Thursday, November 20, 2008

Article processing fee comparison

Publication processing fees--more commonly referred to as article processing fees--are one of the most vexed areas of open access publishing. Assuming that you accept the economic rationale for them then the challenge becomes one of getting the best deal for the smallest fee. The table below sets out fees for a range of journals and/or publishers culled from the web. My comments on finding value for money follow after the table.

Important note:
This page is no longer being updated and the fee table has been removed. For further information on fees please consult publishers' websites. For current Libertas Academica publishing fees please refer to the Article Processing Fee section of the For Authors page. (3/8/09)

Confused? I think it's fair to say that there are a lot of variations out there on the OA formula. Looked at from the most positive perspective this means that there's plenty of choice out there for authors but it could also be said that all this variation can cause confusion and potentially huge fees.

So how to choose a journal? In addition to the standard criteria applicable to any journal I also recommend considering the following points:
  1. What is the total cost of publishing in the journal? I strongly recommend finding a journal with a single flat fee. Ask yourself: what am I getting for this extra fee and why does it cost so much? I can tell you that there's no way that handling colour graphics in electronic or even print journals costs anywhere remotely close to the additional fees in the table. And if it did cost that much why does the each successive colour figure after the first cost the same? More or less the same can be said for all the additional fees.
  2. Is it really open access? Look for a Creative Commons licence, ideally a CC-BY licence which means that you retain copyright in your article and anyone else citing it must attribute it to you. Pragmatically considered, I don't think allowing the publisher to retain a commercial usage right undermines your position materially.
  3. Open access is cheap for publishers! Gasp! I have to emphasize that while open access publishing is not free it certainly isn't as expensive as conventional print publishing where reproduction and distribution costs are very substantial. Open access actually offers publishers huge opportunities to be innovative while maintaining high editorial standards. When I was researching open access prior to starting Libertas Academica this seemed to be one of the clear advantages that new purely-OA publishers had over established publishers who have high fixed costs to cover (big offices, lots of staff, cross-subsidising existing print journals, loss of subscription revenue resulting from growing popularity of OA, etc.) Considering some of these fees it doesn't seem that some of the purely-OA publishers have recognised this but experience since has proven me right.
  4. High fees harm open access. One of the strongest arguments in favour of OA is that it relieves pressure on library budgets. Once OA journals start charging article processing fees which aren't far from what a journal subscription might cost that argument is undermined and anyone with reservations about OA journals is tempted back to old subscription journals. It seems that there's an element of hubris at work amongst OA publishers here: OA has not won the 'battle' against conventional journals. We have many authors left to convince and outrageous fees make it seem as if the publishing industry has moved from one form of exploitation (escalating subscription fees with the implicit threat of lost access if they cannot be met) to another where fees massively outweigh the actual costs involved in processing a submission.
As an aside, apologies for the lack of blog posts so far this month. It has been a busy month for Libertas with planning for 2009 underway and a number of new services in various stages of development. More news soon.

Any publisher/journal appearing on the table above may contact to make updates or corrections.

[Amendments: 24/11: one publisher added and table layout simplified. Some minor grammar/style errors corrected. 19/12: Added discounts offered by one publisher and another publisher added]