Cheap open-access journals raise questions about the value publishers add for their money.
These charges and counter-charges have been volleyed back and forth since the open-access idea emerged in the 1990s, but because the industry’s finances are largely mysterious, evidence to back up either side has been lacking. Although journal list prices have been rising faster than inflation, the prices that campus libraries actually pay to buy journals are generally hidden by the non-disclosure agreements that they sign. And the true costs that publishers incur to produce their journals are not widely known.
The past few years have seen a change, however. The number of open-access journals has risen steadily, in part because of funders’ views that papers based on publicly funded research should be free for anyone to read.