The Open Access Publishing Market


Welcome to Simba Information's all-in-one Open Access Publishing page! You'll find complete coverage of open access publishing through our market research reports, blog posts, press releases, videos, & multimedia, all consolidated for your convenience.

Open Access (OA) is a movement being brought by many constituencies in the scholarly research community to determine the best, most cost effective and efficient method to expose research findings in the form of scholarly papers to the widest audience possible. While OA is a an industry disruption and threat to the model of selling “Big Deal” subscription packages of academic journals sold to libraries, Simba Information’s report, Open Access Journal Publishing 2014-2017, also finds that a fast-growing revenue stream for STM journal publishers is being created as a result of a worldwide campaign led by scientists, librarians, and research funders and universities to expand OA.


We're Focusing on These Market Areas in the Coming Years:

1.Open Access Books Poised to Grow 30% a Year Through 2020

According to Simba Information’s senior business professional publishing analyst, Dan Strempel, “In humanities and social sciences, the book is more influential to scholarship than the journal. But these are also areas where the monograph has fallen from unit sales in the thousands to low hundreds over recent decades. In the important library market, STM journals have squeezed out spending on books, leaving social science and humanities (SSH) scholars looking for new business models.” Still, many have been skeptical about the future of OA books. Because there are limited funds for research in the prime SSH fields, the high fixed costs of a 70,000+ page book compared to those of much shorter journal articles is not an easy fit for many disciplines. In the global market for scholarly and academic book sales, revenue figures of OA books represent a fraction of a percentage of total 2015 revenue, but are still a bright spot against a depressed market. OA books have taken hold in humanities social sciences and in countries outside of mainstream global scholarly publishing, as well as in other disciplines.

2.Open Access Articles Grow at Twice the Rate of All Published Research

OA research articles grow at double the rate of the complete spectrum of published research articles. Open access, which is the online digital delivery device of scholarly research free of charge, was only coined a dozen years ago. OA publishing continues into the modern era and is the subject of fierce debate (about how free free actually is). Of the entire global market in 2015 for STM journal sales, OA sales revenue accounted for only 3.2%, ironically the only bright spot in an otherwise flat market for academic journal sales. “The open access evolution is in full swing,” said Dan Strempel, senior analyst business and professional group at Simba Information. “This rate of growth will put a lot of pressure on the prevailing subscription model in the coming years.” Publishers who are confident of their OA pricing and costs may increasingly choose to convert established subscription journals to an open access model.” The traditional subscription model is giving way to OA pricing. The concept of OA publishing is still young, whereas traditional subscription models have centuries of growth. More information on open access journal publishing can be found in Simba Information’s Open Access Journal Publishing 2016-2020.

3.Open Access Trends 2017: Challenges and Opportunities

Open access, which is the idea of free digital dissemination of scholarly research, came about as a conceptual movement, but is now at the center of all innovation in STM publishing. Simba expects to see library consortia and multi-campus university systems play hardball with “big deal” subscription journals. These consortia and university systems are under pressure to lower costs and get contractual assurances from commercial publishers to advance their services. For example, Göttingen University, among more than 60 other major German research institutions, allowed its subscription package with Elsevier to expire Jan. 1, in order to negotiate a new pact with Elsevier – the decision was aimed at relieving the acquisition budgets of the institutions and to improve overall access to scientific literature “in a broader and more sustainable method.” Predatory journals are a growing problem—a business model based on article processing charges (APCs) has given rise to unscrupulous publishers who collect APCs and post web articles without peer review. The lack of rigor leads to the desemination of weak science or worse. Researchers have an imperative to publish their work in order to maintain their grants and advance their careers. Some countries even have quota systems that encourage academics to publish as many articles as possible, but the most prestigious journals already reject far more papers than they accept, making these lesser known publications attractive. In response, the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ) delisted more than 3,300 titles as part of its effort to exclude dubious and or inactive publishers. Publishers Will Warm to Content Sharing & APCs Grow to the Chagrin of Some: Publishers now are developing sharing policies, for example Springer Nature and Elsevier launched their own trial programs in 2016, which has allowed researchers to freely share their peer-reviewed content among themselves, as well as with media entities and the public. This trend of publishers’ sharing policies is, as Simba expects, a trend that will be followed by more publishers through 2017 and onward.


Open Access Publishing News

Small Publishers Find a Niche with Open Access Books

Large Publishers in on Open Access Journals, But Not Books:Simba Information in its Open Access Book Publishing 2016-2020 and Open Access Journal Publishing 2016-2020 revealed that the largest traditional subscription-based publishers are all actively involved in open access journals, but are not building similar programs for OA books. Simply, print sales of scholarly and academic books have fallen faster than sales of -e-books have increased. Most heavily affected are the social sciences and humanities (SSH), where the monograph is often the format of choice for publishing research. For open access book publishers, funding comes from article processing charges (APCs) but more largely from individual library budgets, advertising and direct subsidiaries. SSH OA books will continue to rely on financial support such as direct and indirect subsidies. Simba Information forecasts strong growth in OA books revenue and title output over the next four years, albeit from a small base. Publishers will have a chance to establish an industry niche, since the threat of competition from academic publishing’s powerhouses will be absent.

It's a Jungle Out There: The Tricky Business of Identifying Predatory Publishers in an Open Access Habitat

Unfettered Access to Scholarly Research Breeds Questionable Business Practices:Under the traditional subscription model, institutions that paid for journal subscriptions did so under the impression that the research they were offered was top notch. In the prevailing open access model, authors or their institutions instead pay article processing charges to allow readers free access. But APCs create an inherent conflict. Because there is no shortage of article submissions, small operations that assume the guise of legitimacy find it easy to accept APCs for free online. Virtually every open access publisher has faced a credibility problem at some point. In late 2014, a-half dozen OA publishers including BioMed Central and Hindawi disclosed systemic abuse perpetrated by external reviewers in a number of their journals.


Latest Research in Open Access Publishing

Open Access Journal Publishing 2016-2020

Open Access Journal Publishing 2016-2020 provides readers with an overview and financial outlook for the global open access journal publishing market based on Simba Information’s research and analysis of leading competitor performance through 2016. Simba conducted its research in conjunction with a larger study of the overall professional publishing market, including legal and business publishing.

Key Facts & Trends

Because open access removes price barriers, revenue is not necessarily the market’s most important metric for success. Furthermore, revenue must be carefully defined because OA publishers employ many business models. Each publisher is different and often there are differences between publications within the same stable.

About 80% of Open Access Journals Do Not Produce RevenueMost journals in the DOAJ do not collect fees and many fees from journals that do are waived because of institutional or low-income country exceptions. The business model for these green articles is uncertain. While some of the larger funders have come out in favor of the gold model offering full access on publication, there is no evidence that funding for repositories is under threat.

Springer Nature Largest Open Access Publisher, But Others Are Closing the GapBioMed Central was an early leader in open access publishing and its acquisition by Springer only boosted its presence. Springer remains the market leader in open access revenue, particularly with the 2015 merger with Nature and its own rapid growth in OA article output. The large traditional subscription-based publishers have recently joined Springer. Elsevier and Wiley have overtaken Hindawi, but remain behind PLOS.

Open Access as Global PhenomenonAmong the biggest beneficiaries of open access journal publishing have been researchers and publishers from Spanish and Portuguese speaking countries, the Middle East, India and China. With the growth of their economies and supported by government policies in the case of China and Brazil, emerging markets have joined the ranks of North American and European dominance in research. Open access archives in Brazil and Mexico have encouraged and given greater access to Portuguese and Spanish researchers and their publishers, the initiatives of publishers in Egypt and India, and more recently mandates in Mexico and China have expanded the marketplace.

Open Access Remains ControversialOpen access journal publishing is still a young idea without the centuries of evolution of the traditional subscription and peer review methods. It took years for the online journal charging mechanisms to settle into a few discrete business models and open access still has its critics. Fundamental to the debate is the innate conflict of interest the paid gold model offers: the more that is published, the more money to be made. This creates a strong temptation to lower standards and accept anything.

Open Access Journal Publishing 2014-2017

Open access is the online digital delivery of scholarly research free of charge and without most copyright and licensing restrictions. The term “Open Access” was coined only a dozen years and continues to undergo debate regarding its free-from-cost and free-from-copyright status. The general consensus among open access publishers is a division that separates open publications into two types: gold and green, which are delivered by journals and repositories, respectively. Open access journals are peer-reviewed and usually allow for copyright to be maintained by the author. Articles which are free within journals and otherwise sold on subscription bases are dubbed “hybrid” journals. Because open access publishing removes price barriers, revenue is not necessarily this sector’s most important metric for success. Revenue in open access publishing must also be carefully denied since different OA publishers employ many business models. Each OA publishers is different and often this means differences between publications within the same stable.

Open access is a small but rare area of growth in the mature STM journal market. Yet despite OA’s rapid growth, it generates only 2.3% of the global STM market journal sales. Nonetheless open access revenue is a bright spot in an otherwise flat market—OA revenue is expected to outpace the revenue of the overall STM journal market between 2011 and 2017.

By some estimates, open access publishing already represents between one-sixth and one-fifth off the all research articles published. The directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ) has listed in its records more than 2.8 million OA articles, and Simba Information estimates that this number will continue to grow to more than 3 million by the end of 2017. The OA journals that do collect APCs often waive them because of institutional or low-income country exceptions.

Among the biggest beneficiaries of open access publishing are researchers and publishers hailing from Latin America, India and the Middle East. With the growth of regional economies and support by government policies, emerging markets have joined the ranks of Northern American and European dominance in research. Open access is still a young idea that lacks the centuries of evolution with the traditional subscription and peer review models enjoy. It took many years for the charging mechanisms that are a part of online journals to settle into several distinct business models.

Open Access Book Publishing

Open Access Book Publishing provides an overview and financial outlook for the global open access book publishing market based on specific research and analysis of the leading competitors’ performance through 2016. Simba Information has used the information it gathered through primary and secondary research to estimate market performance projected through 2020. Simba Information concluded that past trends of individual publisher output either by title or revenue was too variable for meaningful projections at the publisher level.

Key Facts & Trends

Because open access removes price barriers, revenue is not necessarily the most important metric for the sector. Furthermore, revenue must be carefully defined because OA publishers employ many different funding models. Each publisher is different and often there are differences between publications within the same stable.

Nearly 10,000 Scholarly & Academic OA Books Are Available on the Internet

The Directory of Open Access Books (DOAB) contains more than 5,300 OA scholarly books, but it is not a complete record. Simba Information estimates the total number of titles is considerably higher. DOAB relies on publishers to upload content and many do so, but there are discrepancies between the numbers listed on their websites and those listed in DOAB. Furthermore, DOAB does not include academic textbooks like those from Bookboon.com nor most of the InTechOpen titles. Simba estimates there are about 10,000 OA scholarly and academic books that fit the definitions of this report.

Open Access Books Grow Year-Over-Year

Despite rapid growth, OA book revenue only represents a fraction of a percentage of 2015 global scholarly and academic book sales. Despite its small size, open access books are a bright spot against a depressed market. While both STM and SSH book revenue is expected to decline slightly between 2016 and 2020, OA book revenue is expected to grow each year through to 2020. Open

Access Books Continue to Experiment with Business Models

While open access journals have coalesced around an APC-funded gold model, open access book funding is much more diverse. Most traditional publishers have opted for a book length APC, but many critics brood about the limited funds for research in the prime humanities and social science areas. The university presses active in these areas have relied on a variety of funding sources for decades, a combination of direct and indirect institutional funding, crowd sourcing and special non-traditional library budgets.

Most Open Access Publishers Are European SSH Presses

The typical OA book publisher among the 160 listed in the Directory of Open Access Books is a scholarly European publisher. Some are ancient companies in need of a rebirth; others have been in existence for fewer than 25 years. Approximately one quarter of publishers listed in the DOAB are university presses. For many of these publishers, both large and small, their open access books have come about through collaborative trials like Knowledge Unlatched. Most rely on humanities and social science monographs for the majority of their book output. Some of the largest of these publishers are northern European university presses.

The Large Commercial Publishers to Join Open Access Book Publishing

While the large traditional subscription-based publishers are all actively involved in OA journals, the same is not true in open access books. Springer Nature’s Palgrave Macmillan and Informa’s Routledge have OA book programs, but Elsevier, Wiley and Wolters Kluwer do not. Scholarly and academic books of all disciplines are in decline. Print sales have simply fallen faster than paid e-books have been able to replace them. The monograph, which has long relied on the academic market, has been hit the hardest. This decline falls heavily on the humanities and social sciences, so it is not surprising that HSS monograph publishers have been the first to try new models. Springer Nature and Informa are committed to social science and humanities books and OA. In books, their major initiatives have been the development of large digital subject collections of SSH monographs. These two majors have “journalized” their books the most, bringing them one step closer to potentially going all-in on OA books. Funder mandates will nudge all STM publishers to produce a number of OA books, but Simba Information does not expect OA books to become as significant to scholarly and academic publishing as OA has in journals.

Funder Mandates Will Give STM Open Access Books a Lift

Funders extended their open access mandates to books ten years after they started putting strings on their OA journal funding. The Welcome Trust took the initiative in 2013 and quickly moved to demonstrate support for SSH. These mandates will help, but primarily in STM subjects, which traditionally have larger research budgets. OA STM books will come to resemble OA STM journals with APCs gold and hybrid solutions predominating.

But SSH OA Will Go Down a Separate Path

SSH OA books will go down a different path. It will not be driven by APCs, though that proportion will grow, particularly in multi-disciplinary subjects, which are some of the fastest growing fields of research funding. SSH OA will continue to rely on a mix of financial support. Crowd-funding in the Knowledge Unlatched and Lever Press models will bring libraries into decision making and will continue to rely on a diverse stream of direct and indirect subsidies as wells as APCs.