The cost profiles of alternative approaches to journal publishing
First Monday

The cost profiles of alternative approaches to journal publishing by Roger Clarke



Abstract
The digital era is having a substantial impact on journal publishing. In order to assist in analysing this impact, a model is developed of the costs incurred in operating a refereed journal. Published information and estimates are used to apply the model to a computation of the total costs and per–article costs of various forms of journal publishing. Particular attention is paid to the differences between print and electronic forms of journals, to the various forms of open access, and to the differences between not–for–profit and for–profit publishing undertakings.

Insight is provided into why for–profit publishing is considerably more expensive than equivalent activities undertaken by unincorporated mutuals and not–for–profit associations. Conclusions are drawn concerning the current debates among conventional approaches and the various open alternatives.

Contents

Introduction
The concept of open access
Journal publishing
Cost–profile analysis
Sample cost–profiles
Conclusions
Appendices

 


 

Introduction

The Internet and its associated technologies have unleashed substantial change in many aspects of life, and of business. Electronic publishing has created new possibilities, and in the process called into question many long–established practices. Of particular significance for refereed journals has been the movement commonly referred to as ‘open access’.

The impacts of electronic publishing and the open access movement are multi–faceted, and need to be considered from a variety of perspectives. This paper addresses one particular aspect: the cost–profiles of journal publishers. It does so from the perspective of those who fund the publishing of academic journals, through the pragmatic lens of the systems analyst and management accountant.

A model of journal publishing is developed that is sufficiently detailed to enable the cost–profiles of various categories of the journal publisher to be assessed. Among other things, this enables yardsticks to be developed for per–article cost, for both print publishing and e–publishing. The costs are considered largely in isolation from the sources of revenue used to cover those costs.

The paper commences by clarifying the term ‘open access’. It then considers the functions that journal publishers perform, and the categories that they can most usefully be divided into. A generic model of the journal publishing process is proposed. This enables a structured analysis of the costs involved in journal publishing. The cost–profiles of several mainstream approaches to journal publishing are examined, and assessed against available evidence. Inferences are drawn.

 

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The concept of open access

This paper is motivated by the need for understanding of changes arising from the application of digital techniques to journal publishing. This has given rise to a movement commonly referred to as ‘open access’ (OA). There is some diversity in the use of that term. This preliminary section examines its flavours, and proposes a framework that accommodates its various interpretations. It reflects a growing literature, in particular Budapest (2002), Suber (2002), Bethesda (2003), Berlin (2003), Suber (2004a, 2004b, 2004c, 2004d) and Morris (2005) [1].

A key motivation for the OA movement has been the removal of cost impediments: “Open access to scientific journal articles means online access without charge to readers or libraries” (Suber, 2002). But OA also implies that there are only very limited obstacles to be overcome in order to gain access to the content. The kinds of non–financial ‘permission barriers’ that open access seeks to avoid are:

  • the need to pre–register;
  • the need to be a member of an organisation;
  • the need to take steps to acquire a copyright licence (as distinct from automatically acquiring one);
  • the need to declare one’s identity;
  • legal constraints; and,
  • technological protections.

From a legal perspective, the term ‘open access’ implies that the consumer is not constrained by copyright or other laws from making such reproductions as are necessary to enable access in a form convenient to that consumer. From a practical perspective, the implicit assumptions are made that people have access to information infrastructure, including an appropriate device, appropriate software installed on it, and an Internet connection, and have the capability to use that infrastructure.

The concept described above might be usefully described as ‘core OA’.

Some commentators would regard any significant compromise to ‘core OA’ as being unacceptable. For others, however, there are various forms of ‘qualified OA’. Examples include:

  • all articles are open, but only after a period of time, e.g., one year after becoming accessible by subscribers or members. The term ‘delayed OA’ has been used to describe this approach;
  • some articles are open, but not all, e.g.:
    • only those articles are open for which the author has paid for open access, usefully referred to as ‘author–pays OA’;
    • only those articles are open that have been sponsored by some other party (e.g., one editor–selected article in each issue).

At the other extremity, some commentators prefer ‘extended OA’. In particular, the definition adopted in Berlin (2003) would require that there be no barrier to “distribute” and “transmit” the work. That implies that the copyright–owner must grant to anyone a licence to re–publish the work. Further, it would require that there be no barrier to “distribute derivative works”. That implies that the copyright–owner must grant to anyone a licence to adapt it as well. Neither of these is necessary for ‘access’ as that term is commonly understood.

Both the qualified and the extended interpretations of ‘open access’ deflect attention away from the key issue, which is the ability of people generally to get access to information generally, in particular reports of the outcomes of research. In order to focus on that concern, this paper adopts the ‘core OA’ notion of ‘free and unrestricted access’ to content without ‘price barriers’ or ‘permission barriers’ (Budapest, 2002; Suber, 2004a).

A further distraction arises because some authors conflate open access with the ePrints/self–archival movement. An ePrint is “the digital text of a peer–reviewed research article ... before and after refereeing” (ePrints.org, 2005). An unrefereed paper is published as a ‘preprint’, to enable colleagues to gain access to it (Harnad, 2002-). After an accreditation process, and usually considerable further development, a ‘refereed article’ is published by the journal whose editor and reviewers performed accreditation of the work. Subsequently, the final version may also be published by the author as a ‘postprint’.

Preprints are extraordinarily important to the dissemination of knowledge, and the author has contributed to discussions in the area (in particular Clarke, 2005a, 2005c and 2006). The focus of this paper, however, is not on ePrints, preprints, or postprints. It is on refereed articles, with particular reference to the still new context comprising digital publishing, a very widely available information infrastructure, and demand for open access to reports on research.

 

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Journal publishing

In order to generate cost–profiles, a framework is required within which the costs involved in journal publishing can be identified and estimated. This section develops such a framework, based on a definition of terms, an assessment of the functions that journal publishers perform, and consideration of the key characteristics of the various kinds of journal publisher.

The nature of an academic journal

Throughout this paper, the conventions are adopted that ‘an academic article’ is a written expression of current and extended information about some specific topic within a discipline or research domain, and that ‘a journal’ is an outlet for academic articles. The term ‘journal’ may, however, mean many different things to different people in different contexts. In particular, the term may refer to:

  • a ‘place’:
    • to acquire accreditation for academic articles. The conventional form of accreditation involves ‘acceptance’ by an academic editor, following a process referred to as ‘peer review’ — although it is generally performed by referees who are senior and/or specialist in the relevant discipline and research domain;
    • to display the accreditation of academic articles;
    • to store academic articles, for:
      • discoverability; and,
      • accessibility;
  • a nucleus and infrastructure to support quality assurance;
  • a means to achieve revenue generation, in order to:
    • offset costs;
    • achieve return on investment;
    • build a product portfolio.

This paper contemplates all of these senses of the word.

The new electronic context has created the possibility that journals may be deconstructed, and converted from a ‘place’ to a ‘space’. This could be achieved through a mechanism such as as a certificate, signed by the editor, and associated with the paper (e.g., Smith 1999). Under this vision, the repository function would be outsourced (to authors, institutions and associations), the infrastructure function would depend on mainstream tools, and the revenue–generation role would largely disappear, or be absorbed by the repository operator. The core quality assurance role would remain in place, probably supplemented by a contents page that lists the accredited papers, and for each of them provides links to a copy/ies in whichever repository/ies it is known to be in.

Journal publisher functions

This paper specifically excludes from its scope the front–end activities of research, authoring, self–review and revision; and, the back–end activities of accessing and using published articles. The focus is on the intermediate activities between those research production and research consumption activities. The trigger for journal–publishing activity is the receipt of a ‘submission’, that is to say a draft paper for review.

Various approaches have been adopted to explaining what, broadly, it is that journal publishers do. For example, Geyer–Schulz, et al. (2003 [2]) suggest six ‘core processes of value–adding activities’: content direction, content packaging, market making, transport, delivery support and services, and interface and systems.

In previous research that the author has conducted in this area, including Clarke (2006), the following additional functions of journal publishers have been identified:

  • Quality Assurance:
    • for relevance to the particular journal;
    • for content (semantics) — which would be perceived by many people as the journal’s central function;
    • for expression (syntactics);
    • for presentation (formatting and visual style), including ‘branding’;
    • for discoverability (in particular, keywords and citation format);
  • Promotion, Marketing and Selling;
  • Logistics (i.e., distribution or access, depending on whether a push or pull model is used);
  • Revenue Collection;
  • Responsibility for Contingent Liabilities, including copyright infringement, breach of confidence, defamation, negligence, negligent misstatement, misleading or deceptive conduct, contempt of court, and breach of laws relating to censorship, discrimination, racial vilification, harassment, and privacy; and,
  • Governance.

One of the few contributions that has adopted an approach similar to this analysis is King and Tenopir (1998). Their cost analysis distinguishes five “publishing components”:

  • the processing of articles;
  • the processing of other items (e.g., editorials, book reviews, tables of contents);
  • reproduction;
  • distribution; and,
  • support.

King and Tenopir overcame some of the weaknesses of earlier studies, which had failed to reflect quite basic differences between fixed, variable and average costs. The present study differs, however, in that it is undertaken at a deeper level of granularity, with a stronger focus on electronic tools and electronic dissemination than was appropriate almost a decade earlier, and in the context of a maturing OA movement.

A further difference between 1998 and the present is the extent to which journals’ primary, large–volume business processes are supported by electronic tools. Commercial publishers have invested large sums of money in proprietary tools intended to deliver or sustain competitive advantage. For example, Elsevier’s ScienceDirect was declared to a U.K. House of Commons Committee to have cost Stg£200 million (USD$360 million) to develop and to require ongoing investment of “well over Stg£100 million” (Davis, 2004).

At the other extreme, not–for–profits have sought out inexpensive alternatives. Most significant among these have been, at the back end, Google search facilities, and at the front end, the Open Journal Systems (OJS 2006). OJS was released in November 2002 following 18 months of development, and by early 2007 claimed to support in excess of 900 eJournals (Willinsky, 2005). First Monday converted to OJS in October 2007.

How resources are mobilised to support journal publishing is not the primary focus of this paper. Sources of cash, kind and effort include journal subscribers, sponsors of various kinds, authors and especially members of the community providing gratis effort. In most cases, multiple sources are used. A fuller discussion of business models to support journal publishing is in a companion paper, Clarke (2005b).

Journal publisher categories

The functions identified in the preceding sub–section are performed by organisations of considerable diversity. Dimensions of difference include the following:

  • some are specific–purpose organisations, whereas others are part of a larger, multi–purpose organisation;
  • some are incorporated, some are a division within an incorporated organisation, and some are unincorporated;
  • some are closely associated with a community (usually of a disciplinary or professional nature, in some cases within a geographical region), others function as outsourced service providers to such communities, and some are entrepreneurial suppliers to them;
  • some publish a single journal, whereas others publish a number, or many;
  • some are cross–subsidised from other activities; some are not–for–profit but self–funding; some are part of a not–for–profit organisation but are expected to generate an excess that can be used to cross–subsidise other activities; and, some are for–profit business enterprises, in some cases profit–sharing with associations;
  • some have little or no cash flow, some operate on a moderate financial scale, and some are substantial businesses.

Hovav and Gray (2001) identified the diversity of approach adopted by e–journals in particular. Even within the ‘open access’ movement, as many as nine variants have been identified (Willinsky, 2003b).

There is a strong tendency for the characteristics to cluster, enabling concentration on a few categories. The taxonomy used in this paper is shown in Exhibit 1.

Exhibit 1: A taxonomy of journal publishers.
Description
Term Used
An informal association of a modest number of people with a common interest Unincorporated Mutual
A formally constituted not–for–profit association of individuals, usually within a particular discipline, profession and/or geographical region; or a not–for–profit business unit within such an organisation Not–For–Profit Association
A for–profit corporation, or a profit–oriented business unit of a not–for–profit association For–Profit Publisher

A cost framework

A framework is required that will support the identification of cost elements, and analysis and estimation of costs for the three categories of journal–publisher identified above, under various circumstances.

One possible source of such a framework is a process model of journal publishing. For example, Geyer–Schulz, et al. (2003, [3]) identify two categories of business processes, which they refer to as ‘traditional activities’: initiation of content reviewing, process of peer–reviewing, abstracting, paper and/or digital print, review and distribution; and ‘potential future activities’: cataloguing, structuring, personalized data evaluation, stockkeeping, licensing, portal services, lending, support/user guidance, research tools, database services and payment services. Models of this kind are valuable, but they do not satisfy the needs of this paper.

Another alternative is to apply theories of economics to the problem as is done in Page, et al. (1997), Friedlander and Bessette (2003) and McCabe and Snyder (2004, 2005). But the kind of framework necessary to support this analysis is less concerned with micro–economic theory, and more with the pragmatics of managing a business.

Management accounting draws a distinction between costs that are readily associable with the outputs of the production process (‘direct costs’), and those which are not (‘indirect costs’). Applying these concepts in the context of journal publishing, however, is problematical, because the outputs are multifaceted (comprising pages within papers within issues, and copies of issues within complete production runs).

In this context, the more useful distinction is between:

  • ‘fixed costs’. These are associated with the creation, existence and sustenance of an operation, and are independent of the volume of production. Considerable effort is involved in establishing a journal. There are ongoing activities relating to such things as marketing, archive management and governance, and infrastructure has to be maintained; and,
  • ‘variable costs’. These vary with volume. A sufficiently careful analysis relates each cost to the appropriate aspect of volume. Key aspects are the numbers of submissions, of accepted articles, of issues, and of copies of issues that are produced and that are distributed. Interest costs are related to the quantum of financial resources in use.

The framework used in this paper reflects prior analyses that are evident in a gradually expanding literature, notably Odlyzko (1997), King and Tenopir (1998), Bot, et al. (1998), Rowland (2002), Willinsky (2003a), Suber (2004c), King (2004), Hawley (2004) and Morris (2005). It only partly reflects the very substantial differences that exist in the communication, accreditation, debate and consensus styles of different disciplines (Valauskas, 1997).

The elements of the framework are identified in Exhibit 2.

Exhibit 2: Cost model overview.
 
  • Establishment
  • Operations
    • Submission-Related
    • Article-Related
    • Issue-Related
    • Generic
  • Infrastructure Maintenance
  • Financial Aspects

The framework’s scope expressly excludes the activities of the author. In relation to research, writing and re–writing, this is appropriate because this paper’s focus is on publishing. It could, however, be argued that some of the efforts of authors should not be excluded, e.g., where they perform publishing–related tasks, such as reference checking, formatting of tables and illustrations, formatting of text in accordance with the journal’s norms and template, and final, pre–publication review of the edited version of the paper.

The framework expressly excludes consumers’ costs in accessing the journal, and the costs of access — intermediaries such as cataloguers, abstracting services, post–publication reviewers, third–party repositories, mirror–site operators, consolidators, and research assistants.

 

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Cost–profile analysis

This section applies the above framework, in order to identify the items within each element that may give rise to costs. For each element, a brief discussion is provided. The purpose of the discussion is to enable estimates to be developed for each element, under various assumptions about the profile of the publisher and the journal.

This and the following section draw on the author’s experience as an author who has interacted with 20–30 journals in multiple disciplines, as an officer of several disciplinary associations, as an editorial board member for various journals, as an editor of a dozen journal special issues and conference proceedings, and as an author, editor and publisher of a dozen monographs. The analysis and estimates have also benefited from conversations with, and informal reviews by, editors and publishers in each of the categories of journal publishing.

In the tables below, the following terms are used:

  • senior academic. By this is meant a person of standing in the relevant discipline or profession, who earns an income from their substantive position, and performs work relating to the journal in their own time, and/or in their employer’s time but as part of their employment duties;
  • junior academic or student. By this is meant a person working under the supervision of a senior academic, possibly in a substantive position, possibly remunerated within the context of casual employment or a research grant, and/or in their own time;
  • paid executive. By this is meant a senior executive of an association or corporation; and,
  • paid staff. By this is meant staff–members of or contractors to an association or corporation, with relevant professional expertise, or technical or administrative skills.

Establishment

Exhibit 3 presents the analysis of the first segment of costs, which are those that relate to the formation of the undertaking.

Exhibit 3: Establishment costs.

1

Conception and articulation of the journal’s name, scope, philosophy and modus operandi This is generally undertaken by senior academics, but may require time from paid executives
2
Preliminary negotiations within the intellectual community This is generally undertaken by senior academics
3
Preliminary negotiations with potential providers of operational resources This is generally undertaken by senior academics
4
Preliminary negotiations with potential providers of infrastructure This is generally undertaken by senior academics, but may require time from paid executives
5
Acquisition of investment and working capital This may be undertaken by senior academics, but may require time from paid executives
6
Appointment of Board, Editor and Editorial Committee(s) This is generally undertaken by senior academics, although appointment of the Editor may require time from paid executives
7
Accumulation of Referees List This is generally undertaken by senior academics
8
Acquisition of infrastructure This may be undertaken by senior academics, but may require time from paid executives. Web sites may be run using gratis, open source tools (ranging from simple to highly sophisticated) or commercial tools involving expensive licence fees. Willinsky (2003a) reports that the capital cost of Open Journal Systems was about US$60,000
9
Acquisition of operational resources This is generally undertaken by senior academics, but may require time from paid executives
10
Acquisition of intellectual property (logos, trademarks, copyrights, licences) This may be undertaken by senior academics, or require time from paid executives. The intensity of effort invested varies from virtually nothing to substantial
11
Preparation of formal components of the printed journal and Web site This is likely to be undertaken by senior academics, but may require time from paid staff
12
Preparation of Web site This may be undertaken by junior academics or students, or require time from paid staff
13
Announcement to the community This is generally undertaken by senior academics, but may require time from paid executives, and perhaps paid advertisements
14
Issue of initial calls for papers This is generally undertaken by the Editorial Committee

Operations

This section draws together the various aspects of a journal’s cost profile that relate to its ongoing operations. Some costs are associated with the submissions that arrive. Other costs arise in relation to the articles that are accepted for publication. Yet others are associated with the discrete issues that the journal publishes. Further operating costs, referred to in this paper as ‘generic’, are independent of each of those groups of activities.

Submission–related

Exhibit 4 deals with costs arising in relation to submissions of various kinds, including papers, notes, and letters. These may arrive by the score, in many cases by the hundred, but in some cases by the thousand. The business processes involved include internal correspondence within the Editorial Committee, correspondence with the author, and re–submission. Considerable effort and time are invested in what is conventionally referred to as ‘peer review’. For each submission, the correspondence generated among referees and the editorial team will generally be an absolute minimum of 6–8 (1 acknowledgement, 2–3 requests, 2–3 reports and 1 notification), and will generally be between 10 and 50 items per submission.

Exhibit 4: Submission–related costs.

1

Receipt, acknowledgement and management This is generally undertaken by the Editor, Editorial Committee and Referees, possibly supported by junior academics or students, or perhaps using the time of paid staff
2
Conduct of the assessment process This is generally undertaken by the Editor, Editorial Committee and Referees, generally gratis, but possibly with an honorarium for the Editor, and possibly allowances, free advertising or similar partial recompense

Article–related

The segment of the cost profile in Exhibit 5 relates to those articles that survive the refereeing process and are accepted for publication. There may be dozens, scores, or in some cases hundreds of accepted articles. For some journals this may be a considerable proportion of all submissions (e.g., 30–60 percent), but for many it is a small percentage (perhaps 20 percent, with as low as 10 percent reported by Nature 2004 and by leading journals in the information systems field, such as the Journal of the Association for Information Systems).

Exhibit 5: Article–related costs.

1

Production editing This is undertaken possibly by the Editor or a member of the Editorial Committee, but more likely by a junior academic or student, or using the time of paid staff. Some of the effort may be outsourced to the author
2
Cataloguing The preparation, review and formatting of metadata, and entry into appropriate catalogue(s), is generally undertaken by a junior academic or student, or using the time of paid staff. Some of the effort may be outsourced to the author

Issue–related

A journal is commonly published as a series of issues. An issue comprises a discrete set of refereed articles and perhaps other submissions, released at a particular point in time. An issue of a printed journal typically contains 4–15 articles. The frequency is most typically monthly or quarterly, but may be weekly, bi–monthly, annually, linked to an event such as a conference, or irregular. The periodic cycle of journal issues gives rise to the costs detailed in Exhibit 6.

In the electronic context, the economic incentive to bundle accepted papers into an ‘issue’ is much less significant, and for some journals the analysis undertaken in this paper may need to treat each article as a separate ‘issue’. In addition, markedly different patterns of production and distribution costs arise, depending on whether issues are published in hard–copy, electronic form, or both.

Exhibit 6: Issue–related costs.

1

Editorial This is undertaken by the Editor
2
Production-editing This is undertaken possibly the Editor or a member of the Editorial Committee, but more likely a junior academic or student, or using the time of paid staff
3
Production For hard–copy issues, printing is likely to be either performed by paid staff, or outsourced.
For soft–copy issues, uploading and release of the transmittable format (commonly HTML or PDF), may be undertaken by the Editor or a member of the Editorial Committee, but more likely by a junior academic or student, or using the time of paid staff
4
Protection For soft–copy issues, protections such as password– and/or cryptography–based locking mechanisms or watermarks may be imposed. Activities like this are likely to be either performed by paid staff, or outsourced, or possibly performed by special–purpose software
5
Distribution For hard–copy issues, distribution is likely to be either performed by paid staff, or outsourced.
For soft–copy issues, generation of the issue home page and issue of an announcement to the subscription list may be undertaken by the Editor or a member of the Editorial Committee, but more likely by a junior academic or student, or using the time of paid staff

The term ‘first copy costs’ is sometimes used in the literature, but is of limited use as an analytical tool. One possible interpretation of it is the sum of the submission–related costs — as noted above (but only for those submissions that appear in a particular issue), the article–related costs — (2), and some of the issue–related costs addressed in this sub–section (but excluding production and distribution).

Generic

Exhibit 7 brings together those cost–items that arise from ongoing business operations, but that are not directly related to any of submissions, accepted articles or issues.

Exhibit 7: Generic costs.

1

Marketing This is a highly variable activity, from effectively nil to substantial.
It may be undertaken by senior academics assisted by junior academics or students, or require time from paid executives and paid staff
2
Customer relationship management This is a highly variable activity, from minimalist records to a substantial database, and minimalist to substantial customisation of services. It includes the costs of collecting revenue.
This may be undertaken by a junior academic or student, or may require time from paid staff
3
Archive management This is a highly variable activity, ranging from leaving the articles in an accessible location, to releasing them from subscriber–only to open access after a period of time, to strongly protected access, including payment facilities for per–view and short–period access.
The more sophisticated facilities may (but may not) require software licences, and time from paid staff
4
Indexing This is a variable activity, ranging from leaving the site open to Web crawlers and perhaps pointing to one of them, to using a gratis local search engine, or a for–fee local search engine, or a sophisticated facility including auto–generated cross–linkages among articles within the journal or a journal collection, or across multiple collections.
The more sophisticated facilities may (but may not) require software licences, and time from paid staff
5
Governance This involves meetings of the Editorial Committee(s) and periodic reports to stakeholders.
These may be undertaken by senior academics, may possibly require time from paid executives, and may involve travel costs

Infrastructure maintenance

Costs may be incurred in sustaining the technical infrastructure and the intellectual infrastructure on which the journal’s operation depends. These costs, described in Exhibit 8, are distinguishable from, and additional to, the investment that was necessary to establish them in the first place. They are recurrent, over varying cycles. The convention in investment analysis is to make the simplifying assumption that an annual allowance can be set aside to cover them.

Exhibit 8: Infrastructure maintenance costs.

1

Editor and Editorial Committee(s) This is occasional, ongoing activity by the Editorial Committee(s), undertaken by senior academics
2
A pool of referees This is ongoing activity by the Editor and Editorial Committee(s)
3
Communications channels This is generally arranged by senior academics, supported by junior academics or students
4
Norms for communications and formatting This is ongoing activity by the Editor and Editorial Committee(s)
5
Production facilities For hard-copy issues, this is likely to require support by paid staff, or outsourced service providers.
For soft–copy issues, it is more likely to be guided by senior academics, and undertaken by junior academics or students, or using the time of paid staff
6
Subscription-list facilities As for production facilities above
7
Distribution mechanisms As for production facilities above

Financial aspects

Exhibit 9 reflects the financial value of capital employed in the endeavour. These costs are addressed differently, depending on the business model employed. Approaches include sponsorship (a ‘no–interest loan’), a loan at lower than commercial rates, a loan at commercial rates that reflect the assessed risk to the lender, risk/profit–sharing, and fully risk–taking/profit–sharing. Journal undertakings embody risk, but subscription–based journals have also had very considerable up–side potential.

Exhibit 9: Financial costs.

1

Interest on investment capital The assets required to run the operation may be insignificant, or may be gifts, provided by grants, or sponsored.
Otherwise, the financial value tied up in the assets needs to be remunerated as interest payments or dividends
2
Interest on working capital As for investment capital above

 

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Sample cost–profiles

This section applies the model presented in the previous section, in order to develop an appreciation of the costs involved in various approaches to journal publishing. The first sub–section outlines the approach adopted, and the second summarises the results and provides access to the detailed computations. The final sub–section compares the results against other data evident in the literature.

Method

The estimates provided below and in the Appendices draw on the author’s experiences as enumerated earlier, on the financial statements or budgets of a modest number of unincorporated mutual and association journals, and on interpolation based on the limited information publicly available about the budgets of for–profit journal publishers.

All costs are expressed in $US, and are loosely based on current costs in ‘advanced western nations’ such as the U.S., the U.K., The Netherlands, Canada and Australia. The differences among costs in those countries, probably +/-10–20 percent, are of the same order of magnitude as the anticipated error factors in the estimates. All labour costs are intended to include labour overheads (such as leave and superannuation) and organisational overheads (such as serviced workspace, equipment and utilities).

The model gives rise to an enormous range of possible outputs, depending on the characteristics of the particular journal. To test the model, a small number of mainstream patterns are defined, and the costs computed on an annualised basis. In addition, because of the current topicality of ‘author–pays OA’, a per–paper equivalent is calculated.

The model expressly avoids imputing financial costs for non–financial sponsorship for journal publishing activities. This is of course highly significant, because the time that academics and other professionals spend on editorial and refereeing activities alone is very large. Similarly, sponsorship in–kind is provided by employers of academics and professionals in such areas as access to information infrastructure, submission handling, and in some cases hosting of the electronic publication. It is appropriate that such costs be omitted rather than imputed, because this reflects the realities of managing a journal, and of choosing among alternative journal publishing models.

A further simplifying assumption has been made. The estimates are for journals whose content is predominantly straightforward text, with supporting tables, and figures that do not require enormous precision. Hence the model does not reflect the additional costs that arise in such circumstances as the following:

  • more challenging pre–production activities and associated infrastructure and expertise, necessary to deal with such features as:
    • complex type–setting (e.g., for mathematical notations, and for unusual non–Roman scripts); and,
    • high–quality colour graphics; and,
  • where particularly resource–intensive forms of review are involved, as is the case with clinical medicine.

Results

The model was applied to a small set of circumstances. These were selected with three criteria in mind. They were to represent the range of contexts; they were to be realistic, so as to enable meaningful inferences to be drawn; and, they were to be sufficiently small in number to be manageable. The results are summarised in Exhibit 10.

Costs for all three categories of journal–publisher distinguished in Exhibit 1 were evaluated. In each case, both hard–copy and eJournal approaches were considered. For the kinds of relatively large–scale journals run by professional associations and commercial publishers, the key features chosen were quarterly issues of 7–8 articles, and 10,000 copies. Journals run by unincorporated mutuals are typically specialised, and the profile evaluated comprised quarterly issues of five articles, and 300 copies. The calculations are provided in the Appendices to this paper.

Exhibit 10: The cost profiles of journal–publisher categories.
Category Characteristics Cost Author-Pays Cost
Unincorporated Mutuals      
Unincorporated Mutual hard–copy journal 100 submissions p.a., a quarterly issue containing 5 articles, 300 subscribers, with hard copies produced and distributed by an outsourced service provider $20,000 p.a. $1,000 per article
Unincorporated Mutual gratis eJournal 100 submissions p.a., a quarterly issue containing 5 articles, made available on the Web open and gratis Entirely absorbed by sponsors Nil
Not–For–Profit Associations (Assumes publishing is funded from membership subscriptions)    
Association with a single, hard–copy journal 10,000 members, a quarterly issue containing 7–8 articles, with hard copies despatched to all members, and soft copies available on the Web open and gratis to members, and to all comers after 1 year $112,000 p.a. $3,750 per article
Association with a single eJournal 10,000 members, a quarterly issue containing 7–8 articles, with soft copies available on the Web open and gratis to members, and to all comers after 1 year $22,000 p.a. $730 per article
Multi–Journal Association that publishes 5 journals Same as above.
Economies of scale and scope roughly balanced against diseconomies
Same as above Same as above
For–Profit Publishers (Includes business units within not–for–profit associations that are depended upon by the association to generate a surplus)    
Multi–Journal Commercial Publisher, applying conventional, subscription–based access Many journals, quarterly issues each containing 7–8 articles, with hard copies despatched to subscribers, and soft copies available on the Web to paid subscribers and to others on a per–article basis for a fee. Substantial investment in brand–image, strong competitive stance, aggressive protection of content Hard Copy: $137,000 p.a.
eJournal only: $112,000 p.a.
Hard Copy: $4,600
eJournal only: $3,700
Multi–Journal Commercial Publisher, applying the ‘author–pays OA’ approach As above, but funded primarily by authors rather than subscribers, and perhaps without content protection Hard Copy: $127,000 p.a.
eJournal only: $102,000 p.a.
Hard Copy: $4,200
eJournal only: $3,400

Comparisons with the literature

Comparison with data in the published literature is not simple, because the authors concerned have made widely varying assumptions, and in some cases it is not entirely clear what they were. This section accordingly identifies key data in the existing literature which is variously consistent with or in apparent conflict with the outcomes of the analysis conducted in this paper.

In Odlyzko (1995) and Odlyzko (1997), the figure of US$US4,000 per article was suggested for conventional publishing, and US$300–1,000 per article for electronic publishing. These are broadly consistent with the results of the analysis conducted in this paper.

The base configuration used in King and Tenopir (1998) resulted in total costs of US$633,745, or US$5,125 per article. The differences from the figures reached in this paper’s analysis (US$127,000/US$137,000 and US$3,750/US$4,600 per article) appear to reflect a publication four times the size, all submission handling performed on a fully paid basis, higher overheads, and higher printing costs prevalent a decade and more ago.

Of the six journals examined in Hovav and Gray (2001), four were e–journals whose costs were entirely defrayed by sponsorship, mostly from academics and their host institutions. One was an e–journal publishing c. 80 articles p.a. for an annual cost of US$25,000 p.a. This was apparently expended on submissions management and production editing, for which the model in this paper uses an estimate of US$22,000 p.a. The other was a Kluwer print journal “with electronic presence”, costing US$200,000 p.a., which is rather higher than the US$137,000 arising from the analysis in the present paper.

In Bergstrom (2001), ‘first copy costs’ were judged to be about US$100 per page and the ‘marginal subscriber costs’ about US$.02 per subscriber per page. For the journal configurations considered in this analysis, that results in, for the not–for–profit, an estimate of $42,400 compared with $20,000; and for the for–profit, US$210,000 cf. US$112,000 or US$137,000. Bergstrom was focused specifically on economics journals, however.

In Rowland (2002), the suggestion was made of US$200 per submission for handling costs, which is in line with the US$10,000 p.a. figure used in the tables in this paper.

In Willinsky (2003a), pre-production costs (“copyediting and proof–reading”) were estimated at US$10,000 annually for a typical quarterly journal. This paper uses a similar figure.

In King (2004), author–funded open access publishing was suggested as costing between US$500 and US$1,750 per article when conducted by unincorporated mutuals and associations, and US$3,000–US$4,000 per article for commercial publishers. King used a very similar, indicative US$100,000 for investment funding “for start–up, capital requirements, future research and development, and operations.” He used a fixed figure of US$40 per subscriber p.a. for hard–copy production and distribution costs. The model developed in this paper uses the figure of US$25 per subscriber p.a., but, unlike King (2004), allows for sensitivity to volume.

In SQW (2004), estimates are provided of US$1,425 to US$2,750 per article, “depending on the rejection rate and editorial quality of the journal.” The model developed in this paper distinguishes costs per submitted paper and per published paper, but does not treat editorial quality as being a significant determinant of cost. Morris applied a multiplier of 1.6 for overheads and profits, to reach US$2,250 to US$4,375. These estimates used King’s figure of US$40 per subscriber p.a. for hard copy production and distribution. These are not greatly different from the estimates derived from the analysis in this paper.

In evidence to the U.K. House of Commons, Elsevier (2004) stated that “even the highest article fees charged by Open Access publishers today (US$1,500) cover only about 40–60 percent of the estimated total costs to publish an article of the quality that researchers are used to today.” This implies that their own estimate of the average is US$2,500–US$3,750 per article. This is broadly in line with the inferences drawn from the analysis in this paper.

The BioMed Central’s author–pays open–access model (2005) involves costs to each author of a published article of US$630–US$1,595, depending on the journal. The Public Library of Science (PLOS) began with its rate set at US$1,500, but shifted to US$1,250–US$2,500 in mid–2006. (The variations reflect whether the journal is only available electronically or also in hard copy, and in the case of PLOS whether the subject matter is clinical in nature). Butler (2006) has suggested that even the higher figures are unsustainable (but some care is necessary because that report is by a commercial publisher with a vested interest in undermining the credibility of open access). The figures derived from the analysis in this paper suggest that such figures are, on the one hand, very likely to be sustainable for an e–journal, but, on the other, challenging for a print journal, particularly in the case of high review cost clinical subject matter.

The “author–pays” movement has spawned “hybrid journals”, which support both author–pays for open articles, and conventional subscription–only arrangements. The first mover was Springer Open Choice in 2004, which set the price at US$3,000 (2005). Blackwell’s Online Open model set its price at US$2,500 (2005). More than a dozen publishers now offer this option (Suber 2003–). Each journal has to elect to make the option available, and each author has to elect to use it. It is accordingly not directly comparable with any of the cost profiles developed in this paper. The figures are, however, not greatly different.

In Willinsky (2005), examples are referred to of both an eJournal with zero budget, and “a small group of electronic journals that were spending in the area of $20,000 a year.” These are consistent with the analysis undertaken in this paper.

In Willinsky [4], the average of a sample of Canadian social science and humanities journals was computed as 561 subscribers, and costs of either Can$56,620 p.a. (print–based, actual costs in 2003) or Can$24,789 p.a. (eJournal only, computed). The print–based case falls midway between two of the models used in the this paper, both in terms of the characteristics and the costs. The eJournal case, on the other hand, is in fairly close accord (US$22,000 cf. Can$24,789).

Most recently, Willinsky and Mendis (2007) reports the case of “a small scholarly association with 220 members”, which has applied Willinsky’s Open Journal Systems (OJS, 2006) to achieve an open access eJournal, with a ‘registered alert list’ of 450 readers, on a zero budget. This corresponds with the results of the analysis conducted in this paper.

Comparison with the existing literature suggests that the model developed and applied in this paper is broadly in line with prior analyses, but highlights variations that warrant deeper investigation. Importantly, this paper offers something that previous publications lack — an explicit model that enables deeper investigations to be performed.

 

++++++++++

Conclusions

This final section provides some general comments, discusses more specific inferences about cost–profiles, and draws out the implications of the analysis for for–profit journal–publishers.

General conclusions

The cost–profile framework and the cost–profile model described earlier in this paper require examination, criticism and enhancement. The estimates provided for each particular category of journal–publisher also described earlier and the Appendices similarly require study and improvement. The results do appear, however, to be broadly in line with the various estimates available in the literature.

The model has the further advantage of being sufficiently transparent and articulated that it can be applied to analyse the cost–profiles of different variants of journal–publishing, and to conduct comparisons among alternative approaches. The model may therefore offer considerable benefits for many categories of stakeholder. In particular, it may be of assistance to editorial teams, and executives in both incorporated and unincorporated associations and for–profit publishing organisations. It may also be useful for observers of the dynamics of publishing in an era of considerable change.

Some inferences about cost–profiles

The cost–profiles discussed above are of necessity based on many assumptions, and on data whose quality could reasonably be questioned. With those important qualifications, some inferences can be drawn from the data. The quantum of sponsorship by senior academics, and by their employers, represents a very substantial proportion of the publishing costs of all refereed journals. As Odlyzko (1997) put it, “the direct costs of a journal article are dwarfed by various indirect costs and subsidies.” The sponsorship share appears proportionately smaller in the case of for–profit journal publishing, but mainly because the total cost is higher rather than because the scale of academic sponsorship is significantly lower.

An unincorporated mutual can produce a limited quantity hard–copy journal for US$20,000 p.a., and an eJournal for US$8,000 p.a. For costs of this scale, it is not unduly challenging to find sponsors, and to run a gratis eJournal ‘on the smell of an oil–rag.’ Sustaining the commitment of senior academics would appear to be the most critical survival factor.

Because of the low cost of an eJournal, it can be easily supported by an association with a membership of as little as a few hundred. A hard–copy journal, on the other hand, needs an association with a few thousand members if it is to ‘carry’ the journal using only a small proportion of its members’ fees.

It is not clear that the net effect of economies of diseconomies of scale and scope is of any great significance, and hence the cost–profiles of publishers of multiple journals may not show much advantage over those of organisations that publish a single journal. Such advantages as do exist may be even less important in the case of eJournals.

For–profit publishers have higher cost–profiles than not–for–profit associations, because of the additional functions that they perform, in particular their much greater investment in branding, customer relationship management and content protection. The difference is particularly marked in the case of eJournals — a computed per–article cost of US$3,400 compared with US$730. This point is sufficiently significant that further examination is warranted.

Implications for for–profit journal publishing

The model invites focus on some important questions about publishing–for–profit in comparison with publishing by not–for–profit associations and unincorporated mutuals. To the extent that the model and the data are fairly indicative of the state of play, it would appear that open access journal publishing is achievable through not–for–profit channels far more cheaply and efficiently than through for–profit organisations.

The first area of interest is comparisons between cost–profiles. One difference is in hard–copy production and distribution costs. Large associations achieve relatively low per–copy costs because of the scale of their membership lists; whereas many journals published for profit have much smaller print runs and hence higher per–copy costs. But the most significant reasons why the costs of for–profit publishers are higher appear to be as follows:

  • establishment costs. In a for–profit initiative, considerable executive and professional time is spent on market research, strategic negotiations, intellectual property aspects, and Web site development. Moreover, a for–profit publisher is generally not in a position to ensure that these tasks are performed on a voluntary basis or are cross–subsidised from other, complementary activities. This involves an indicative US$100,000 of investment for a new journal;
  • infrastructure maintenance costs. Branding and content protection are vital to for–profit publishers; but they are less critical for an association, and they are seldom of as much concern to an unincorporated mutual;
  • operating costs. More executive and professional time is spent on marketing, customer relationship management and content protection. The electronic services needed to support these functions are more complex, and require more expensive infrastructure and technical staff;
  • financial costs. Interest needs to be paid, and a surplus generated in order to provide a sufficient after–tax return on the funds employed.

The overall impact was recently summarised as follows: “All the evidence shows that non–profit journals are on average ... less expensive ... Studies in various subject areas have consistently shown that commercial journals [levy subscription fees] 2–5 times as much as their not–for–profit equivalents” (Morris, 2005). The analysis conducted in this paper suggests that part of the reason for their higher fees is their substantially higher cost–profile. The other part is the super profits arising from the entrenched monopoly that an established journal represents.

The higher costs of for–profit publishing need to be seen in the context of the benefits that arise from them.

During the long era in which journals were of necessity produced in hard–copy, specialist publishing companies were repositories of expertise on pre–production, production and distribution. The diverse professional and technical skills involved had to be managed, and publishing companies provided operations management expertise as well. There were also potentially significant economies of scale and scope that large operations could convert into cost advantages.

In the early twenty–first century, pre–production is far less forbidding than it once was. So are production and distribution. And hence so is management. Economies of scale and scope are less significant, and more closely balanced with the diseconomies that arise from having all activities forced into a mould. In the hard–copy world, for–profit publishers continue to offer some benefits, but far less than they once did.

As journals have migrated to dual–mode publishing and to purely electronic formats, the advantages originally offered by for–profit publishers have dissipated. The level of professionalism required to operate an eJournal remains significant, but it is not out of the reach of committed senior academics supported by junior academics and students. Acquisition of infrastructure, and management of infrastucture and processes, are less challenging than was previously the case.

The distinctive differences that remain in for–profit publishing are:

  • higher–quality branding;
  • more active marketing;
  • more aggressive customer management; and,
  • content protection.

But the primary beneficiaries of these features are the publisher and its owners. Only in the case of for–profit business units within not–for–profit associations are the owners closely associated with an academic community. Academic communities have little incentive to contribute to the funding of sophisticated technical features that are designed to support organistions’ strategic and marketing objectives rather than community service. In short, the ‘value–add’ that for–profit publishers offer appears to be of little or no benefit to academic communities.

For–profit publishers have long been successful intermediaries between the authors and accreditors, on the one hand, and the consumers of refereed articles and their support services, on the other. Since the advent of the public Internet, however, much has been written about the way in which it converts marketplaces to marketspaces, extends the reach of market participants, and creates the scope for disintermediation (e.g., Malone, et al., 1987; Brown, 2001; Howard, 2001). In the new context, are for–profit publishers still needed?

The following possible bases exist whereby for–profit publishers can sustain their role:

  • the analysis and inferences in this paper may be incorrect. It may be that for–profit publishers continue to offer considerable benefits, and hence the pre–conditions for disintermediation may not exist;
  • there may be important services that for–profit publishers perform, which have been overlooked or undervalued, and which may be (re)discovered and expanded upon;
  • there may be important, new forms of value–adding that for–profit publishers can offer. One example is the provision of hyperlinks from articles to the sources of quotations and citations. On the other hand, a publisher can apply this over their own journals, but may not be able to link effectively to those run by other organisations. What researchers actually want is direct linkages across the whole corpus of literature that is directly, and even indirectly, relevant to their discipline;
  • there may be ways in which for–profit publishers can encourage authors to prefer their publications to those of unincorporated mutuals and not–for–profit associations;
  • exploitation of market power may enable for–profit publishers, or at least the largest of them, to sustain their dominance. There are many sources of market power, including the following:
    • barriers to entry (such as the time required for a new journal to develop reputation). These may be high enough that existing journals may remain unchallenged for a significant period of time;
    • switching costs. In relation to existing journals, it may be feasible for publishers to keep switching costs sufficiently high that contracts are left much as they are;
    • control over backlists. The control exercised by for–profit publishers over a journal’s archives may be sufficient to preclude major changes. This control arises through possession, through proprietary or obscure media and recording formats, and in many cases through copyright ownership;
    • bundling. This has been used successfully for many years, and as long as a publisher sustains a critical mass of journals, this alone may be sufficient to sustain revenue and profit levels.

The journal publishing arena appears to be in a state of flux, stimulated by the new economics of Internet era ePublishing. The framework, model, estimates and findings reported in this paper represent a contribution to understanding how the current dynamics may play out. End of article

 

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Appendices: The cost profiles of alternative approaches to journal publishing

 

Appendix 1: Unincorporated mutual, hard–copy journal with subscription fee

Category description

This Appendix presents an indicative cost profile for a particular kind of journal publisher.

The organisational category addressed here is an Unincorporated Mutual (or an association that publishes a journal as a separate, financially self–supporting business division), which outsources printing and distribution to a specialist magazine publisher. The revenue model is subscription–based.

It is not an eJournal, but publishes the contents of its issues, probably including abstracts, on its own Web site.

It is assumed to comprise quarterly issues, each with five articles, for a total of 20 articles p.a.

Costs

Establishment Costs

1

Conception and articulation of the journal’s name, scope, philosophy and modus operandi Undertaken by senior academics
2 Preliminary negotiations within the intellectual community Undertaken by senior academics
3 Preliminary negotiations with potential providers of operational resources Undertaken by senior academics
4 Preliminary negotiations with potential providers of infrastructure Undertaken by senior academics
5 Acquisition of investment and working capital Undertaken by senior academics
6 Appointment of Board, Editor and Editorial Committee(s) Undertaken by senior academics
7 Accumulation of Referees List Undertaken by senior academics
8 Acquisition of infrastructure Undertaken by senior academics, with the Web site run using gratis, open source tools
9 Acquisition of operational resources Undertaken by senior academics
10 Acquisition of intellectual property (logos, trademarks, copyrights, licences) Undertaken by senior academics
11 Preparation of formal components of the printed journal and Web site Undertaken by senior academics, supported by outsourced service provider
12 Preparation of Web site Undertaken by junior academics or students
13 Announcement to the community Undertaken by senior academics
14 Issue of initial calls for papers Undertaken by senior academics

Operations Costs

• Submission–related

1

Receipt, acknowledgement and management Editor, Editorial Committee and Referees, possibly supported by junior academics or students
2 Conduct and management of the assessment process Editor, Editorial Committee and Referees, generally gratis, but possibly with an honorarium for the Editor, and possibly allowances, free advertising or similar partial recompense

• Article–related

1

Production editing Partly by the Editor or a member of the Editorial Committee, partly by junior academics or students, and partly for fee by the outsourced service provider
US$4,000 p.a., equivalent to US$1,000 per issue (or US$200 per article)
2 Cataloguing Partly by the Editor or a member of the Editorial Committee, partly by junior academics or students, and partly for fee by the outsourced service provider

• Issue–related

1

Editorial Effort by the Editor
2 Production–editing

Partly by the Editor or a member of the Editorial Committee, partly by junior academics or students, and partly for fee by the outsourced service provider, but included above

3 Production For hard–copy issues, for fee by the outsourced service provider
Assuming 300 copies per Issue and US$6 per tome, then US$7,000 p.a., equivalent to US$1,750 per issue (or US$350 per article).
For the Web site, by the Editor, possibly supported by a junior academic or student
4 Protection None
5 Distribution For fee by the outsourced service provider
Assuming 300 copies per Issue, then US$1,000 p.a., equivalent to US$250 per issue (or US$50 per article)

• Generic

1

Marketing Limited, undertaken primarily by senior academics, with some for fee support from the outsourced service provider
US$1,000 p.a., equivalent to US$250 per issue (or US$50 per article)
2 Customer relationship management For fee by the outsourced service provider
US$3,000 p.a., equivalent to US$750 per issue (or US$150 per article)
3 Archive management Dependent on libraries
4 Indexing Dependent on indexing services
5 Governance Undertaken by the Editor and Editorial Committee, with for fee support from the outsourced service provider
US$4,000 p.a., equivalent to US$1,000 per issue (or US$200 per article)

Infrastructure maintenance costs

1

Editor and Editorial Committee(s) Undertaken by senior academics
2 A pool of referees Undertaken by senior academics
3 Communications channels Arranged by senior academics, supported by junior academics or students
4 Norms for communications and formatting Undertaken by senior academics
5 Production facilities Included in the fees charged by the outsourced service provider
6 Subscription list facilities Included in the fees charged by the outsourced service provider
7 Distribution mechanisms Included in the fees charged by the outsourced service provider

Financial Costs

1

Interest on investment capital None
2 Interest on working capital None

TOTAL COSTS

Establishment Nil
Operations – Submission–related Nil
Operations – Article–related US$4,000 p.a., US$1,000 per issue (or US$200 per article)
Operations – Issue–related US$8,000 p.a., US$2,000 per issue (or US$400 per article)
Operations – Generic US$8,000 p.a., US$2,000 per issue (or US$400 per article)
Infrastructure maintenance Nil
Financial Nil
TOTAL US$20,000 p.a., US$5,000 per issue (or US$1,000 per article)

Business model

In order to achieve breakeven on subscriptions alone, and assuming that:

  • subscriptions are US$70 individual and US$300 institutional; and,
  • the ratio of individual to institutional subscriptions is 2:1;

then break even requires 50 institutional and 100 individual subscriptions.

If instead, the same operation were conducted using an author–pays open access model, then the indicative cost per published article is US$1,000.

 

 

Appendix 2: Unincorporated mutual, gratis eJournal

Category description

This Appendix presents an indicative cost profile for a particular kind of journal publisher.

The organisational category addressed here is an Unincorporated Mutual (or an association that publishes a journal as a service), which has little or no revenue, and relies on cost absorption, donation and sponsorship.

It is an eJournal, and there is no hard–copy edition.

It may be published periodically (probably monthly or quarterly), or spasmodically. But an eJournal does not have to be constrained to the concept of an ‘issue’, and publishing may be continual, as articles come out of the production process.

An eJournal similarly does not have to be limited by page counts or article counts. It might publish 20–100 articles p.a.

Costs

Establishment costs

1

Conception and articulation of the journal’s name, scope, philosophy and modus operandi Undertaken by senior academics
2 Preliminary negotiations within the intellectual community Undertaken by senior academics
3 Preliminary negotiations with potential providers of operational resources Undertaken by senior academics
4 Preliminary negotiations with potential providers of infrastructure Undertaken by senior academics
5 Acquisition of investment and working capital Undertaken by senior academics
6 Appointment of Board, Editor and Editorial Committee(s) Undertaken by senior academics
7 Accumulation of Referees List Undertaken by senior academics
8 Acquisition of infrastructure Undertaken by senior academics, probably with the Web site run using gratis, open source tools, and probably with the Web site costs absorbed by a sponsor
9 Acquisition of operational resources Undertaken by senior academics
10 Acquisition of intellectual property (logos, trademarks, copyrights, licences) Undertaken by senior academics
11 Preparation of formal components of the printed journal and Web site Undertaken by senior academics, supported by outsourced service provider
12 Preparation of Web site Undertaken by junior academics or students
13 Announcement to the community Undertaken by senior academics
14 Issue of initial calls for papers Undertaken by senior academics

Operations costs

• Submission–related

1

Receipt, acknowledgement and management Editor, Editorial Committee and Referees, possibly supported by junior academics or students
2 Conduct and management of the assessment process Editor, Editorial Committee and Referees, generally gratis, but possibly with allowances, free advertising or similar partial recompense

• Article–related

1

Production editing Partly by the Editor or a member of the Editorial Committee, and partly by junior academics or students
2 Cataloguing Partly by the Editor or a member of the Editorial Committee, and partly by junior academics or students

• Issue–related

1

Editorial Effort by the Editor
2 Production editing Partly by the Editor or a member of the Editorial Committee, and partly by junior academics or students
3 Production Supervised by the Editor, supported by a junior academic or student
4 Protection None
5 Distribution Downloaded by HTTP or FTP

• Generic

1

Marketing Very limited, undertaken primarily by senior academics
2 Customer relationship management Very limited, undertaken primarily by senior academics
3 Archive management Mirrored, by senior academics and perhaps by libraries
4 Indexing Dependent on commercial search engines such as Google, or using an on–site search engine, probably open source and gratis
5 Governance Undertaken by the Editor and Editorial Committee

Infrastructure maintenance costs

1

Editor and Editorial Committee(s) Undertaken by senior academics
2 A pool of referees Undertaken by senior academics
3 Communications channels Arranged by senior academics, supported by junior academics or students
4 Norms for communications and formatting Undertaken by senior academics
5 Production facilities Included in the fees charged by the outsourced service provider
6 Subscription list facilities None
7 Distribution mechanisms Dependent on Internet infrastructure

Financial costs

1

Interest on investment capital None
2 Interest on working capital None

TOTAL COSTS

Establishment Nil
Operations – Submission–related Nil
Operations – Article–related Nil
Operations – Issue–related Nil
Operations – Generic Nil
Infrastructure maintenance Nil
Financial Nil
TOTAL Nil

Business model

This is a communitarian undertaking, or from an economist’s perspective a ‘gift economy’. The statements above are subject to qualifications, in that various costs are absorbed by the participants’ host institutions, or the low costs are covered by donations and sponsorships, perhaps in cash but in many cases in kind, e.g., use of equipment, software licences and office space.

 

 

Appendix 3: Association, with a single journal, in hard copy

Category description

This Appendix presents an indicative cost profile for a particular kind of journal publisher.

The organisational category addressed here is an association that publishes a single journal, in hard copy but also with an electronic version, primarily as a service to its members, and secondarily for subscribers and (probably on a deferred basis) the general public. The revenue model is based on allocation of a proportion of the membership fee.

It is not an formally an eJournal, but publishes the contents of its issues, probably including abstracts and (probably with some qualifications) the full text of the articles, on its own Web site.

It is assumed to comprise quarterly issues, each with 7–8 articles, for a total of 30 articles p.a.

Costs

Establishment costs

1

Conception and articulation of the journal’s name, scope, philosophy and modus operandi Undertaken by senior academics
2 Preliminary negotiations within the intellectual community Undertaken by senior academics
3 Preliminary negotiations with potential providers of operational resources Undertaken by senior academics
4 Preliminary negotiations with potential providers of infrastructure Undertaken by senior academics
5 Acquisition of investment and working capital Undertaken by senior academics
6 Appointment of Board, Editor and Editorial Committee(s) Undertaken by senior academics
7 Accumulation of Referees List Undertaken by senior academics
8 Acquisition of infrastructure Undertaken by senior academics, with some support from Association executives, and with the Web site run probably using gratis, open source tools
9 Acquisition of operational resources Undertaken by senior academics, but probably with a budget for an Assistant to the Editor
10 Acquisition of intellectual property (logos, trademarks, copyrights, licences) Undertaken by senior academics, with some support from Association executives
11 Preparation of formal components of the printed journal and Web site Undertaken by senior academics, with some support from Association executives
12 Preparation of Web site Supervised by senior academics, with some support from Association executives, and undertaken by junior academics or students
13 Announcement to the community Undertaken by senior academics
14 Issue of initial calls for papers Undertaken by senior academics

Operations Costs

• Submission–related

1

Receipt, acknowledgement and management Editor, Editorial Committee and Referees, supported by a paid assistant, and possibly also by junior academics or students
US$12,000 p.a., equivalent to US$3,000 per issue or US$400 per article
2 Conduct and management of the assessment process Editor, Editorial Committee and Referees, generally gratis, but possibly with an honorarium for the Editor, and possibly allowances, free advertising or similar partial recompense

• Article–related

1

Production editing Partly by the Editor or a member of the Editorial Committee, partly by junior academics or students, and partly for fee by an outsourced service provider
US$10,000 p.a., equivalent to US$2,500 per issue or US$330 per article
2 Cataloguing Partly by the Editor or a member of the Editorial Committee, and partly by junior academics or students

• Issue–related

1

Editorial Effort by the Editor
2 Production editing

Partly by the Editor or a member of the Editorial Committee, partly by junior academics or students, and partly for fee by an outsourced service provider, but included above

3 Production For hard copy issues, for-fee by an outsourced service provider
Assuming 10,000 copies per issue and US$1.50 per tome, then US$60,000 p.a., equivalent to US$15,000 per issue or US$2,000 per article
For the Web site, by the Editor, partly supported by a junior academic or student, and partly by an outsourced service provider
US$5,000 p.a., equivalent to US$1,250 per issue or US$250 per article
4 Protection None
5 Distribution For fee by an outsourced service provider
Assuming 10,000 copies per issue, then US$20,000 p.a., equivalent to US$5,000 per issue or US$700 per article

• Generic

1

Marketing Limited, undertaken primarily by senior academics, with some for fee support from an outsourced service provider
US$5,000 p.a., equivalent to US$1,250 per issue or US$170 per article
2 Customer relationship management An Association responsibility and cost
3 Archive management Dependent on libraries and on the Association
4 Indexing Dependent on indexing services and on commercial search engines such as Google, or using an on–site search engine, probably open source and gratis
5 Governance Undertaken by the Editor and Editorial Committee, in conjunction with Association executives

Infrastructure maintenance costs

1

Editor and Editorial Committee(s) Undertaken by senior academics
2 A pool of referees Undertaken by senior academics
3 Communications channels Arranged by senior academics, supported by junior academics or students
4 Norms for communications and formatting Undertaken by senior academics
5 Production facilities Undertaken by the Editor and Editorial Committee, in conjunction with Association executives
6 Subscription-list facilities Undertaken by the Editor and Editorial Committee, in conjunction with Association executives
7 Distribution mechanisms Undertaken by the Editor and Editorial Committee, in conjunction with Association executives

Financial costs

1

Interest on investment capital Very little
2 Interest on working capital Very little

TOTAL COSTS

Establishment Nil
Operations – Submission–related US$12,000 p.a., equivalent to US$3,000 per issue or US$400 per article
Operations – Article–related US$10,000 p.a., equivalent to US$2,500 per issue or US$330 per article
Operations – Issue–related US$85,000 p.a., equivalent to US$21,250 per issue or US$2,850 per article
Operations – Generic US$5,000 p.a., equivalent to US$1,250 per issue or US$170 per article
Infrastructure maintenance Negligible
Financial Negligible
TOTAL US$112,000 p.a., US$28,000 per issue or US$3,750 per article

Business model

The undertaking is funded from the membership fees paid by members of the association, perhaps to some extent offset by non–member subscriptions (particularly libraries and other institutions) and advertising. For an association of 10,000 members, the publishing costs of the journal are up to about US$11 p.a. (of a fee of perhaps US$300).

 

 

Appendix 4: Association, with a single eJournal

Category description

This Appendix presents an indicative cost profile for a particular kind of journal publisher.

The organisational category addressed here is an association that publishes a single journal, in an electronic version in XHTML and/or PDF format, primarily as a service to its members, and secondarily for subscribers and (probably on a deferred basis) the general public. The revenue model is based on allocation of a proportion of the membership fee.

It is an eJournal, and there is no hard copy edition. Alternatively, a hard copy version could be offered as a spin–off from the eJournal production process. This could be cost–neutral, with an additional fee aimed at recovering the costs of a small print run or print on–demand, plus handling and postage.

The eJournal may be published periodically (probably monthly or quarterly), or spasmodically. But an eJournal does not have to be constrained to the concept of an ‘issue’, and publishing may be continual, as articles come out of the production process. An eJournal similarly does not have to be limited by page counts or article counts. It might publish 20–100 articles p.a.

For the purposes of computing per–article costs, however, the eJournal is assumed to resemble a hard copy journal converted to electronic form, and to comprise quarterly Issues, each with 7–8 articles, for a total of 30 articles p.a.

The following tables reflect Bot, et al. (1998), and information acquired from editors of three eJournals.

Costs

Establishment costs

1

Conception and articulation of the journal’s name, scope, philosophy and modus operandi Undertaken by senior academics
2 Preliminary negotiations within the intellectual community Undertaken by senior academics
3 Preliminary negotiations with potential providers of operational resources Undertaken by senior academics
4 Preliminary negotiations with potential providers of infrastructure Undertaken by senior academics
5 Acquisition of investment and working capital Undertaken by senior academics
6 Appointment of Board, Editor and Editorial Committee(s) Undertaken by senior academics
7 Accumulation of Referees List Undertaken by senior academics
8 Acquisition of infrastructure Undertaken by senior academics, with some support from Association executives, and with the Web-site run probably using gratis, open source tools
9 Acquisition of operational resources Undertaken by senior academics, but probably with a budget for an Assistant to the Editor
10 Acquisition of intellectual property (logos, trademarks, copyrights, licences) Undertaken by senior academics, with some support from association executives
11 Preparation of formal components of the printed journal and Web site Undertaken by senior academics, with some support from association executives
12 Preparation of Web site Supervised by senior academics, with some support from association executives, and undertaken by junior academics or students
13 Announcement to the community Undertaken by senior academics
14 Issue of initial calls for papers Undertaken by senior academics

Operations Costs

• Submission-Related

1

Receipt, acknowledgement and management Editor, Editorial Committee and Referees, supported by a paid assistant, and possibly also by junior academics or students. A 0.1 equivalent full–time (EFT) staff member, say US$10,000 p.a., equivalent to US$2,500 per issue or US$330 per article
2 Conduct and management of the assessment process Editor, Editorial Committee and Referees, generally gratis, but possibly with an honorarium for the Editor, and possibly allowances, free advertising or similar partial recompense

• Article–related

1

Production editing Partly by the Editor or a member of the Editorial Committee, partly by junior academics or students, and partly for–fee by an outsourced service provider. A 0.1 equivalent full–time (EFT) staff member, say US$10,000 p.a., equivalent to US$2,500 per issue or US$330 per article
2 Cataloguing Partly by the Editor or a member of the Editorial Committee, and partly by junior academics or students

• Issue–related

1

Editorial Effort by the Editor
2 Production editing

Partly by the Editor or a member of the Editorial Committee, partly by junior academics or students, and partly for–fee by an outsourced service provider, but included within the production editing costs immediately above

3 Production For the Web site, by the Editor, partly supported by a junior academic or student
4 Protection None
5 Distribution Network costs, absorbed by the association

• Generic

1

Marketing Limited, undertaken primarily by senior academics, with some support by the association
2 Customer relationship management An association responsibility and cost
3 Archive management An association responsibility and cost
4 Indexing Dependent on commercial search engines such as Google, or using an on–site search engine, probably open source and gratis
5 Governance Undertaken by the Editor and Editorial Committee, in conjunction with association executives

Infrastructure maintenance costs

1

Editor and Editorial Committee(s) Undertaken by senior academics
2 A pool of referees Undertaken by senior academics
3 Communications channels Arranged by senior academics, supported by junior academics or students
4 Norms for communications and formatting Undertaken by senior academics
5 Production facilities Undertaken by the Editor and Editorial Committee, in conjunction with association executives
6 Subscription list facilities Undertaken by the Editor and Editorial Committee, in conjunction with association executives
7 Distribution mechanisms Undertaken by the Editor and Editorial Committee, in conjunction with association executives

Financial costs

1

Interest on investment capital Very little
2 Interest on working capital Very little

TOTAL COSTS

Establishment Nil
Operations – Submission–related US$10,000 p.a., equivalent to US$2,500 per issue or US$330 per article
Operations – Article–related US$10,000 p.a., equivalent to US$2,500 per issue or US$330 per article
Operations – Issue–related Negligible
Operations – Generic Negligible
Infrastructure maintenance Negligible
Financial Negligible
TOTAL US$20,000 p.a., US$5,000 per issue or US$660 per article

Business model

The undertaking is funded from the membership fees paid by members of the association, perhaps to some extent offset by non–member subscriptions (particularly libraries and other institutions) and advertising. For an association of 10,000 members, the publishing costs of the journal are up to about US$2 p.a. (of a fee of perhaps US$300). For a small specialist group of 250 members, on the other hand, the costs would be closer to US$90 p.a.

 

 

Appendix 5: Association, with multiple journals

Category description

This Appendix presents an indicative cost profile for a particular kind of journal publisher.

The organisational category addressed here is an association that publishes multiple journals.

Two primary variants are considered, the conventional hard copy and the eJournal approach. In either case, the association conducts its publishing activity primarily as a service to its members, and secondarily for subscribers and (probably on a deferred basis) the general public. The revenue model is based on allocation of a proportion of the membership fee.

To enable the computation of per–article estimates that are reasonably comparable with those for other categories, each journal is assumed to comprise quarterly issues, each with 7–8 articles, for a total of 30 articles p.a.

Within each of the two primary variants of hard copy or eJournal, a further choice exists:

  • each journal may be run by its own dedicated team of academics and support staff;
  • alternatively, economies of scale may be sought, through the performance of some activities centrally, by paid association staff or outsourced service providers.

There are likely to be advantages for all concerned in using common production and distribution infrastructure, including templates, format conversion tools, cataloguing tools, and the host, Web server and search engine. Using common resources for the production activities, on the other hand, incurs additional coordination costs, and the net effect may well be cost–neutral.

A conservative approach is to assume that no cost savings are available, and that the cost profile for the five–journal association is simply five times that for the single–journal association.

Alternatively, savings can be made, or additional revenues raised. For example, members may receive only one journal as part of their membership fees, and have to pay a supplement for additional journals.

Costs

TOTAL COSTS for hard copy journals

Establishment Nil
Operations – Submission–related 5 journals, each US$12,000 p.a., equivalent to US$3,000 per issue or US$400 per article
Operations – Article–related 5 journals, each US$10,000 p.a., equivalent to US$2,500 per issue or US$330 per article
Operations – Issue–related 5 journals, each US$85,000 p.a., equivalent to US$21,250 per issue or US$2,850 per article
Operations – Generic 5 journals, each US$5,000 p.a., equivalent to US$1,250 per issue or US$170 per article
Infrastructure maintenance Negligible
Financial Negligible
TOTAL 5 journals, each US$112,000 p.a., US$28,000 per issue or US$3,750 per article, or US$560,000 p.a.

TOTAL COSTS for eJournals

Establishment Nil
Operations – Submission–related 5 eJournals, each US$12,000 p.a., equivalent to US$3,000 per issue or US$400 per article
Operations – Article–related 5 eJournals, each US$10,000 p.a., equivalent to US$2,500 per issue or US$330 per article
Operations – Issue–related Negligible
Operations – Generic Negligible
Infrastructure maintenance Negligible
Financial Negligible
TOTAL 5 eJournals, each US$22,000 p.a., US$5,500 per issue or US$730 per article, or US$110,000 p.a.

Business model

The undertakings are funded from the membership fees paid by members of the association, perhaps to some extent offset by non–member subscriptions (particularly libraries and other institutions) and advertising. For an association of 10,000 members, the publishing costs of five journals are up to about US$55 p.a. for hard–copy journals, or US$11 for eJournals (of a fee of perhaps US$300). A small association of, say, 250 members would face prohibitive costs of US$2,240 per member for five hard–copy journals, or US$440 per member even for five eJournals.

 

 

Appendix 6: For–profit publisher, with conventional, subscription–based access

Category description

This Appendix presents an indicative cost profile for a particular kind of journal publisher.

The organisational category addressed here is an organisation that publishes multiple journals, for profit, applying conventional, subscription–based access. It may be a corporation, or a business unit of an association which is obliged by the association to generate a surplus. In a sample of 21 journals from 1999–2000, Willinsky (2003a) noted that six made a surplus; but he concluded that most subsidised journal publication from membership fees.

It is assumed that the publisher has many journals. It has substantial investment in brand image, a strong competitive stance, aggressive protection of content, provides hard–copy issues to its subscribers, and makes soft copies available on the Web to its subscribers, and to others on a per–article basis for a fee.

To enable the computation of per–article estimates that are reasonably comparable with those for other categories, each journal is assumed to comprise quarterly issues, each with 7–8 articles, for a total of 30 articles p.a.

Costs

Establishment costs

1

Conception and articulation of the journal’s name, scope, philosophy and modus operandi

Undertaken by senior academics, but with greater involvement from senior executives, and an orientation more strongly towards saleability than service.

4 executive weeks – US$20,000

2 Preliminary negotiations within the intellectual community Undertaken by senior academics, but influenced by saleability as well as service
3 Preliminary negotiations with potential providers of operational resources Undertaken by senior academics, but with a commitment to in–house performance or controlled outsourcing by the publisher
4 Preliminary negotiations with potential providers of infrastructure Undertaken by senior academics, but with a commitment to in–house performance or controlled outsourcing by the publisher
5 Acquisition of investment and working capital Undertaken by either senior academics or senior executives, but with a commitment to in–house performance or controlled outsourcing by the publisher
6 Appointment of Board, Editor and Editorial Committee(s) Undertaken by senior academics
7 Accumulation of Referees List Undertaken by senior academics
8 Acquisition of infrastructure

Undertaken by senior executives, and with a commitment to the publisher’s infrastructure, and with the Web site run using sophisticated, proprietary and expensive tools.

Allocated share of infrastructure worth millions – say US$50,000

9 Acquisition of operational resources

Undertaken by senior executives, and with a commitment to the publisher’s infrastructure, and with the Web site run using sophisticated, proprietary and expensive tools.

1–2 staff weeks – say US$5,000

10 Acquisition of intellectual property (logos, trademarks, copyrights, licences)

Undertaken by senior executives, with emphasis on branding and content protection as well as service.

2–4 staff–weeks – say US$10,000

11 Preparation of formal components of the printed journal and web-site

Undertaken by senior executives and staff.

1–2 staff–weeks – say US$5,000

12 Preparation of Web site

Supervised by senior executives, and undertaken by staff, but with emphasis on branding and content protection as well as service.

1–2 staff–weeks – say US$5,000

13 Announcement to the community

Undertaken by senior academics, and marketed by senior executives and staff.

1–2 staff–weeks – say US$5,000

14 Issue of initial calls for papers Undertaken by senior academics

Operations costs

• Submission–related

1

Receipt, acknowledgement and management

Editor, Editorial Committee and Referees, supported by a paid assistant, and possibly also by junior academics or students.

US$10,000 p.a., equivalent to US$2,500 per issue or US$330 per article

2 Conduct and management of the assessment process

Editor, Editorial Committee and Referees, generally gratis, but possibly with an honorarium for the Editor, and possibly allowances, free advertising or similar partial recompense.

US$5,000 p.a., equivalent to US$1,250 per issue

• Article–related

1

Production editing

By the publisher’s professional staff or contractors, requiring 0.1 EFT p.a.

US$10,000 p.a., equivalent to US$2,500 per issue

2 Cataloguing By the publisher’s professional staff or contractors, but included in the time for production editing, immediately above

• Issue–related

1

Editorial Effort by the Editor
2 Production editing

By the publisher’s professional staff or contractors.

US$1,000 per issue, equivalent to US$4,000 p.a.

3 Production

For hard–copy issues, by an outsourced service provider.

Assuming 1,000 copies per issue and US$5.00 per tome, then US$20,000 p.a., equivalent to US$5,000 per issue

For the Web site, by the publisher’s professional staff or contractors

US$5,000 p.a., equivalent to US$1,250 per issue

4 Protection

By the publisher’s professional staff or contractors.

US$10,000 p.a.

5 Distribution

For hard–copy issues, by an outsourced service provider.

Assuming 1,000 copies per issue, then US$5,000 p.a., equivalent to US$1,250 per issue

• Generic

1

Marketing

Substantial, undertaken primarily by the publisher’s staff.

US$10,000 p.a., equivalent to US$2,500 per issue

2 Customer relationship management

Substantial, undertaken by the publisher’s staff.

US$10,000 p.a., equivalent to $2,500 per Issue

3 Archive management

Undertaken by the publisher’s staff.

US$5,000 p.a., equivalent to US$1,250 per issue

4 Indexing

Undertaken by the publisher’s staff.

US$5,000 p.a., equivalent to US$1,250 per issue

5 Governance Undertaken by the Editor and Editorial Committee, with some limited support from publisher executives and staff

Infrastructure maintenance costs

1

Editor and Editorial Committee(s) Undertaken by senior academics
2 A pool of referees Undertaken by senior academics
3 Communications channels Arranged by senior academics, supported by junior academics or students
4 Norms for communications and formatting Undertaken by senior academics
5 Production facilities Undertaken by the publisher’s senior executives and staff. Covered by treating the amortised establishment costs as an ongoing annual figure
6 Subscription list facilities Undertaken by the publisher’s senior executives and staff. Covered by treating the amortised establishment costs as an ongoing annual figure
7 Distribution mechanisms Undertaken by the publisher’s senior executives and staff. Covered by treating the amortised establishment costs as an ongoing annual figure

Financial costs

1

Interest on investment capital

US$100,000 establishment costs, at a rate of 5% basic plus a risk factor of 10%.

US$15,000 p.a., equivalent to US$3,750 per issue

2 Interest on working capital

1/6th of annual turnover of US$124,000, at a rate of 5% basic plus a risk factor of 10%.

US$3,000 p.a., equivalent to US$750 per issue

TOTAL COSTS

Establishment US$100,000, amortised over 5 years = US$20,000 p.a., equivalent to US$5,000 per issue
Operations – Submission–related US$15,000 p.a., equivalent to US$3,750 per issue
Operations – Article–related US$10,000 p.a., equivalent to US$2,500 per issue
Operations – Issue–related US$44,000 p.a., equivalent to US$11,000 per issue
Operations – Generic US$30,000 p.a., equivalent to US$7,500 per issue
Infrastructure maintenance Covered in the establishment cost calculation
Financial US$18,000 p.a., equivalent to US$4,500 per issue
TOTAL

US$137,000 p.a., US$34,250 per issue.

For an eJournal only:
US$112,000 p.a., US$28,000 per issue

Business model

With a subscription–based revenue model, the publisher is dependent upon attracting sufficient subscribers. In the case of a print journal, an average subscription rate of US$300 p.a. (e.g., one–third individuals @ US$100 and two–thirds institutions @ $400), would require 460 subscribers to reach breakeven. An eJournal only, at the same subscription rates, would need only 375 subscribers.

Some journals have, or develop, sufficient reputation that the publisher is able to exploit its monopoly position; but many journals do not. Other avenues through which for–profit publishers can enhance revenue include differential services for various market segments, and non–availability of particular journals other than within bundles of multiple journals.

 

 

Appendix 7: For–profit publisher, applying the open access approach

Category description

This Appendix presents an indicative cost profile for a particular kind of journal publisher.

The organisational category addressed here is an organisation that publishes multiple journals, for profit, applying the ‘author–pays OA’ approach. This involves authors of published articles paying a levy, with the article then being made openly available on the Web. The publisher may be a corporation, or a business unit of an association which has an obligation to generate a surplus.

The publisher is assumed to have many journals. It has substantial investment in brand-image, and a strong competitive stance.

Both hard–copy and electronic publishing are encompassed. The total costs for an eJournal are relatively predictable because they are dependent primarily on the number of articles published, which is controllable. Costs for production and distribution of hard–copy issues, on the other hand, are dependent on the number of subscribers (or at least on the number that request hard–copy). Unless the publisher imposes a fee for the hard–copy service, the fee charged to authors has to be based on an estimate of the likely count of hard–copies required.

Another difference is that the publisher’s revenue varies directly with published articles, not subscriber–count; and the longstanding cost constraint on publishing too many papers disappears. Publishers therefore have an incentive to publish more papers. There will inevitably be pressure on editorial teams to expedite reviews and approvals; but this only generates more papers for as long as there is an exploitable backlog. It is therefore also inevitable that there will be pressure on editorial teams to adjust standards downwards.

(Another possible result is the provision of additional support to marginal authors in order to nudge their papers over the line. This is moderately expensive in the case of copy editing, but much more difficult when the problems are substantive in nature. The prospect arises of reviewers becoming secondary authors, and needing to be recognised as such).

To enable the computation of per–article estimates that are reasonably comparable with those for other categories, each journal is assumed to comprise quarterly issues, each with 7–8 articles, for a total of 30 articles p.a.

Costs

Establishment costs

1

Conception and articulation of the journal’s name, scope, philosophy and modus operandi

Undertaken by senior academics, but with greater involvement from senior executives, and an orientation more strongly towards saleability than service

4 executive–weeks – US$20,000

2 Preliminary negotiations within the intellectual community Undertaken by senior academics, but influenced by saleability as well as service
3 Preliminary negotiations with potential providers of operational resources Undertaken by senior academics, but with a commitment to in–house performance or controlled outsourcing by the publisher
4 Preliminary negotiations with potential providers of infrastructure Undertaken by senior academics, but with a commitment to in–house performance or controlled outsourcing by the publisher
5 Acquisition of investment and working capital Undertaken by either senior academics or senior executives, but with a commitment to in–house performance or controlled outsourcing by the publisher
6 Appointment of Board, Editor and Editorial Committee(s) Undertaken by senior academics
7 Accumulation of Referees List Undertaken by senior academics
8 Acquisition of infrastructure

Undertaken by senior executives, and with a commitment to the publisher’s infrastructure, and with the Web site run using sophisticated, proprietary and expensive tools

Allocated share of infrastructure worth millions – say US$50,000

9 Acquisition of operational resources

Undertaken by senior executives, and with a commitment to the publisher’s infrastructure, and with the Web site run using sophisticated, proprietary and expensive tools

1–2 staff weeks – say US$5,000

10 Acquisition of intellectual property (logos, trademarks, copyrights, licences)

Undertaken by senior executives, with emphasis on branding and content protection as well as service.

2–4 staff–weeks – say US$10,000

11 Preparation of formal components of the printed journal and Web site

Undertaken by senior executives and staff.

1-2 staff–weeks – say US$5,000

12 Preparation of Web site

Supervised by senior executives, and undertaken by staff, but with emphasis on branding and content protection as well as service.

1–2 staff–weeks – say US$5,000

13 Announcement to the community

Undertaken by senior academics, and marketed by senior executives and staff.

1–2 staff–weeks – say US$5,000

14 Issue of initial calls for papers Undertaken by senior academics

Operations costs

• Submission–related

1

Receipt, acknowledgement and management

Editor, Editorial Committee and Referees, supported by a paid assistant, and possibly also by junior academics or students

US$10,000 p.a., equivalent to US$2,500 per issue or US$330 per article

2 Conduct and management of the assessment process

Editor, Editorial Committee and Referees, generally gratis, but possibly with an honorarium for the Editor, and possibly allowances, free advertising or similar partial recompense

US$5,000 p.a., equivalent to US$1,250 per issue or US$170 per article

• Article–related

1

Production editing

By the publisher’s professional staff or contractors, requiring 0.1 EFT p.a.

US$10,000 p.a., equivalent to US$2,500 per issue or US$330 per article

2 Cataloguing By the publisher’s professional staff or contractors, but included in the time for production editing, immediately above

• Issue–related

1

Editorial Effort by the Editor
2 Production editing

By the publisher’s professional staff or contractors.

US$1,000 per issue, equivalent to US$4,000 p.a. or US$130 per article

3 Production

For hard–copy issues, by an outsourced service provider.

Assuming 1,000 copies per issue and US$5.00 per tome, then US$20,000 p.a., equivalent to US$5,000 per issue or US$670 per article

For the Web site, by the publisher’s professional staff or contractors

$5,000 p.a., equivalent to US$1,250 per issue or US$170 per article

4 Protection Included in the production costs, immediately above
5 Distribution

For hard–copy issues, by an outsourced service provider

Assuming 1,000 copies per issue, then US$5,000 p.a., equivalent to US$1,250 per issue or US$170 per article

• Generic

1

Marketing

Substantial, undertaken primarily by the publisher’s staff

US$10,000 p.a., equivalent to US$2,500 per issue or US$310 per article

2 Customer relationship management

Substantial, undertaken by the publisher’s staff. In the case of an eJournal, the publisher could choose to dispense with this facility, or reduce costs by enabling individuals to maintain their own records. On the other hand, the publisher may manage customers across their whole product portfolio.

US$10,000 p.a., equivalent to US$2,500 per issue or US$310 per article

3 Archive management

Undertaken by the publisher’s staff

US$5,000 p.a., equivalent to US$1,250 per issue or $US150 per article

4 Indexing

Undertaken by the publisher’s staff

US$5,000 p.a., equivalent to US$1,250 per issue or US$150 per article

5 Governance Undertaken by the Editor and Editorial Committee, with some limited support from publisher executives and staff

Infrastructure maintenance costs

1

Editor and Editorial Committee(s) Undertaken by senior academics
2 A pool of referees Undertaken by senior academics
3 Communications channels Arranged by senior academics, supported by junior academics or students
4 Norms for communications and formatting Undertaken by senior academics
5 Production facilities Undertaken by the publisher’s senior executives and staff. Covered by treating the amortised establishment costs as an ongoing annual figure
6 Subscription list facilities Undertaken by the publisher’s senior executives and staff. Covered by treating the amortised establishment costs as an ongoing annual figure
7 Distribution mechanisms Undertaken by the publisher’s senior executives and staff. Covered by treating the amortised establishment costs as an ongoing annual figure

Financial costs

1

Interest on investment capital

US$100,000 establishment costs, at a rate of 5% basic plus a risk factor of 10%

US$15,000 p.a., equivalent to US$3,750 per issue or US$500 per article

2 Interest on working capital

1/6th of annual turnover of US$124,000, at a rate of 5% basic plus a risk factor of 10%.

US$3,000 p.a., equivalent to US$750 per issue or US$100 per article

TOTAL COSTS

Establishment US$100,000, amortised over 5 years = US$20,000 p.a., equivalent to US$5,000 per issue or US$670 per article.
Operations – Submission–related

US$15,000 p.a., equivalent to US$3,750 per issue or US$500 per article

Operations – Article–related US$10,000 p.a., equivalent to US$2,500 per issue or US$330 per article
Operations – Issue–related US$34,000 p.a., equivalent to US$8,500 per issue or US$1,130 per article
Operations – Generic US$30,000 p.a., equivalent to US$7,500 per issue or US$1,000 per article
Infrastructure maintenance Covered in the establishment cost calculation
Financial US$18,000 p.a., equivalent to US$4,500 per issue or US$600 per article
TOTAL

US$127,000 p.a., US$31,750 per issue or US$4,200 per article

For an eJournal only, US$102,000 p.a., US$25,500 per issue or US$3,400 per article

Business model

With an author–based revenue model, the publisher is dependent upon approving sufficient papers and receiving payment with the final submission. The breakeven point for a 30–paper p.a. journal is US$4,200 per article if a hard–copy version is provided to all subscribers without a print version fee. Alternatively, if subscribers paid an additional fee sufficient to cover production and distribution, say US$70 p.a., then the author levy would be the same as for an eJournal.

For an eJournal only, the author levy would need to be US$3,400.

 

 

About the author

Roger Clarke is Principal of Xamax Consultancy Pty Ltd, Canberra. He is also a Visiting Professor in the http://www.cyberlawcentre.org/Cyberspace Law & Policy Centre at the University of N.S.W., a Visiting Professor in the E–Commerce Programme at the University of Hong Kong, and a Visiting Professor in the Department of Computer Science at the Australian National University.

 

Acknowledgements

An early version of this paper was prepared in response to an invitation to address a session on ‘The Impact of Open Access on Publishers, Librarians and Academics’, at the Fiesole Collection Retreat Series, number 7, Melbourne, 29 April 2005. An accompanying slide set is available. The analysis and the presentations have subsequently been substantially further developed.

The paper was stimulated by Colin Steele, University Librarian of the Australian National University. It has benefited greatly from the assistance of Colin and of a number of journal editors and association officers, and from the comments of a number of colleagues and Fiesole community members. The evaluative comments, however, are mine alone.

 

Notes

1. Specifically in Suber (2004c) slides 2–4 and in Morris (2005) pp. 122–123.

2. Figure 1 in Geyer–Schulz, et al. (2003) at http://jodi.tamu.edu/Articles/v04/i02/Geyer–Schulz/.

3. Figure 5 in Geyer–Schulz, et al. (2003) at http://jodi.tamu.edu/Articles/v04/i02/Geyer–Schulz/.

4. Willinsky, 2006, pp. 227–232.

 

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Editorial history

Paper received 22 April 2007; accepted 10 November 2007.


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The cost profiles of alternative approaches to journal publishing by Roger Clarke
First Monday, Volume 12 Number 12 - 3 December 2007
http://firstmonday.org/ojs/index.php/fm/article/viewArticle/2048/1906





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