Fair price for open access?

Yesterday I read about the prices that a major publisher charges to publish a paper as open-access. It is a whoppy 3000$. The authors then retain the full copyright. The publisher probably will make the paper available online on its server and take care that it is included in various bibliographies. The publisher probably also taken care of the long-term archival, which CEUR-WS.org currently cannot do.


But compare this to what we charge: 0$


Certainly, we do have costs that we do not charge such as our own work time and the costs for keeping the server online. But how can someone justify 3000$ for something that we offer for free?


What would you regard as a fair price?

  1. Phillip Lord said:

    The publishers do not guarantee long term archival storage per se. More they work with other organisations and libraries who do.

    There is no reason that ceur could not do the same thing. Actually, you already do. Your website is already on archive.org. And there is no reason that you couldn’t push the manuscripts there explicitly (for example, here are the links to all the articles that I have written on my research blog, archived on archive.org).

    In answer to the question, what is a fair price, $0 has an obvious problem for cost recovery. I don’t know what you are actual costs are, but arXiv is about $10 per paper which is a good data point. For me anything under $50 seems fine.

  2. Hi Phillip, thanks for your valuable answer! To me the best type of organization to ensure long-term archival is a national library. Commercial publishers in Germany are obliged to submit copies of their books and papers to the national library for archival. The same holds true for electronic publications. CEUR-WS could and should do the same but we have very limited resources.

    Yes, it would be fair to charge some amount for publishing, either per paper or per volume. The catch is that this requires an even more costly administration, just for the billing. We never calculated our actual costs. It is about 30 minutes worktime per volume (estimate) plus the server cost, which is rather low. So, 100$ per volume would be kind of fair to compensate our worktime. This would roughly match the arXiv price tag and still be very much below the 3000$ that I saw with a commercial scientific publisher.

    Some time ago, we had an account where proceedings editors could donate a small amount. Only one actually did it.

    Another complication of charging money is that the proceedings editors become customers of our service and may start to demand to be treated like customers. That is not bad as such, but we currently are in a peer position towards the proceedings editors. We are all academics working for good goals. As soon as we charge, we become service providers. The price tag is also a hurdle to proceedings editors from developing countries. Even small amounts could prevent them to use our service. Or there could be technical hurdles to international bank transfers. For example, it appears to be unusual for US citizens to transfer money to international bank accounts. They rather send cheques.

  3. Phillip Lord said:

    I’d agree with you about the billing. The cost of the billing for small amounts does indeed outweight the cost of the service. It’s a problem, especially for a business which is inherently international. arXiv gets around it by getting it’s funding from a foundation, I believe, but also from the Universities. $10 for a paper is a pain. But, $500 a year for all the papers from my department — now the overheads of transferring the money get smaller.

    Also, agree about the national libraries. My experience, thought, is that you are lost without an ISSN. Having said this, as well as having my website archived by archive.org, I also use the UK Web archive run by the British Library, which they do for free. All you need then is a stable identifier scheme, which can be redirected if CEUR goes 404 and you have it.

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