Es geht um eine Betrachtung der ökonomischen Vorteile für kleinere und mittlere Herausgeber von wissenschaftlichen Journalen, wenn sie kein klassisches Copyright verwenden sondern eben Open Access. Also eine ganz ähnliche Interessenlage wie bei Freier Software und den kleineren Softwareklitschen, die sich gemeinsam mittels Freier Software gegen die großen Monopole zu behaupten versuchen. […] Â

Paul Peters schreibt in seinem Artikel  über


“Big Deal” Abos können eine Barriere in den Publishing-Markt darstellen.

Nur große Verlgashäuser können attraktive Angebots-Bündel schnüren. Dagegen


Es ist daher auch kaum nachvollziehbar, warum die großen Verlage nicht eine Content-Kooperation gründen, um gemeinsam ein attraktives Angebot zu schnüren.

Peters favorisiert das Author-pays-model




This paper by Paul Peters, the Senior Publishing Developer of Hindawi Publishing Corporation, has been written for publication in the conference proceedings of Online Information 2006. Peters presents different open access publishing models and explains why so-called Big Deal journal subscription packages create a barrier to entry into the publishing market.

He explains that these packages are a barrier because only large publishing firms can offer a package with many different journal titles. In contrast, Peters favours the Author-Pays- Model which provides, in his opinion, a sustainable open access publishing model.

The Economic Advantages of Open Access
Publishing for Small and Mid-Sized Publishers


While advocates of open access publishing have tended to focus on the benefits that it can offer authors and readers, there are equally important benefits that an open access publishing model can provide for small and mid-sized publishers. Within the existing subscription-based publishing industry there are a number of market forces that work against smaller publishers, and this is making it increasingly difficult for these smaller publishers to stay competitive. However, by adopting a business model based on publication charges, smaller publishers can overcome many of the difficulties that they currently face in the subscription market.

There are three main advantages that open access can provide for smaller publishers. One important advantage is that it makes the growth of both new and existing journals much easier. In addition, a shift to open access will promote more competition between publishers, which will enable many smaller publishers to gain a competitive edge over the largest and most well-established publishing houses. Finally, an open access publishing model will make a journal far more attractive to potential authors, since they can avoid many of the unnecessary limitations imposed by subscription-based models.


The first main advantage of a business model based on publication charges is that it makes it much easier for journals to scale with the needs of the scientific community. In the subscription world, it can be difficult to increase the size of a journal without risking a loss of subscribers. Moreover, launching a new subscription-based journal has become nearly impossible for smaller publishers who do not have a “Big Deal” package in which the new journal can be included. In contrast, open access journals can increase their size as needed without risking a decrease in readership or revenue, and new open access journals can attract a significant number of authors and readers within months of being launched.

The very nature of a subscription-based publishing model limits a publisher’s ability to increase the size of an existing journal. The reason is that when increasing the size of a journal, a publisher must increase the journal’s subscription price in order to cover the costs of publishing the additional material. However, increasing the price of a journal is likely to lead to cancellations, regardless of whether or not the size of the journal has increased.

In a recently study conducted by Mark Ware Consulting Ltd, on behalf of the Association of Learned and Professional Society Publishers, only 19% of librarians said that the price-per-page of a journal was either “important” or “very important” in their consideration of whether or not to cancel a journal (Mark Ware Consulting Ltd. ALPSP Survey of Librarians on Factors in Journal Cancellation. March 30, 2006). However, 96% of respondents said that the absolute price was either important or very important, and 88% considered the increase in price from the previous year as an important factor. So by increasing the size of a journal, a publisher risks losing many of their existing subscribers, since librarians tend to consider the absolute cost of a journal far more than the price-per-page.

Even more problematic than increasing the size of an existing title, establishing a new subscription-based journal has become almost impossible for smaller publishers. The reason is that when launching a new subscription-based journal, publishers face a sort of vicious circle. Authors do not want to submit their best papers to a journal that does not have an established subscription base, since they know that their article will not be available to many potential readers. At the same time, libraries do not want to subscribe to a new journal with a limited amount of high-quality content, especially if budgetary considerations are already forcing them to cancel subscriptions to journals that they have held for years. So in order for a publisher to establish a new journal, they must either convince libraries to subscribe before any high-quality material has been published, or convince authors to submit their best work to a journal that does not yet have an established base of subscribers. Neither of these are easy tasks.

It is important to note that many large publishers can quickly establish new titles by including them in a “Big Deal” package. If a new journal is added to a “Big Deal” it will automatically attract a wide base of subscribers, regardless of whether any high-quality content has been published. Moreover, since authors know that their articles will be available to a large audience, they are much more likely to submit their best work to a new journal from a large publisher, which will be available in many libraries, rather than a new journal from a smaller publisher, which may initially have a very limited audience.

The difficulties caused by expanding an existing title, or launching a new journal, in the subscription world are far less problematic in an open access model. A publisher need not worry about increasing the size of a journal that is funded with publication charges, since the charge for each author stays the same as the journal expands. Moreover, while there are still many challenges that must be overcome when launching a new journal, at least the articles that are published will immediately be available to any interested reader. This is one reason why open access journals like PLoS Biology (), BMC Bioinformatics (), and Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics () have been able to establish themselves at the top of their respective fields within only a few years of being launched.


Another important benefit that open access publishing can provide is that it will lead to more price-based competition between scholarly publishers. In the existing subscription-based market, there is very little competition between publishers in terms of the price that they charge for a given service, which makes it difficult for smaller publishers to gain a competitive edge by offering their services at a more competitive price. The reasons for this stem from the fact that libraries are not free to subscribe to the most competitively priced journals in a given field, and authors rarely consider a journal’s price when deciding where to publish.

One of the main reasons why there is a lack of price-based competition between scholarly publishers is that journals are not interchangeable. If a given journal contains important articles that a library needs to access, it is very difficult for the library to cancel their subscription, even if there are more affordable journals in the same field. Thus, smaller publishers cannot attract subscribers by offering their services at a more competitive price, since libraries must subscribe to the journals that contain the most important articles for their patrons, regardless of price.

The fact that libraries have little choice in which journals they subscribe to would not be particularly problematic if authors took the price of a journal into consideration when choosing where to publish their work. If authors only submitted their work to journals that were competitively priced, there would be an incentive for publishers to keep their subscription rates as low as possible. However, as is the case with libraries, the prestige of a journal is far more important than its price when authors consider where to publish their work.

In 2005, a survey of authors’ attitudes was conducted on behalf of the Publishers Association and the International Association of STM Publishers. The survey found that while more than 73% of authors felt that high journal prices were limiting access to literature, less than 25% of those surveyed said that they published in affordable journals (Rowlands I, Nicholas D. New journal publishing models: an international survey of senior researchers. A report for the Publishers Association and the International Association of STM Publishers. September 22, 2005). While authors seem to recognize that high journal prices are a serious problem, most of them admit that the price of a journal is not a particularly important factor when deciding where to publish. Rather, the factors that were listed as being of greatest importance were the reputation of a journal, its readership, and its Impact Factor. What this means is that established journals with strong reputations can continue to attract high-quality manuscripts, which will ensure that libraries will continue to subscribe, regardless of the price that a publisher charges. While the lack of price-based competition may seem like excellent news for publishers, it makes it incredibly difficult for new publishers to increase their market share by offering their services at a more competitive price.

A shift to open access publishing will substantially increase the price-based competition between publishers, which will benefit many small and growing publishers, as well as the scientific community as a whole. If authors are required to pay the publication costs of their articles from their research budget, there will be a much greater incentive for them to consider the costs associated with a particular journal when deciding where to publish. If a given journal has a publication charge of $3,000, and a journal of comparable quality has a charge of only $1,500, most authors will likely publish in the second journal. Moreover, since authors can be certain that their article will be available to any interested reader, they need not worry about whether a journal has a well-established base of subscribers. So, a shift to open access will not only introduce much greater price-based competition between journals, but it will also reduce the huge advantage that well-established journals have in the subscription world, since potential authors will not have to worry about limiting access to their work by publishing in less-established journals.

In addition to introducing greater competition to the scholarly publishing industry, a shift to open access will also eliminate some of the competitive advantages that large publishers have due to their size. While the advantages of publishing a large collection of journals have always existed, they have become increasingly important following the rise of “Big Deal” packages. If smaller publishers continue to base their business models on revenue from library budgets, they will soon face serious problems as libraries are forced to spend an increasing amount on their “Big Deal” subscriptions.

Due to the nature of the subscription market, publishers with many journals in their collection have a significant advantage over publishers who publish only a handful of titles. The reason is that promoting a collection of journals to potential institutional subscribers requires a significant investment of both time and money, and the potential reward for promoting a small collection often does not justify the cost. A small publisher that focuses in a specific research area may be able to attract very strong authors and editors by providing better services than the competing journals in the field. However, in order to build a base of subscribers the publisher must either wait for their authors and editors to convince their individual libraries to subscribe, or spend a significant amount of money trying to build relationships with hundreds of libraries around the world. Large publishers can afford to hire teams of people to place their journals in libraries, since the costs are spread across a large collection of titles. However, for a publisher with only a few titles, it may not be worth the cost of hiring people to market a journal to potential institutional subscribers. So, many small publishers must simply rely on word-of-mouth to build the subscription base of their journals.

By adopting a publication model based on publication charges, smaller publishers can avoid the difficulties that they face when establishing a new subscription-based journal. Open access publishers can focus their efforts on providing high-quality services for their authors, rather than selling their journals to libraries. What this means is that open access publishing will tend to favor smaller publishers who can focus on the individual needs of the communities they serve, rather than larger publishers who are better designed for marketing a large collection of journals to potential subscribers.

The “Big Deal”

While large publishers have always had certain advantages in the subscription world, the situation has become far more pronounced following the rise of the “Big Deal.” While “Big Deal” packages are in theory meant to provide increased access to scholarly literature, in practice their main impact has been to drastically redefine the subscription market. The widespread adoption of “Big Deal” packages has led to increased consolidation among publishers, and it has put considerable financial pressure on the remaining small and mid-sized publishers.

The basic idea behind a “Big Deal” is that a publisher will provide access to a large collection of journals at a substantially reduced rate, provided that the subscribing institute retains their existing subscriptions. While libraries are able to access additional titles at a substantially reduced rate, they have a limited ability to cancel individual titles in the package, and there are annual price increases in the package that cannot be easily offset by cancellations. So, when libraries are forced to cancel journals due to budgetary constraints, they must cancel titles that are not part of a “Big Deal” package.

The main effect of “Big Deal” pricing on the publishing industry is that it has led to an increase in the consolidation amongst publishers. Mergers and acquisitions over the past 15 years have resulted in the conglomeration of 37 independent publishers into 6 entities (). One of the main reasons for this consolidation has been the benefits that can be derived from combining multiple collections of journals in a single “Big Deal” package. Whereas libraries used to consider individual journal titles when making decisions of which journals to purchase, they now obtain much of their collections through “Big Deal” bundles. As the subscription market becomes increasingly dominated by the “Big Deal,” smaller publishers must either join one of the major publishing conglomerates, or adopt a business model that does not depend on revenue from libraries.

Attracting Authors

In addition to its economic advantages, open access will enable publishers to overcome a number of conflicts that they face in the subscription world, making them far more attractive to potential authors. Since open access journals are not limited by annual page budgets, they can significantly reduce publication delays. In addition, by relying on a business model based on publication charges, open access journals do not have to limit the impact of their articles through subscription barriers. Both of these factors will enable open access journals to attract potential authors, since the impact and publication speed of a journal are among the most important factors in an author’s decision of where to submit their work.

One of the limitations of subscription-based publishing models is that they often force a publisher to delay the publication of an article because they have exceeded their annual page budget. The reason for this is that subscriptions rates are usually tied to the number of pages, or articles, that a journal is expected to publish in a given year. However, journals often accept more manuscripts than they had anticipated, causing them to exceed their page budget. The problem is that if a publisher exceeds a journal’s page budget they receive no addition revenue to cover the publication costs of the addition material. So, most publishers will delay the publication of any surplus articles so they can be included in the next volume, where they will be able to generate subscription revenue. The problem is that this can lead to lengthy publication delays, which deter authors who would like to see their articles appear as quickly as possible.

Perhaps the most serious deficiency of the subscription-based publishing model is that it conflicts with the fundamental mission of scholarly journals, the wide distribution of a scholar’s work. The reason why authors do not receive royalties from their journal publications is that they want nothing more than the widest possible distribution of the results of their work. In an electronic age where universal distribution is possible, subscription barriers that limit the potential impact of an author’s work put subscription-based journals at a huge disadvantage. As an indication of the advantage open access journals have in terms of their impact, a number of open access journals that were launched only a few years ago have already obtained the highest Impact Factors in their respective fields (2005 ISI Journal Citation Report. ). Once a significant number of authors are aware of the increased impact that open access can provide, journals that limit the impact of an authors work through subscription barriers will have a difficult time attracting submissions.

In a subscription world, publishers must constantly weigh the quality of service that they provide to their authors against their need to maximize subscription revenues. Since open access journals can focus on providing their authors with the best possible services, without being concerned about the impact on subscription revenues, they have a distinct advantage when it comes to attracting authors. For smaller publishers, who often find themselves unable to compete with the major publishers in a subscription world, open access can provide an important advantage in attracting the best authors.


The rise of the Internet has had a paradoxical effect of the scholarly publishing industry. On one hand, it has led to the rise of “Big Deal” packages and the consolidation of the publishing industry, which has put considerable pressure on smaller publishers. On the other, it has enabled these smaller publishers to adopt new business models that give them a distinct advantage over the large subscription-based publishers.

While it is unclear how things will develop in the future, it seems likely that open access publishing will favor smaller publishers who can cater to the needs of a particular community, rather than the large publishers who have been able to use their size to dominate the subscription market. This trend should not be surprising to anyone who has observed the impact of the Internet on other sectors of the information industry, since the Web has enabled many small companies to take on the market leaders that dominated their industry during the broadcast era. So, while the majority of open access advocates focus on the benefits that this new publishing model will have on members of the scholarly community, one must not overlook the equally important benefits that it can offer for smaller publishers.

“The Economic Advantages of Open Access Publishing for Small and Mid-Sized Publishers.” Written by Paul Peters, to be published in the conference proceedings of Online Information 2006.

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