News & Views: Can open access be made more affordable? – Delta Think

“One of many ideas being discussed is basing fees upon what is affordable locally, rather than pricing them at an identical level for customers irrespective of their geographic location. Precedents exist, such as the tiered pricing of vaccines….

The APC barrier effect suggests that “APCs impede researchers with fewer resources in publishing their research as OA”. Transformative Agreements (TAs) and Read & Publish (R&P) deals, which may base their pricing on APCs, can bring similar problems of affordability to those of APCs themselves. The expense of subscriptions too, even for the wealthy, has been discussed at length, and their cost is one of the drivers behind advocacy of a move to OA. Affordability is an issue whatever the business model.


Waivers are the usual fix, but they can be problematic. Their implementation varies, and they may be perceived as patronizing or undermining the dignity of those receiving them (“Waivers are a charity; why can we not pay in our own way with our own money?”). Waivers are typically applied based on World Bank income categories, but, as our analysis of its data shows, these may not match affordability….

At first glance, exploring a PPP [Purchasing Power Parity]-based pricing model is attractive. It strikes at the heart of affordability, by accounting for participants’ ability to pay. However, as we have seen, it is not that simple. A move to PPP, in most cases, causes price increases for many (some of which are unexpected) to subsidize the others that need more affordable options. This may result in some controversial changes. That impact would be magnified if publishers attempted to adjust prices upwards overall to counteract market value shrinkage.

A PPP based pricing system, while attractive in principle, would need to be carefully implemented in practice. Prices or pricing tiers would need to account for more than the raw numbers. Optics would need to be carefully considered. There will be winners and losers. And, like William Gibson’s view of the future, they will be unevenly distributed.”

News & Views: Diamonds in the Rough: Societies Shine under Pressure – Delta Think

“An APC-based payment model is increasingly seen as challenging. APCs represent a rising expense, especially for institutions publishing large volumes of articles. Additionally, the APC model (even with waivers) has been increasingly criticized as non-inclusive. So it’s perhaps no surprise that we have seen moves to finance “diamond” journals and promote OA without author fees from some government funders and agencies….

Looking at trends, the data suggest that around 18% of journals are now sponsored [i.e. no-fee or diamond], down from just over 25% two years ago. The underlying data show that the numbers of journals have grown by 20% over this period….

Overall, 18% of fully open journals appear to be sponsored, but their proportion and number have been decreasing. It seems that over the last 3-4 years the market has been slowly moving away from a sponsored model. It will be interesting to see if this trend holds since discussions about “diamond” journals are now heating up.

However, these current averages vary greatly depending on whether titles are owned by societies.

Among society-run journals, sponsored titles account for more than double the market average, for non-society (commercial) journals they account for just under half. Societies’ greater proportion of sponsored titles and their not-for-profit status could therefore place them in a stronger position than their commercial competitors if we see a large scale move by funders to require publication in journals without publisher fees and – as some noises from European funders suggest – which are not for profit.

With the situation varying so wildly, and government pushes to an OA world showing no signs of abating, it’s vital that publishers look at the data for their circumstances, to fully understand the situation for their mix of journal types, profit status and discipline.”

News & Views: Open Access Charges – Popular Price Bands Become More Expensive – Delta Think

“We are seeing an increasing spread of popular price bands. These are skewed slightly to the higher end of the pricing spectrum, and average prices paid will continue to increase.

As we explored at length in our analysis “APC Price Changes – When does up mean down?”, average headline price rises can lead to falling overall spend or vice versa, depending on the numbers of papers published and spread of price increases across a portfolio.

Per-APC information is useful in a wider context too. Even where deals are calculated based on bundles, they are often set by discounting from list APCs – especially where publication activity exceeds agreed caps. Similarly, understanding revenues generated per paper is important to calculate thresholds for journal flips or for launching and sustaining a Subscribe to Open (S2O) model.

Studying individual journal list APCs remains foundational for understanding pricing across all OA business models.”

Open Access Charges – Continued Consolidation and Increases – Delta Think

The latest analysis of list prices suggests prices in general are increasing, although averages for some publishers have fallen. This month, we examine the headlines and variations that lie underneath them. In the following months we will look at spreads of prices and optimization and how the competitive landscape is evolving.