Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Elsevier 2009 $2 billion profits could fund worldwide OA at $1,383 per article

Update November 29, 2011:  Thanks to a comment on Sauropod Vertebra of the Week, I realized that my calculations were off by a bit - thanks to commenter Jeff Hecht at http://svpow.wordpress.com/2011/10/22/economics-of-open-source-publishing/According to Jeff's calculations, dividing Elsevier profit among all 1.5 million articles per year yields only $730 for OA article processing fees, not $1,383 as I had calculated. Nevertheless, this still supports my main point, that this system is not connecting with fiscal reality - the profits of one publisher could support a fully open access system, albeit at a more modest rate than my original calculation.

The original post follows:

Elsevier's Annual Report, reports "robust financial performance in unprecedented global recession", with operating profits up.

Elsevier per se and Lexis-Nexis each earned over $1 billion US IN PROFIT in 2009, for a profit rate of 35% (Elsevier) and 26% (Reed Elsevier). Together, this is MORE THAN $2 billion in profit from scholarly publishing in 2009.

If the total profit from Elsevier and Lexis-Nexis is added together and converted to U.S. dollars, the total is $2,075m. Divided by the estimated worldwide scholarly article output of 1.5 million articles per year (Björk et al, 2008), this comes out to $1,383 U.S.

In other words, the profits of this one company alone could fund a global, fully open access scholarly publishing system, at a rate of $1,383 U.S. per article.

A minority of open access journals charge article processing fees. Of those that do have such charges, some charge more than this amount; however, others charge less.

In other words, the world's scholarly journal article output could be published as fully open access with the funding that currently goes to the profits of just one company in this field.

Calculations are available here. Note currency conversion from GBP April 27, 2010


Björk, B., Roosr, A., & Lauri, M. (2008). Global annual volume of scholarly peer reviewed journal articles and the share available via different open access options. Paper presented at the ELPUB2008. Open Scholarship: Authority, Community, and Sustainability in the Age of Web 2.0 - Proceedings of the 12th International Conference on Electronic Publishing Held in Toronto, Canada 25-27 June 2008. Edited by: Leslie Chan and Susanna Mornati. Retrieved from http://elpub.scix.net/cgi-bin/works/Show?178_elpub2008

Reed Elsevier 2009 Annual Report

This post is part of the Transitioning to Open Access series.