Article processing charges (APCs; the fees journals charge to publish open access articles) are hyperinflated, reports a recent article published in LIBER Quarterly. The author, Dr Khoo from Montreal University, notes that APCs have increased at three times the rate of inflation between 2005 and 2018 and asks whether such price rises influence authors’ publishing habits.
Dr Khoo examined publication rates in two high-volume journals, eLife and Royal Society Open Science, both of which introduced an APC 4–5 years after launch. Introduction of an APC was not a significant predictor of the number of articles published by eLife and was associated with an increase in the number of articles published by Royal Society Open Science. Moreover, a further analysis of journals that flipped from subscription to open access models between 2006 and 2014 found no evidence that this led to a reduced volume of articles. In fact, 2 of 19 journals that moved to an open access model during this time experienced strong growth after flipping. Finally, analysis of 319 journals from the four largest APC-funded commercial open access publishers found that between 2012 and 2018 higher APCs were associated with increased volumes of articles.
Dr Khoo concludes that market competition and author choice do not quash APC hyperinflation and suggests that authors could perceive a higher charge to be associated with higher prestige. He warns that journals with rising impact factors may therefore drive additional hyperinflation by commanding higher APCs. Despite efforts to constrain publishing costs, Dr Khoo discusses the potential for open access mandates such as Plan S to lead to further increases — time will tell if these concerns are justified.