Open Access and the Author-Pays Problem: Assuring Access for Readers and Authors in a Global Community of Scholars

Out of concern for its lifeblood—communication—academia is rushing to correct serious inequities in access and revenue distribution by embracing open access (OA) in a variety of ways: some journals provide access openly to all readers, some allow authors to pay for OA options, some share copyrights with authors to allow open sharing,etc.

For publication in some fully OA journals, though, publication charges associated with an ‘author-pays’ business model can be substantial, reflecting costs involved in production and publication of quality scholarly articles and (sometimes) significant profit margins for publishers. Such charges may constitute significant barriers for potential authors, particularly those at institutions or in countries with fewer resources.

Consequently, an OA journal for readers may in reality be a closed-access journal for authors.


This commentary is not a criticism of OA publishers with author-pays systems, such as PLoS, which has creatively faced a difficult challenge and stands as an example of a
successful non-profit OA publishing endeavor.

Nor is this commentary an attack on OA journals in general. On the contrary, this paper advocates developing a robust and vibrant variety of OA journals. Two of the authors are also publishers of OA journals that do not follow the ‘author-pays’ system, described briefly later in this commentary.