What Open-Access Publishing Actually Costs

Ellen Wexler | The Chronicles of Higher Education | November 9, 2015

Advocates for open-access journals say that academic research should be free for everyone to read. But even those proponents acknowledge that publishing costs money — the disagreement is over the amount. The issue was highlighted last month, when all six editors and all 31 editorial-board members resigned from Lingua, a prominent linguistics journal, after a disagreement with the journal’s publisher, Elsevier, over how much libraries and authors should pay.

Many of the reviewers and authors at open-access journals work on a volunteer basis. So what are the true costs of running such a publication? The Chronicle asked the Open Library of the Humanities, a nonprofit group that publishes seven peer-reviewed journals in the humanities and social sciences. The group will also help fund Glossa, a journal that Lingua's departing editors are planning to start.

The Open Library of the Humanities is completely open access, and authors are not charged to publish in its journals. But like any nonprofit, the organization needs money to function. The publisher started up this year, and its estimated first-year costs are $320,000. "There will always be costs," said Martin Eve, one of the publisher’s directors. "If you want these services, they have to be paid for."...