Over at the Copyright Clearance Center, I just looked up the cost for an article published in a Sage journal for reuse in a coursepack / library reserve for 300 students over 2 semesters as an institutional non-subscriber. The cost was $1,638 U.S. As the Copyright Clearance Center site points out, this is just re-use rights; this does not get me the actual article. Re-use for institutional subscribers apparently is free.
If my institution could not afford to subscribe to this journal, it would have been better to have paid for the article to be published as open access at PLoS ONE at $1,350 U.S. – even if the authors had nothing at all to do with the institution. Over 2 semesters, the savings would have been $288. If we needed the article for a second year, with the current system we’d need to pay Sage yet again through the Copyright Clearance Centre – if we had paid for OA through PLoS ONE instead, our total savings would now start to accumulate at $1,638 for every year the article is needed.
The article in question:
Information Seeking Related to Clinical Trial Enrollment. Z. Janet Yang, Katherine A. McComas, Geri Gay, John P. Leonard, Andrew J. Dannenberg, Hildy Dillon. Communication Research. December 2011.
Suggestion for a research project: look up authors of articles in this situation, and survey or interview them to find out whether they had any idea their work would be sold in this manner.