Free Content The cost of journal publishing: a literature review and commentary

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This article begins by describing the concepts of fixed, variable, marginal, average, direct and indirect costs of journal publishing. Hypothetical examples are given, to avoid preconceived perceptions and controversies about levels of cost. The examples demonstrate the impact of the levels of fixed and variable cost on the average cost per subscription, which is often the basis for subscription prices. Examples are also given to illustrate the effect of indirect costs on average costs per subscription, and the effect of the number of articles published on average costs. Then the implications of the examples on libraries and on the author-side payment model are examined. These hypothetical examples are followed by evidence in the literature of fixed costs, variable costs due to print reproduction and distribution, and indirect costs. Finally, the term 'economies of scale' is defined, and examples are given as to how economies of scale are achieved.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: April 1, 2007

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  • Interim Editor in Chief: Pippa Smart
    North American Editor: Judy Luther
    Reviews Editor: Pippa Smart

    Learned Publishing is the journal of the Association of Learned and Professional Society Publishers, published in collaboration with the Society for Scholarly Publishing. The journal is published quarterly in January/April/July/October.

    Learned Publishing articles are available free online to members of ALPSP and SSP.
    ALPSP members: log in to If you do not have a password contact
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