MARKET WATCH (archive)

This is an old version of the ESAC Market Watch and will no longer be updated. Check out our most up-to-date review of several key trends in the demographics and distribution of scholarly journal publishing as it transitions to OA here.

While 80% of the academic publishing market is still based on the paywall subscription business model, open access publishing is growing. As the primary open access business model adopted by these publishers is based on payment of Article Processing Charges (APCs), efforts to monitor, assess and exert critical market pressure on their APC price points are vital.

While the Open APC Initiative constitutes an essential tool for monitoring APCs, ESAC aggregates data and relevant facts for a number of major publishers in order to illustrate their market position and better assess the development of the scholarly publishing market as it transitions to open access.

There is significant market concentration in academic publishing, with just 20 publishers accounting for half of the articles published annually and indexed in Web of Science:

Global article output

Articles distributed over the number of publishers


APC pricepoints

Average Pricing vs. Average Impact Metrics by Publisher

Pricing and Publishers’ Positioning

Another method for evaluating market function is to review competitive positioning within the APC landscape. If we compare the average impact of publishers’ journals with their average prices, we derive a loose definition of “positioning.” This demonstrates how publishers sit relative to one another by looking at their average “bang vs. buck” – as visualized by plotting average impact per journal against average APC illustrated.

Pricing vs. Impact Metrics by Publisher

The chart below compares average impact per journal (“bang”) with average APC (“buck”) grouped by publisher. The size of the bubbles is proportional to the number of titles in the publisher’s pricelist which have non-zero impact and non-zero APCs. (It is our publisher-neutral data shown in a format used in a 2017 promotional piece by Elsevier.)
Bottom right is “better” (high impact, low price); top left is “worse” (low impact, high price).
• For hybrid, for example, Elsevier’s contention that it offers good value is born out. It shows better than average performance compared with the other large publishers.
• For fully OA, the difference is more subtle. There seems to be stronger relationship between price and impact, with most publishers clustering around lower APCs and lower prices. In our example, Springer Nature and Wiley do better here, exacting higher than average APCs and impact.

This chart and information were provided with the friendly support of Delta Think
A number of pure open access publishers figure among the top 20 largest academic publishers, and most of the largest traditional subscription publishers have established open access brands and journals. The following chart shows their gold open access shares, while additional hybrid open access shares are still hard to quantify due to missing article based license information in the publishers’ metadata.

Top 20 publishers

Global market share and open access gold shares