Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Cost per downloaded article: Elsevier v. BMC

Matt Cockerill, Maximum access at minimum cost, BioMed Central blog, February 20, 2007. 

At the EC meeting on scientific publishing in Brussels last week, Nick Fowler, Elsevier's Director of Strategy, noted that the cost per article download from Science Direct had fallen, and the UK academic community now paid only 2 in subscription revenue per Elsevier article downloaded.

This caught my attention, and prompted me to do a quick check on the cost per article download, under BioMed Central's open access publishing model.  Looking at the 2006, BioMed Central delivered 18.5 million fulltext open access article downloads. If we conservatively use the full article processing charge, before waivers and discounts, as the basis for the calculation, we find that BioMed Central offers an effective cost per download of just 0.25. Even this underestimates the benefits of open access, as it  takes into account only accesses on BioMed Central's own website, but since BioMed Central's fulltext content is mirrored in PubMed Central and several other open access archives, the true figure is even lower, and continues to fall as BioMed Central publishes more research.

A recent Australian report examined the cost per download issue, and found that the the effective cost per download being paid by a consortium of Australian research institutions under the traditional subscription system varied by from $Au1.24 - $Aus10.11 depending on the publisher, with a weighted average of $Aus3.60 (1.45). When it comes to distributing articles to as many readers as possible at minimum cost, the economics of open access are hard to beat.