Open Access and the Economics of Scholarly Communication

Heather Morrison

Full Text: VIDEO


At a time of economic crisis, libraries, scholars, and publishers all need to work together towards an efficient system of scholarly communication. Open access is not only optimal for access; it is the most efficient means of scholarly communication as well. This session will present an overview of the economics of a scholarly communication in a period of transition – from print to online, from closed to open access, with a focus on keys to successful transition, for librarians and publishers. Scholarly communication is at once a multi-billion-per-year industry, and a purely voluntary labor for the love of knowledge. The largest portion – by far – of the estimated $5 billion per year of revenue in the highly lucrative Science, Technology, and Medicine (STM) portion of scholarly publishing comes from academic library budgets. Figure in just a little bit of efficiency, and it is easy to see how academic libraries could not only fund a fully open access scholarly communication system, but save money, too. For example, what if some of the larger commercial STM scholarly publishers were to enjoy a mere exceptional 10% profit, rather than the current almost unheard of 30% profit margin? Not to mention that the difference in the cost per scholarly article can differ by orders of magnitude for the not-for-profit and for-profit sector, or the wide difference in cost between the online-only journal and its counterpart in dual print and electronic editions. Potential efficiencies for publishers including dropping print, developing procedures to minimize the work required after an article is submitted, and business models for the open access environment. Libraries need to revisit collections policies, and prioritize support for scholars, journals and publishers in transition to an affordable open access future. For example, there are a variety of approaches to hybrid business models, and this session will address best practices for publishers to adopt, and libraries to support.


scholarly communication, economics, open access