Creating and distributing scholarly publications takes time and resources. Who covers the expense of developing these works from early iterations of research findings to final publications of record?

Sales and Subscriptions

Many journals and books are still funded by the fees that individuals, libraries, and other organizations pay to access them. Recent decades have seen shifts from paper to electronic formats and from outright purchase to licensing, but this basic model remains the same: the cost is borne by institutions and individual readers.

Publication Charges

Sales and subscriptions represent income acquired after the publication process; alternatively, publishers can charge authors before the content is published. In the context of open access journals (and, occasionally, open access monographs), these author fees are called APCs or Article Processing Charges.

Open access publishing is not the only setting in which authors may face publication charges. Many publishers charge authors fees (like page charges or color charges) on top of the subscription or purchase price for their journals and books. Authors faced with publication charges may:

Other Support Models

Author-borne publishing charges get a lot of attention, but most journals don’t fund their publications this way. Support for scholarly publishing can come from numerous sources, and a particular journal or book publisher might rely on one or a combination of several. Possibilities include:

  • Advertising – The New England Journal of Medicine is just one of the many journals that use advertising as one source of funds.
  • Volunteer labor – Most journals rely on the volunteer labor of authors and peer reviewers. Others, like most law reviews, are run entirely by unpaid students.
  • Institutional hosting – Departmental websites, library servers, and institutional repositories host books, journals, and other scholarly publications. eScholarship provides open access publishing services to the University of California, including support for journals and books.
  • Membership feesPlant Physiology is free to read or to publish open access articles in for members of the American Society of Plant Biologists (and membership dues are lower than the APC for a single article). PeerJ charges authors a lifetime membership fee for unlimited article submission and publication.
  • Free online version/paid print version – Readers can order a print copy of, for example, Peter Suber’s Open Access from MIT Press, or download a free open access copy. Free downloads became available a year after initial publication.
  • Reducing costs through low cost and open source toolsPublic Knowledge Project develops open source tools like Open Journal Systems and Open Monograph Press to help users like universities and societies publish their own scholarly works.
  • Grants and endowments – The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy was created with support from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, and others.
  • Submission fees – The American Economic Review, the Journal of Nutrition, and Cancer Research are among the many journals that charge a submission fee.
  • Consortial subsidiesSCOAP3 redirects subscription money that hundreds of institutions would otherwise spend on high energy physics journal subscriptions; the journals are paid by the consortium, but access and submission are free to readers and authors. Knowledge Unlatched pools money from libraries to pay publishers to make ebooks available under an open access license.

For a longer list with more examples, see the Open Access Directory’s pages on OA book business models and OA journal business models. But note that many of these strategies aren’t just relevant for open access publications; they are also used in conjunction with sales and subscriptions.