Each year Delta Think surveys a large sample of major and significant publishers to assess the current state of Article Processing Charges (APCs) list prices. Covering almost 12,000 titles, this survey represents one of the most comprehensive round-ups of open access pricing.

Our market sizing has previously suggested that fully OA and hybrid prices are converging. This latest analysis of list prices is consistent with such a trend and suggests that patterns are emerging.

Slow and Steady Changes

The big expansion in the number of open access journals happened a few years ago. All the major publishers added open access offerings to the bulk of their journals. Typically, existing journals were made hybrid by established publishers, in contrast with the fully OA portfolios of the newer publishers.

Over the last few years changes in numbers of journals have been less pronounced. Our samples suggest that for the major publishers, on average:

  • The number of hybrid journals has continued to increase, typically by a low single-digit percent.
  • Amongst the largest publishers, the number of fully OA journals has decreased (again by a low single-digit percent), while mid-sized publishers increased their numbers of fully OA journals.
  • This appears to be due to changes in line up of publishers’ portfolios (e.g., transfers) rather than fully OA “flipping” to hybrid.

Prices Show No Dramatic Changes

  • Maximum APCs this year have fallen slightly to $5,200 from $5,300 for non-discounted, CC BY charges. With one exception last year, this maximum has not changed over the last four years, so the top end of the market appears to be holding steady.
  • Business model is no predictor the highest prices, with both hybrid and fully OA journals asking the highest prices in different market segments.
  • At the lower end of the market, fully OA journal APCs are less expensive than hybrid, and falling. In this segment, hybrid journal APCs have increased.
  • Overall average hybrid APCs are largely holding steady and saw only the smallest of increases (less than 1%) over the last few years.
  • Contrast this with fully OA average APCs, which have been rising slowly but surely: up around 10% over the last four years and up by around 4% in the last year or so.

Shifts Within Portfolios

As is always the case, market-wide headlines mask nuances per publisher. Most – but not all – of the larger organizations have increased both fully OA and hybrid average APCs.

However, the most important nuance lies in the spread of prices within a given publishers’ portfolio. For example, if the bulk of a publisher’s journals lie towards the lower end of its pricing, with just a few very higher priced journals, the average (mean) price will be higher than most people actually pay.

The following figures show how this plays out in the market across our sample of publishers. The figures are histograms, showing how many titles sit in various price bands over the four successive years’ data we have. For illustrative purposes, we have outlined the trends. The “more yellow” the lines, the more recent the prices.

For hybrid journals – as shown in figure 1 below – the overall spread of prices has remained relatively constant over time. But, the most popular price band has shifted towards the lower end of the market (1). This means the average author is likely to pay a lower price. However, there is also a small but increasing likelihood authors attracted to the mid-higher range journals will pay increasing prices (2). Notice how the right-hand side of the yellow curve becomes shallower, suggesting an increase in popularity of mid-high range pricing.

The fully OA landscape is more complicated, as shown in Figure 2. The extreme left shows journals with no APCs (i.e., sponsored or waived). Moving to the right, a few years ago (green lines), there was a double-hump in the curve, suggesting two popular price bands. More recently, these humps have merged, and a new band is emerging. Although we have not analyzed the data to trace individual journals, it is likely that publishers have started charging for previously-free journals, and that these journals are causing a rebalancing of the market.


With over 40,000 APC data points in our database, we can look for emerging trends in pricing. Although there is not much change at the extremes, there does seem to be movement. Hybrid appears to be getting cheaper, although with potential for higher total charges as authors move to the higher end of the market. Meanwhile, although the lowest fully OA APCs are getting lower, there appears to be an upwards move in prices in fully OA journals as the market continues to mature.

With current discussion about Plan S, it also seems timely to reflect on the notion of price caps. Headline caps are all very well, but as we see through our analysis here, a skewing of the spread of prices can still lead to ipso facto price increases and greater overall spend. Put another way: the unintended consequence of price caps is that everything rises to meet the cap.

The devil – as ever – lies in the detail.


New report by Institute for Scientific Information on Plan S poses key questions for the research community – March 1, 2019

“A new report on Plan S from the Institute for Scientific Information, using Web of Science data poses a number of questions for the research community, including funders, publishers and institutions. This is the second report in the Global Research series from the recently relaunched Institute for Scientific Information.”

UC terminates subscriptions with world’s largest scientific publisher in push for open access to publicly funded research – February 28, 2019

“As a leader in the global movement toward open access to publicly funded research, the University of California is taking a firm stand by deciding not to renew its subscriptions with Elsevier. Despite months of contract negotiations, Elsevier was unwilling to meet UC’s key goal: securing universal open access to UC research while containing the rapidly escalating costs associated with for-profit journals.”

Big pharma is embracing open-access publishing like never before – February 28, 2019

“In a literature analysis, researchers found that the proportion of open-access papers published by 23 large drug companies, such as Pfizer and Roche, almost doubled between 2009 and 2016, and has overtaken the proportion of freely available papers published generally in medicine-related fields.”

Simba Information Report: Europe’s Open Access Plan S Unlikely to Sway U.S. Policy – February 28, 2019

“A coalition of European national research institutes’ bold plan to divert the researchers it funds away from publishing results in journals that collect subscription fees would face a tougher path in the U.S. — this was the consensus of a law and policy panel assembled Feb. 7 by the Association of American Publishers at its annual professional and scholarly publishers conference, reports market research firm Simba Information.”

Plan S leaders resist pressure for slower open access transition – February 20, 2019

“The architects of Plan S are unlikely to back away from strict and rapidly approaching deadlines for a “big flip” to open access publishing despite mounting pressure for a longer transition period, Times Higher Education understands. More than 900 responses to the proposed rules [of Plan S] were submitted by universities, societies and publishers during a three-month consultation that ended earlier this month.”

“Making full and immediate Open Access a reality: Feedback on the implementation guidance of Plan S generates large public response” – February 20, 2019

“Over 600 individuals and organisations provided feedback to cOAlition S on the implementation guidance of Plan S. Originating from over 40 countries, respondents include researchers, librarians and libraries, publishers and editors, universities, learned societies, research funders and performers, and other interested citizens.”

Physics societies warn of ‘irrecoverable damage’ from European open-access plan – February 15, 2019

“The European Physical Society (EPS) has warned that a major open-access initiative in Europe could cause “irrecoverable damage” if it is implemented too quickly. In a statement, the EPS says that while it welcomes the proposal – known as Plan S — as a “medium to long-term vision”, its proponents must get more support by engaging further with the scientific community.”

The OA Switchboard – February 12, 2019

“An overview from Paul Peters of the key challenges that the OA Switchboard aims to address, a description of the proposed solution, and a roadmap for the development and initial roll-out of this new system.”

Cambridge University Press and Jisc Collections sign major UK Open Access deal – February 12, 2019

“Cambridge University Press and the Jisc Collections have reached a progressive agreement, which will enable UK universities and colleges to make a sustainable transition to publishing more Open Access content in the publisher’s journals.”

Roundup: Responses/Comments/Feedback From Publishers and Organizations on Implementation and Impact of Plan S – February 11, 2019

A list of responses from over 25 organizations regarding the implementation of Plan S.

Taking Stock of the Feedback on Plan S Implementation Guidance By Lisa Janicke Hinchliffe – February 11, 2019

“The volume of response [to Plan S] is staggering. Statements have poured in from individual and groups — publishers, scholarly societies, disciplinary repositories, scholarly communications platforms, funding agencies, publishing professionals, libraries, library associations, and researchers themselves…I thought it might be useful to share some of the themes that I have observed emerging across the feedback documents.”

Transitioning Society Publications to Open Access – February 11, 2019

“Recognizing the crucial role that societies have played–and must continue to play in advancing scientific research and scholarship–a group of OA advocates, library stakeholders, and information strategists has organized to provide concrete assistance to society journals. The aim is to allow scholarly societies to step confidently towards OA, enabling them to renew, reclaim, and reestablish their role as a vital and thriving part of the future open science ecosystem.”


February 28, 2019

The American Physical Society launches open-access journal: Physical Review Research

“The American Physical Society (APS) announced today the launch of their fourteenth peer-reviewed journal, Physical Review Research (PRResearch). This title is the fourth fully open-access (OA) journal within the Physical Review suite of journals and will cover the full spectrum of research topics including fundamental and applied, theoretical and experimental, and interdisciplinary and newly emerging areas.”

February 26, 2019

De Gruyter flips top mathematics journal to open access

“De Gruyter’s Advances in Nonlinear Analysis (ANA) is one of ten journals recently transformed from the subscription model to open access. ANA is one of the top journals in mathematics, and publishes high-quality research articles in the areas of nonlinear analysis and partial differential equations, and on their numerous applications in science and technology.”

February 19, 2019

New open access partner journal from IOP Publishing to cover extreme manufacturing

“IOP Publishing has been chosen by a consortium of Chinese partners to publish their new journal, the International Journal of Extreme Manufacturing (IJEM). The new, open access journal will cover the science and technology of manufacturing functional devices and systems with extreme dimensions (extremely large or small) and/or functionalities under extreme conditions or environments.”