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Market power of publishers in setting article processing charges for open access journals


While open access journals provide readers with articles free of charge through the journals’ networks, authors are required to pay article processing charges to the publishers. This study simultaneously estimates the article processing charges for 535 open access journals independently launched by publishers along with citation scores and number of articles in a journal to identify the determinants of charges. The results show that open access journal publishers set higher article processing charges for more frequently cited journals with more articles. However, concentration measured by the share squared of the number of articles in an academic field is not shown to influence the charges significantly. Moreover, this study finds that large subscription journal publishers do not generally set higher article processing charges for their open access journals. Instead, they incorporate open access journal publishers that have already accomplished great achievements into their company groups. These findings suggest that large subscription journal publishers may influence the open access journal market through mergers and acquisitions of prominent open access journal publishers in the future, although they do not yet have market power.

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  1. There are three types of open access journals: gold, green, and hybrid. Gold open access articles are freely available from when they are first published. Green open access articles are deposited in a repository according to the journal’s self-archiving policies. Hybrid journals are subscription journals that give authors the option of open access. This study examines only gold open access journals.

  2. In this study, there are four publishers (Elsevier, SAGE, Springer, and Taylor & Francis) in the Big 5. Since there are only three journals independently launched by Wiley, which is one of the Big 5, Wiley is not included in the observations.

  3. Although this study estimated the SNIP equation, including the variables representing academic field, the null hypotheses that the coefficients equal 0 were not rejected at the 10% level.

  4. The number of articles submitted by authors and the acceptance rate are not publicly available for most sampled journals.


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This study was funded by Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS) KAKENHI Grant Number 15K03470.

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Correspondence to Sumiko Asai.

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Asai, S. Market power of publishers in setting article processing charges for open access journals. Scientometrics 123, 1037–1049 (2020).

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  • Open access journal
  • Article processing charge
  • Market power

JEL Classification

  • L11
  • L86