Scholarly Associations and the Economic Viability of Open Access Publishing


  • John Willinsky University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada


The paper considers a number of economic issues that scholarly associations are confronting in moving their journals online, with a focus on the possible viability of an open access or free-to-read format. It explores the current content overlap between subscription-based and open access sources, and considers how these redundancies favor open access publishing and indexing. It utilizes the tax returns for 20 US non-profit scholarly associations to analyze current publishing revenues against costs, arguing that the associations could make up the loss of revenue posed by the open access publishing model through cost savings and other revenue sources, while serving their membership better through the increased readership in an era of declining subscriptions. While the decision to publish journals in an open access format is by no means simply an economic one, the viability of open access publishing warrants serious consideration by scholarly associations that are currently determining what this new medium may mean for the circulation of knowledge.