Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Thursday, June 28, 2007

SPARC panel on the state of three OA publishers

At ALA, SPARC Forum Details Economic Stability of Open Access, Library Journal Academic Newswire, June 28, 2007.  Excerpt:

For roughly the past five years, the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC) has devoted the bulk of its energies to open access (OA). So at this year's SPARC Forum, the organization offered a progress report on OA publishing efforts, specifically, the economic stability of open access. Moderated by scientist Alma Swan, the panel featured speakers from three OA publishers with different backgrounds: Mark Patterson from the Public Library of Science, a non-profit start-up; Bryan Vickery from BioMed Central (BMC), a seven-year-old for-profit open access publisher; and Paul Peters of Hindawi, a relatively new publisher that this year transitioned from a subscription model to OA. While each publisher is at a different point on the economic stability spectrum, each reported steady, somewhat dramatic progress.

A biologist, Swan aptly quoted another biologist, Theodosius Dobzhansky to set the tone for the session: "nothing makes sense except in the light of evolution." She then detailed the evolution of open access, noting that roughly 2500 journals were now OA, nearly 10 percent of all academic journals according to the Directory of Open Access Journals. While OA can be applied in many models, the $7 billion STM industry is moving from journals to databases, as researchers search for articles rather than publications, and that the momentum behind OA is also visible anecdotally. Swan noted that she sees personnel often move to OA publishers from posts at major publishers like Elsevier. "But how many do you see moving the other way?" she asked.

Patterson gave a brief overview of PLoS's efforts. PLoS has clearly succeeded in creating a brand, and that submissions were rising sharply, now numbering over 200 a month. PloS journals are peer-reviewed, can publish articles quickly, and increasingly offer a suite of community-enhancing Web 2.0 tools, he noted, which offer authors value for the author charges paid. While PloS is not yet economically sustainable, it's moving in that direction. The exception: PLoS One, the organization's general science publication, which is financed by $1250 per article author charges and is currently sustainable. The two flagship journals, PLoS Medicine and PLoS Biology, which charge authors $2750 per article, are more specialized and more costly Some 90 percent of authors pay author charges, while the rest are subsidized by the publisher.

BMC's Vickery said that the seven-year-old publisher now publishes 170 OA journals, with roughly 25,000 articles, and now generates 4500 submissions per quarter. He said BMC was hoping to announce that it was profitable by the year's end. He put BMC's costs at around 47 cents per article download, which he said was well below what commercial publishers claim. He also endorsed the idea of institutional repositories as "complementary" to open access publishing.

Peters said that all 80 of Hindawi's journals are now fully OA. Hindawi, which began in 1997 as a subscription publisher, began the shift in 2004 after facing the challenge in attracting subscribers in a heavily consolidated budget-squeezed market. While panelists mainly discussed the viability of OA publishing, Peters turned the tables bluntly calling the subscription market unworkable. Authors choose where to publish, but libraries buy the bulk of the output, he noted, and that disconnect removes or obscures the authors' incentive to seek value in any publishing deal....