OA journal business models

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  • This is a list of business models and revenue sources for OA journals.
  • Some revenue sources are supplementary and not sufficient. We aim to include all the revenue sources actually used by OA journals, even if they are small parts of larger business models.
  • For the time being, the major categories are in alphabetical order, which does not reflect their relative prevalence.


  • Description. The model is to use advertising on the journal's web site or article pages in order to generate income to help support the journal.
  1. Variant. A journal or its publisher can sell advertising space to companies willing to advertise in the journal. This usually requires a marketing staff.
  2. Variant. A journal can use a service like Google AdSense, which places ads on pages based on an algorithmic reading of their content. These services require no marketing staff. Because the journal doesn't know in advance what ads will be placed, this method can answer suspicions that advertising compromises editorial integrity.


  • Description. The model is for publishers to bid on articles at auction to publish. The money paid for the work would be diverted to the authors, editors, and publishers of the works cited cited by the article. First copy costs would be covered and the work could be made OA, without charge to the author.
    • Example. The model, posited by David Zetland [first in a 2004 preprint (inactive link), and then in a 2007 discussion paper and subsequent 2010 Public Choice article with Jens Prüfer], works as follows: "In the AMJA [Auction Model for Journal Articles], authors write papers, market them to editors, and post them for auction. Editors bid Academic Dollars (A$) for papers and assign “purchases” to referees. Referees put in effort to review and improve—not reject—papers. Readers read and cite articles (published papers) in their own work. When the papers of those readers (now authors) are later auctioned, A$ are redistributed to authors, editors and referees of cited articles as a reward for quality." While the Public Choice article does not mention this model's potential benefit for being a self-sustaining OA business model, a 2004 blog posting by Alex Tabarrok suggests the way in which an auction model could sustainably support an OA journal.


  • Description. The model is for potential projects to be pitched online; the broader community—the “crowd” —may then choose to fund the submitted work with financial donations, which cover production costs. With enough financial backing from the crowd, the project goes into production.
    • Example. ChipIn. Users of ChipIn can raise money for any project by defining the fundraiser's purpose, the desired amount, by when the funds must be raised, and by what method. Details are available here. A 2010 story in the Guardian discusses blogger Deanna Zandt's efforts to raise money to support herself while she finished a book project that did not offer her an advance. While this is not a journal model, it is a successful example of a crowdfunded publishing effort.
    • Example. Kickstarter. The Kickstarter model involves a pitched project, which receives "all-or-nothing funding...in return for rewards." Several publishing projects have been funded successfully.
  1. Variant. Street performer protocol. The model is one in which the author requests a specific sum be raised before creating a work; private donor funds are pooled to finance this work. Coined by John Kelsey and Bruce Schneier in their June 1999 First Monday article, their “street performer protocol” is a model in which an author promises the delivery of a work for a specific sum; once private donations have filled the author’s goal, then the author creates the promised work, which is OA.
    • Example. Copycan (inactive link). Through Copycan, an artist uploads digital content with "the amount of money he would like to have for releasing his work to the commons under a free license"; donors contribute, and if the funding goal is met, then "the artist gets paid, the content gets released and is from then on freely available." This site is now inactive.




  • Description. The model is to solicit donations, periodically or continuously.
  1. Variant. A journal may solicit donations through an embedded PayPal or Google Checkout widget.

Hybrid OA journals

  1. Variant. The journal promises to reduce the subscription price in proportion to author uptake of the OA option. (Failure to do so is sometimes called the "double charge" business model.)
    • Example. Cambridge Open from Cambridge University Press is an "experiment" and "uptake will be monitored and future subscription prices will be modified to take into account the level of interest and uptake in this model".
    • Example. EXiS Open Choice from Royal Society Publishing, starting in 2012 has "implement[ed] a new and more transparent pricing policy in which the price of each journal is tied to the number of non-open access articles published in that journal and each journal will publish the relevant article counts annually"; rates are detailed here.
  2. Variant. The journal allows authors who select the OA option to retain copyright, or to retain more rights than authors who do not select the OA option.
  3. Variant. The journal uses CC licenses (or an equivalent) for the OA articles, even if it doesn't do so for its other articles.
  4. Variant. The journal makes the OA articles the same versions that it publishes in the paid journal. (The alternative is to make the OA articles a truncation or abridgment of the TA editions, e.g., without links to references.)
  5. Variant. The journal insists that the OA editions only appear on its own web site. (The alternative is to allow authors to deposit their OA articles in repositories independent of the publisher.)
  6. Variant. The journal waives the fee for the OA option in cases of economic hardship or for authors from certain designated developing countries.
  7. Variant. The journal offers the OA option without any fee at all, or at a discounted fee, for authors in certain categories, for example, authors who are members of a certain society, authors who are employees of a subscribing institution, authors who serve as an editor or referee for one of the publisher's journals, and so on.
  8. Variant. The journal charges one fee for OA articles that also appear in the non-OA edition available to subscribers, and a lower fee for OA articles that do not appear in the non-OA edition.
  9. Variant. The journal refuses to publish work by authors bound by OA mandates (from funders or universities) unless those authors select the OA option and pay the associated fee.
  10. Variant. The journal rescinds or limits its permission for self-archiving at the same time that it adopts a hybrid OA model, in order to steer authors who want OA away from (no-fee) self-archiving and toward the (fee-based) hybrid option.
  11. Variant. The journal has a standard embargo period for paid OA, after which time the article is free.
    • Example. SPIE offers hybrid OA for most of it journals, that is, it charges a flat publication fee to authors and provides immediate OA their work; however, with the Journal of Biomedical Optics, SPIE charges a publication fee and provides OA after a one-year embargo. Also of note is that SPIE's publications charges for non-OA works are voluntary. Details are available here.

Institutional subsidies

  • Description. The model is for an institution to subsidize an OA journal, in whole or part, directly or indirectly. It may provide cash, facilities, equipment, or personnel. The institution may be of any kind, for example, a university, laboratory, research center, library, learned society, museum, hospital, for-profit corporation, non-profit organization, foundation, or government agency.
  1. Variant: university subsidies. There are many forms of university subsidies for OA journals: in-house publication of OA journals; funds to pay publication fees at fee-based OA journals; and provision of facilities, equipment, or personnel. (Note that many of these subsidies are also used by TA journals.)
  2. Variant: government subsidies. There are many forms of government subsidies for OA journals: direct grants to OA journals or publishers; grants to researchers which they may use for publication fees or page charges at OA journals; in-house publication of OA journals; tax deductions for non-profit publishers of OA journals; budgetary support for public universities which the institutions may use to publish OA journals, subsidize OA journals, or hire faculty who spend part of their work-time editing OA journals. (Note that many of these subsidies are also used by TA journals.)
  3. Variant: foundation subsidies.
  4. Variant: corporate subsidies.
  5. Variant: consortial subsidies. This clearly overlaps with the categories above (university, government, foundation, and corporate subsidies). What's notable is that an OA resource can build a customized or ad hoc coalition of supporting organizations.

Membership dues

Priced editions

  • Description. The model is for a journal to provide OA to one edition and sell access to another edition. The OA edition should contain the full text and other information (charts, illustrations, links, etc.), but the priced edition may appear earlier in time or include extra features, such as print.
  1. Variant: Revenue from a priced print edition supports an OA edition, with or without a delay in the release of the OA edition.
  2. Variant: The priced and OA editions contain the same texts and appear at the same time, but differ in production quality.
    • Example: The Annals of Improbable Research has published four versions of each article since December 2007: priced print, priced hi-res PDF, free low-res PDF, and free HTML. (Don't be misled by the fact that AIR isn't a "serious" journal. It still needs a serious business model.)
    • Example: Cléo (Centre pour l'édition électronique ouverte) has used the OpenEdition Fremium business model for books and journals since February 2011. Under this model, HTML editions are OA and PDF edition are TA.
  3. Variant: The priced edition contains short summaries and the OA edition contains full texts (as opposed to the other way around).
    • Example: Since January 2010, BMJ has published one-page pico summaries of its OA research articles in the print, TA edition of BMJ. A BMJ survey showed that users were more likely to read the TA edition if it contained these summaries. (If intelligent abridgment catches on as a form of added value, then full-text OA becomes much easier to support. More comments.)
  4. Variant: The publisher sells reprints or offprints to help support an OA journal.
    • Example. Postgraduate Medicine freely provides HTML versions of its articles but also sells reprints to generate income.
    • Example. BioMed Central offers reprints for both its TA and OA content through EzReprint. The revenue generated from reprint sales supports BioMed Central's waiver fund. See details here.
  5. Variant: The publisher subsidizes its OA publications with profits or revenue from a separate line of non-OA publications.
    • Example. SPIE publishes SPIE Letters without charging its standard publication fee; this model is possible because the content of this OA journal is "peer-reviewed articles judged to be of significant originality and interest, and originally published in one of six SPIE journals." Details are available here.
  6. Variant: The publisher selects articles that appear in a priced journal (or collection of journals) to be featured in an full OA review journal.
    • Example. SPIE publishes SPIE Reviews, which offers "full-length review articles...including original articles as well as review articles from other SPIE journals." Details are available here.

Publication fees

  • Description. The model is to charge a fee upon acceptance of an article for publication. The idea is for the fee to cover the costs of production, although in practice it might cover more or less. Because rejected articles pay no publication fees (but see "submission fees" below), the publication fee must cover the costs of publishing the accepted article plus the cost of reviewing the number of submissions rejected for each accepted submission. Because costs per accepted paper rise with the rejection rate, the fee must rise with the rejection rate. The bill may go to the author, but is often paid by the author's funder or employer rather than by the author out of pocket. Hence this model is sometimes, misleadingly, called the "author pays" or "author fee" model. The fee is sometimes called a "processing fee" or an "article processing charge" (APC).
  1. Variant: Flat fees. The journal charges the same fee for every accepted article.
  2. Variant: Variable fees. Fee size depends on article length.
  3. Variant: Fee discounts or waivers for economic hardship. Some OA journals waive or reduce publication fees in cases of economic hardship. Some do it for all authors from certain, designated developing countries. Some do it on request, no questions asked.
  4. Variant: Fee discounts for author assistance. Some OA journals, such as Hydrology and Earth Systems Science, reduce their publication fee for authors who submit their manuscripts in a certain file format or who choose to do their own copy-editing.
  5. Variant: Fee waivers or discounts, from hybrid OA journals, for authors affiliated with institutions that pay for subscriptions.
    • Example. Royal Society of Chemistry's UK-pilot "Gold for Gold" program uses a voucher code system that "rewards all institutions that subscribe to RSC Gold with voucher codes to make papers available via OA, free of charge." See the program announcement here and details here. The first article to be published with Gold for Gold is noted here.
    • We list other examples under "hybrid OA journals above.
  6. Variant: Charging author-side fees while paying author royalties.
    • Example. InTech, formerly Sciyo, offered author royalties for a short time in 2010. As noted in a 2009 Newswire Today article, "Author royalties [based on the number of downloads] will be accredited directly to the author's account...[the] aim of the model is to reward high quality academic work, deemed most useful by the research community." Additional information on InTech's model is available from a Richard Poynder interview with the company's marketing director, Nicola Rylett.
  1. Variant: One price for ordinary production, with extra charges for extra services.
    • Example. Ideas in Ecology and Evolution charges a $200 publication fee if the author uses conventional peer review and a $100 fee if the author uses the "author-directed peer review" system, which "allows authors to make their own arrangements for peer-review of manuscripts". See details here.
    • Example: Optics Express charges a general publication fee and charges extra for copy editing, if needed.
  2. Variant: Institutional memberships. Some OA journals and publishers offer institutional memberships. The chief benefit of membership is that the journal waives or reduces publication fees for authors affiliated with member-institutions. Some charge a flat fee for membership. Some charge an amount linked to the number of articles published in the journal by the institution's employees. The more journals offered by a publisher (or more precisely, the more journals where institutional employees are likely to publish), the more valuable the membership is for members. In that sense, institutional membership are another way in which large publishers can benefit from economies of scale.
  3. Variant: Institutional arrangements without memberships. Some OA publishers strike individual deals with individual institutions.
  4. Variant: Fee-based OA for some topics, no-fee OA for other topics.
  5. Variant: Alternate compensation for access.
    • Example. Congoo is a "premium content search engine that is useful to both users and publishers". The model requires users to register; Congoo then "provides users with controlled and measurable access into premium content" from participating publishers, which would otherwise be toll access, while ensuring publishers "maintain full control over their valuable content." In exchange for providing a limited amount of their content OA through Congoo's search service, publishers receive users' registration information from Congoo. Details of the benefits to publishers are provided here, and related commentary may be found in a 2005 Open Access Newsletter update and Antone Gonsalves's InformationWeek article.

Submission fees

  • Description. The model is to charge a fee for evaluating a submitted paper, whether or not the paper is later accepted. A submission fee may be in addition to a publication fee (see "publication fees" above). Submission fees can reduce publication fees at journals with high rejection rates.
    • Example. Hereditas charges a €100 submission fee. The author is charged a publication fee upon acceptance. Details of the publication costs are available here.
    • Example. Journal of Clinical Investigation charges a $75 submission fee, in addition to publication fees. Details are available here.
    • Example. Journal of Medical Internet Research. See JMIR's fee schedule.
    • For more discussion, see the December 2010 report by Mark Ware (published by Knowledge Exchange). On p. 4, Ware lists 20 examples of OA journals charging submission fees, along with the fee amounts, the journal publishers, and the journal impact factors. Anna Sharman explores Ware's discussion of the prevalence of submission fees, which journals use them, and the "pros and cons of submission fee" in a 2012 blog post.

Temporary OA

  • Description. The model is for a publisher to offer free online access to a work for a restricted period, after which the work becomes toll access. The OA period may occur just once or periodically. Note: this is not "pure" OA, but represents a particular model that has been used by some publishers to experiment with OA.
    • Example. Emerald has several limited-time gratis OA programs.
    • Example. Information Technology and Libraries (ITAL) provided OA to their forthcoming articles; these preprints were the final versions of works in press, and as such were neither copy edited nor formatted. Once the article appeared in print, then the work was no longer OA. However, as of January 2012, ITAL "is adopting an open-access, e-only publishing model"; back issues of the journal and the preprints will become OA as time and funding allows.

Value-added services

  • Description. The model is to offer extra services on top of OA content. A range of services is possible, for example, article alert services and site customization (from Raym Crow's 2009 "Income models for open access: An overview of current practice"; see here).
    • Example. Open Edition, a humanities and social sciences portal, includes work from OpenEdition Books, Revues.org, Hypotheses, and Calenda. The work is available OA, but institutions may buy a subscription to Open Edition to receive six value-added services, including "unlimited, DRM-free download access to PDF, ePub files of the articles of the 90 journals which have adopted the OpenEdition Freemium model", technical support, customized alerts, COUNTER statistics on use, and participation in the user committee working group. See details of the model here, and a 2011 article in Information Services and Use on OpenEdition's freemium model by Pierre Mounier, OA through ELPUB here.

Volunteer effort

  • Description. The model is to use unpaid volunteers for some of the work in producing the journal. All scholarly journals (OA and non-OA) use volunteers to some extent, as authors, referees, and/or some kinds of editors.
    • Note. When a volunteer has a salary from another organization, and is allowed by that organization to spend some professional time on the journal, then the institution is directly or indirectly subsidizing the journal. (See "Institutional subsidies" above.) When the journal work is an overload, then the volunteer's employer is not subsidizing the journal. However, because it is often difficult to tell whether work is an overload (inside or outside a job description), it is often difficult to distinguish volunteer effort from institutional subsidy.
    • Example. Bulletin EBIB, open access journal Bulletin EBIB from Poland published by EBIB Association [1]. This journal has been published for Polish librarians and information specialists till 1999. All od the work is done by volunteers - 20 librarians from different institutions living in different parts of the country. All work processes are based on teleworking.
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