The costs of scholarly journals directly related to print, that is, the costs of printing and distributing by mail, have been estimated at about 20-30% of a journal's cost.
Fortunately in these difficult economic times, this means that the vast majority of scholarly journals have a ready means to decrease costs by 20-30%. If these savings are passed along to customers, this will do wonders for the sustainability of our scholarly publishing system in the critical near to medium term.
Christopher V. Hollister, in Economics of Open Access talks about the recent move by the open access journal Communications in Information Literacy to provide Print-On-Demand (POD) via lulu.com, providing libraries and readers wishing a quality print journal with the service they desire, in a manner that EARNS modest revenue for this journal, rather than COSTING revenue. (Hat tip to Brian Owen for a pointer to Hollister's article).
As Hollister points out, POD is not only a good move economically, it is also environmentally friendly; no unwanted print issues are produced, and printing can happen locally, reducing shipping costs.
Many libraries have been moving to electronic-only subscriptions for years now. In difficult economic times, even more libraries will be looking for such efficiencies. A move to electronic-only / POD to support open access, or to reduce subscription costs, would likely be very much welcomed by library customers in these difficult times.
This post is part of the Essential Efficiencies and Transitioning to Open Access series.