decision: we propose that now is the time for regulators to no longer allow academic institutions to buy their publishing services from academic publishers that do not compete with one another in such tenders. The consequences would be far-reaching, but the most immediate ones would be that the (mostly secret and NDA-protected) negotiations between institutions and publishers, which allowed prices and profits to skyrocket in the last decades, would now be a thing of the past. Another consequence is that the obvious contradiction between academic publishing as a set of recognized monopolies in procurement regulation, but as a regular market in anti-trust regulation would be resolved. After this decision, academic publishing would be an actual market that could be regulated by authorities in pretty much the same way as any other market, preventing future lock-ins and monopolies. Yet another consequence would be that competitive pricing would reduce the costs for these institutions dramatically, by nearly 90% in the long term, amounting to about US$10 billion annually world-wide….”

Creating a market to replace publisher monopolies | Plan S

an abbreviated version of a more detailed proposal available at

by Björn Brembs, Philippe Huneman, Felix Schönbrodt, Gustav Nilsonne, Toma Susi, Renke Siems, Pandelis Perakakis, Varvara Trachana, Lai Ma, & Sara Rodriguez-Cuadrado.

Replacing traditional journals with a more modern solution is not a new idea, but the lack of progress since the first calls more than 20 years ago has convinced an increasing number of experts that a disruptive break is now necessary. The list of problems that have been accumulating is long, but three stand out as the most severe:

Quality control by traditional journal peer review has often proven to be opaque, capricious, and insufficient for catching even overt errors, leading to what is now called a “replication crisis”;
An “affordability crisis” is the consequence of large international corporations that each own their separate monopoly on scholarly content and enjoy an exemption from procurement rules such that they can dictate conditions;
A lack of digital modernization has caused a further “functionality crisis”, where some of the most basic digital functionalities are missing for research objects.

The reason for three decades of inaction is a social dilemma, where every player – researchers, libraries or institutions – is at a disadvantage if they move (first), so all remain locked-in. Reminiscent of the big internet platforms, the corporate publishers exploit this situation by using their massive profits not only to resist and delay any research- and public-oriented reform, but to fund a reform of their own and on their own terms: The major publishing houses are tracking their academic users in order to, among other reasons, expand their monopolies beyond scholarly texts. Over the last decade, the four leading publishing houses have all acquired or developed a range of services aiming to develop vertical integration over the entire scientific process (Fig. 1). For any institution buying such a workflow package, the risk of vendor lock-in is very real: Without any standards, it becomes technically and financially nearly impossible to substitute a chosen service provider with another one.

Academic publishing – market or collectivization? |

Last week’s podium on the commodification of open science entitled “If you are not paying for the product, you are the product?” was surprisingly unanimous on the need to radically modernize academic publishing and abolish the current publishing system relying mainly on corporate publishers with monopoly status. It appeared as if the present funders, librarians, scientists and other experts essentially only argued about how and when this replacement for corporate publishers should be brought abut, not if.

It was also unexpected that this was probably the first time I was not representing the most radical position on the panel. The proposals to remove usage rights from publicly funded research papers, or to ban for-profit publishers altogether, prompted the moderator, Jan-Martin Wiarda, to ask if these were calls for an expropriation of the publishers. Julia Reda was quick to point out that the goal was not to expropriate anybody, but that the accurate technical term for what she was proposing was “collectivization”.


Prioritizing academic publishers

“When the late Jon Tennant and I filed our formal complaint to the European Commission in 2018, in which we detailed how scholarly journal publishing was not a market but a collection of small monopolies, we had no idea that the EC was already well aware of that fact and saw nothing wrong with it. In fact, their reply at the time surprised us, when it indicated that the EC concurred with our description of scholarly journals being collections of monopolies, but saw levers for regulation/mitigation elsewhere.

Today, I have been privy to the informal brief written by a legal expert of the GFF mentioned above. It cites two prior EC instances from 2003 and 2015 where the EC had already acknowledged the lack of a genuine market due to the lack of substitutability (the reply to our complaint is thus just one in a long list of such documents acknowledging the lack of competition in scholarly publishing)….

The quote here is an example of how the EC is well aware of the conflicting interests between readers and libraries on the one hand (demand-side) and publishers (supply-side) on the other, while at the same time expressing a clear prioritization (“confirmed the relevance”) of the interests of the supply-side over the interests of the demand-side. The dysfunctionality of the current situation for readers and libraries is understood, acknowledged and dismissed by the EC as “not relevant” – very similar to the reply we received for our formal complaint. In this particular quote, a fig-leaf is offered by stating that the big publishers cover many scholarly fields, leading to each library having contracts with several publishers, giving the superficial impression that there would be several suppliers in a “supply-side” market. The sentence just prior, however, makes it clear that this is, in fact, not really a genuine market, but one that exists only on paper, solely for regulatory purposes….”

Stop, Look, Listen — New Wilderness in Orderly Markets: Academic Publishing in Times of APCs and Transformative Deals

“Academic publishing is an orderly market — the big players dominate the most profitable markets, while there is still enough room for medium-sized and small providers to make a living.  Many publishers have survived the first two decades of digitization so well, although the need for investment has grown significantly, and the economic reserves have shrunk for many.  The development of business models for the new digital reality, on the other hand, has remained manageable.  In this situation, libraries and publishers are challenged to integrate Open Access (OA) into their work processes — an organizational challenge from various perspectives that is difficult to solve by just a few players.”

STM Global Brief 2021 – Economics & Market Size

“At STM, we promote the contribution that publishers make to innovation, openness and the sharing of knowledge and embrace change to support the growth and sustainability of the research ecosystem. As a common good, we provide data and analysis for all involved in the global activity of research. For the past 15 years, we have produced the STM report which has explored the trends, issues and challenges facing scholarly publishing. This latest iteration sees the adoption of a new format for the report, with a wealth of industry-leading data and insights presented across an annual selection of ‘supplements’ – each providing compelling snapshots on specific aspects and characteristics of the industry. The next issue will cover Open Access and Open Research, which remain a key area of focus for STM and its members as a means to advance knowledge worldwide. This first supplement in the new series – ‘STM Global Brief 2021 – Economics and Market Size’ shines a light on the scale and shape of scholarly publishing and provides updated figures covering 2018 onwards. We would like to thank all the contributors for their input, advice and insights….”

News & Views: Open Access Market Sizing Update 2021 – Delta Think

“Each year, Delta Think’s OA Market Sizing analyzes the value of the open access journals market. This is the revenue generated by providers or the costs incurred by buyers of content. Our analysis this year shows that the open access market has had an exceptional year of growth in 2020. The effects of COVID-19 and exchange rate changes have compounded OA’s underlying strong growth. Based on current trends, we estimate it to have been worth around $975m in 2020 and on track to grow to over $1.1bn in 2021….

We estimate that the OA market grew to around $975m in 2020.

The 25% increase over 2019 is significantly larger than the growth in the underlying scholarly journals market, which is typically low to mid-single digit. It is larger than expected for the OA market.
Growth in OA will remain above that of the underlying scholarly journals market. The open access market is on target to be over $1.1bn in 2021.
Around 36% of all scholarly articles were published as paid-for open access in 2020, accounting for just under 9% of the total journal publishing market value.
We anticipate a 2020-2023 CAGR of 14% in OA output and 17.6% in OA market value….


The effects of COVID-19 have driven exceptionally high growth in scholarly output across all access models. OA output in hybrid journals has been boosted more than other OA output.
Historically, there appears to be more OA output that we have previously thought and it is growing at a faster rate.
Exchange rate fluctuations have compounded the exceptional growth in publishing activity, increasing reported revenues further above long-term trends.
We are still in the middle of the exceptional effects of COVID-19. It will likely be another 18-24 months before we gain sufficient distance to observe any changes to underlying trends.
The long-term growth curves show signs of flattening out to a steady state of just over 15% in both volume and value of OA. This represents a slight uplift in long-term growth rates compared with previous years’ data, due to increased adoption of OA and rising prices.
Hybrid revenues realized per article published are higher than those published in fully OA journals, and the gap appears to be widening….”

Briefing for library directors: Publishers and the textbook market in the higher education sector – publishers-and-the-textbook-market-in-he-library-directors-briefing.pdf

Yhis briefing paper created by the Jisc Learning Content Group provides an overview of the current e-textbook  licensing landscape within higher education institutions. It outlines current practices and their impact on the library and suggests ways in which the sector can exert influence on publishers to change their pricing and access models


“Recognising the importance of a healthy and diverse OA market, in early 2021, OASPA sought to develop a better understanding of ‘the open access market’. It was understood that this needed to include an assessment of the roles of different actors in shaping the market and an acknowledgement that open access publishing is not always delivered through market mechanisms. The work aimed to identify influential factors and drivers to bring about positive change in this area.

Research Consulting was commissioned to assist in this work, in collaboration with a small steering group of OASPA members. An Issue Brief was developed to review the current state of the open access market and in July 2021 a range of stakeholder representatives were engaged via two workshops.

This report acts as a companion document to the Issue Brief, and summarises the key points discussed during the stakeholder workshops. To better contextualise the issues discussed in this report it is recommended that the Issue Brief is read first. Whilst there were two separate workshops, this report presents a combined view from all participants. Anonymised quotes from participants are included throughout this report to illustrate the points discussed….”

Developing a healthy and diverse OA market: Reflections – OASPA

“Earlier in the year we announced that OASPA was undertaking some work with a wider group of stakeholders to explore the nature of the open access market and the perspectives of different stakeholder groups, with a view to gaining a better understanding of the forces in play and a potential role for OASPA as an organisation in supporting a key area of our mission.

In early July 2021 OASPA and Research Consulting ran two workshops for a broad range of stakeholder representatives on developing a healthy and diverse open access (OA) market. 

We created an ‘issue brief’ which was sent to all workshop participants in preparation and we openly shared the issue brief and the slides used at the workshops on our blog at the same time.  

We now are pleased to release a report detailing the outcome of the two workshops.  This report is a summary of the discussions that took place, together with our subsequent conclusions and reflections.”

Plan S Effects 2021 – Part 2, Market Value – Delta Think

“For the sake of analysis, we compared what might happen if ALL authors chose one Plan S compliance route over another. In practice there will be a mix, and so the reality is likely to land somewhere between our two extremes. …


Compliance via fully OA journals

Plan S could lead to a slight lift in market value of just under 0.25% in the long term. Plan S articles add incremental revenues by boosting volumes in fully OA journals. Meanwhile with a mild drop in volumes from subscription journals, publishers are able to maintain their prices.
The UK’s UKRI is currently considering its position on OA. If the UKRI were to adopt Plan S principles, then it will make little difference to the market if the fully OA compliance route was followed.

Compliance via repositories

Plan S could lead to a slight fall in market value of just under 0.6% in the long term. This is driven by lost hybrid OA revenue, as authors opt for subscription journals instead.
If the UKRI were to adopt Plan S principles, then the long-term fall in market value would be just under 0.8%. This is another third or so compared with Plan S on its own. The UK’s current policies have driven significant hybrid uptake. If the value of these APCs is lost, it will have a noticeable effect….”

Compliance via fully OA journals

Plan S could lead to a fall in market value of around 2.8%. Subscription journals generate more revenues per article than their OA counterparts. Therefore, a reduction in subscription prices for a given volume of articles will be greater than the gains made from APCs. This adjustment will happen once. Then, as OA output is growing faster than the market as a whole, it will start to drive a very mild increase in market value.
If the UKRI were to adopt Plan S principles, then the long-term fall in market value would be just under 3.4%, or around 20% more than Plan S alone. The same dynamics apply as for Plan S alone….

The Impact of the German ‘DEAL’ on Competition in the Academic Publishing Market by Justus Haucap, Nima Moshgbar, Wolfgang Benedikt Schmal :: SSRN

Abstract:  The German DEAL agreements between German universities and research institutions on the one side and Springer Nature and Wiley on the other side facilitate easy open access publishing for researchers located in Germany. We use a dataset of all publications in chemistry from 2016 to 2020 and apply a difference-in-differences approach to estimate the impact on eligible scientists’ choice of publication outlet. We find that even in the short period following the conclusion of these DEAL agreements, publication patterns in the field of chemistry have changed, as eligible researchers have increased their publications in Wiley and Springer Nature journals at the cost of other journals. From that two related competition concerns emerge: First, academic libraries may be, at least in the long run, left with fewer funds and incentives to subscribe to non-DEAL journals published by smaller publishers or to fund open access publications in these journals. Secondly, eligible authors may prefer to publish in journals included in the DEAL agreements, thereby giving DEAL journals a competitive advantage over non-DEAL journals in attracting good papers. Given the two-sided market nature of the academic journal market, these effects may both further spur the concentration process in this market.