Springer Nature

(October 2018)

Springer Nature is an academic publishing company mainly based in Heidelberg, Germany, created by the May 2015 merger of Springer Science+Business Media and Holtzbrinck Publishing Group’s Nature Publishing Group, Palgrave Macmillan, and Macmillan Education. Holtzbrinck Publishing Group holds 53% of the company, 47% is owned by the private equity firm BC Partners.


Market position

Share of global article output 2016, open access gold share


Portfolio overview

Open access gold and hybrid shares by the number of articles


APC price points

Mean values of institutional expenses for Springer Nature APCs in 2017 compared to overall mean values in 2017


Publisher approach to the transition to open access

With its imprints BioMed Central and Nature, Springer Nature has become the world’s largest open access publisher. Nature alone accounts for almost three quarters of the publisher’s article open access output (~ 36.000 in 2016), primarily in the mega journals Nature Communications and Scientific Reports.

With its open access licensing scheme “Springer Compact,” Springer was one of the first publishers to take steps towards transitioning its business model from subscription to open access, although official statements refer to their strategy as “flipping countries” rather than “flipping journals” (see a Springer Nature press release).


Characteristics of the transformative agreements negotiated

Springer effectively invented the basic principle of a “publish and read” agreement in 2015 with its “Springer Compact” license agreement. It allows participating institutions to read Springer’s full journal collection while articles from corresponding authors are published open access under a CC-BY license in Springer journals offering a hybrid option. As the model have started before the merger, Nature journals are yet excluded. Typically, Springer Compact license agreements contain the following cost components:


Springer Compact
Publishing Fee

= number of eligible articles x APC



The publishing fee is calculated by multiplying the number of expected articles in one year with an article charge.
Reading Fee
The reading fee in current agreements varies between 5-15% of the total agreement amount.




Agreement details

  • The number of eligible articles is typically calculated based on an institution’s publishing performance with Springer in the previous years in journals offering an open choice option (hybrid oa option). The number specifically refers to the share of articles with a corresponding author affiliated with the institution. Eligible article type must be defined (original articles, review articles, letters etc.).
  • Springer Compact started with a standard APC of 2.200 EUR, however, the current Dutch agreement operates with a certain allocation of articles at a contracted “Market APC” and another allocation of articles at a “Pilot APC”, both with incremental increases over the course of the agreement period (see schedule 2, p.85).


Lessons learned 2015-2018

  • The Swedish Bibsam consortium evaluated Springer Compact in 2017/18 and published four reports (report 3 & 4 in English) capturing data from all five enteties who currently have Springer Compact agreements  (VSNU in The Netherlands, Jisc Collections in the UK, Max Planck Society in Germany, and Kemö in Austria). Some reported an underperformance in terms of the number of articles published; in other words, while open access publication of a certain number of articles was predicted and contracted, the actual number of articles published was less. At the same time, institutions have seen a dramatic growth in the number of articles published by their authors in Nature imprint open access journals which, so far, are excluded from the Springer Compact agreement.
  • Institutions in the UK struggeled with high opt out rates. While some institutions managed to offer open access publishing as a default route for Springer to their authors, others reported that Springer has insisted on letting the authors choose between subscription and open access.
  • Open APC set up a dedicated dataset to capture articles published under offsetting or read and publish agreements, most of them originated from Springer Compact. The visualization provides interesting insights on the distribution of articles over the journals included in Springer Compact showing that many journals are not being used as a publishing venue.
    A further Open APC dataset “offsetting coverage” shows total article numbers and total hybrid numbers of the Springer Compact journals alongside with the articles that have been published open access under Springer Compact to illustrate the current impact of Springer Compact on the open access article shares at journal level.

Desiderata for future agreements

  • In future agreements, a post-publication payment scheme for articles should be sought, in order to mitigate the risk purchasing a greater than needed quota of articles up front.
  • The option to publish in the Nature imprint, Nature’s open access journals, Springer Open, and BioMed Central journals should be integrated into the agreement.


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