Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Would Elsevier's Universal Access in the US raise Elsevier profits to 98.6%

Brian Matthews at Ubiquitous Librarian has calculated that it would cost the U.S. about $91 billion to purchase Elsevier Universal Access for everyone in the U.S. By my calculations, this move would have little to no impact on Elsevier costs, therefore increasing Elsevier's global STM revenue 25-fold and increasing their profit margin from 39% to 98.6%. Following are my calculations. 

Elsevier's Universal Access is their corporate alternative to open access - the vision where open access is not necessary, because everyone on the planet is covered by an Elsevier subscription. Brian Matthews at Ubiquitous Librarian estimates that a U.S. national subscription to Elsevier Universal Access for the U.S. would cost $91 billion U.S. That's 25 times Elsevier's global STM revenues of approximately $3.7 billion U.S. (based on $2.2 million UK pounds converted at today's rate as quoted by Bank of Canada). That $3.7 billion U.S. already accounts for a 39% profit margin. Universal Access for everyone in the U.S. would likely have little to no impact on Elsevier's costs (those who really need the journals already subscribe, and any slight increase in usage costs is likely to be more than offset by a decrease in technical support and sales costs). If Matthew's calculations are correct, this would mean that Elsevier profits would increase from $1.3 billion U.S. (based on 826 million GBP) would increase to approximately $89.7 billion U.S., a profit rate of 98.6%.

My post calculating the Elsevier 39% profit margin and highlighting key Elsevier financial data is available here:

Monday, April 07, 2014

Dramatic Growth of Open Access First Quarter 2014

Highlights this quarter: three open access initiatives illustrating particularly strong growth this quarter are featured (Directory of Open Access Books, Highwire Press free sites, and PubMedCentral with 5 of the top 15 spots by quarterly growth rate). The number of journals in DOAJ has decreased this quarter; please note that this reflects a vigorous weeding process at DOAJ rather than a decrease in fully open access journals. For example, the number of articles searchable at the article level through DOAJ increased by over 21,000 this quarter. To download the full datasets or the most recent rationale and method, see the Dramatic Growth of Open Access dataverse at Morrison, Heather, 2014-03, "Dramatic Growth of Open Access", Morrison, Heather [Distributor] V1 [Version]
Please note that there an issue with this URL has been resolved.
Double kudos to the Directory of Open Access Books (DOAB) for taking the two highest places for quarterly growth as measured in percentage. DOAB added 293 open access monographs this quarter for an 18% growth rate (annual equivalent 72%)  and a total of 1,912 books as of March 31, 2014. DOAB also added 8 new publishers for a 15% quarterly growth rate (annual equivalent 60%) and a total of 62 publishers. I hope my small contribution of faculty library start-up funds to the Knowledge Unlatched pilot helped with this!

This quarter's data has a few indicators which suggest an increased tendency for traditional society publishers to move to open access. Highwire Press' completely free sites had the third highest growth by percentage this quarter, adding 10 journals for an 11% quarterly growth rate (annual equivalent 44%) and a total of 99 titles.

PubMedCentral staff have obviously been very busy this quarter, enough to take up a third of the top 15 spots by quarterly growth rate for journal participation alone (PMC free article growth has its own worksheet). PMC indicators that grew by more than 5% this quarter (20% annual equivalent) include the number of journals with some articles open access (up 8% / 23 journals to 310 journals), the number of journals with immediate free access (up 5% / 64 journals to 1,252 journals), the number of journals that deposit ALL articles in PMC (up 5% / 68 journals to 1,462 journals, the number of journals with all articles open access (up 5% / 49 journals to 1,070 journals), and the number of journals actively participating in PMC (up 5% / 79 journals to 1,769 journals).

Selected numbers
Quarterly growth (numeric) Quarterly growth (percentage) Annual growth (numeric) Annual growth (percentage)
Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ)
# of DOAJ journals  9,709 -95 -1% 862 10%
# of titles added last 30 days (DOAJ)
# of countries (added March 31, 2013) (DOAJ) 133 9 7% 12 10%
# of journals searchable at article level (DOAJ) 5,621 -15 0% 1,082 24%
# of articles searchable at article level (DOAJ) 1,595,722 21,875 1% 539,905 51%
Directory of Open Access Books
# of academic peer-reviewed books (DOAB) 1,912 293 18% 518 37%
# publishers (DOAB) 62 8 15% 14 29%
Elektronische Zeitschriftenbibliotek - Electronic Journals Library  # journals that can be read free of charge 44,756 1,258 3% 5,529 14%
Elektronische Zeitschriftenbibliotek - total # of journals (added March 31, 2014) 75,337
Elektronische Zeitschriftenbibliotek - # online-only journals (added March 31, 2014) 13,536
Highwire Press Free Online Fulltext Articles
# free articles (Highwire) 2,344,479 16,186 1% 84,682 4%
total # articles (Highwire) 7,174,703 -77,113 -1% 101,110 1%
Highwire Completely Free Sites 99 10 11% 28 39%
Sites with free back issues (Highwire) 275 -4 -1% -9 -3%
Open DOAR  added April 2, 2007  (2006 from Peter Suber's SPARC Open Access Newsletter (SOAN)
OpenDOAR # repositories 2,619 66 3% 350 15%
Registry of Open Access Repositories (ROAR) # repositories
ROAR # repositories 3,621
BASE:  Bielefeld Academic Search Engine  (note)
# of documents (BASE) 59,953,450 3,237,029 6% 16,410,772 38%
# of content providers (BASE) 2,910 122 4% 406 16%
# items Dec. 2011 - posted on PMC website(from ROAR) 100% fulltext - for historical purposes - for more accurate data, see PMC Free tab 3,000,000 100,000 3% 400,000 15%
# journals participating in PMC (from PMC website) * PMC1 *2004 Tim Gray
# journals actively participating in PMC (total minus predecessor minus no new content) 1,769 79 5% 282 19%
# journals in PMC with immediate free access 1,252 64 5% 49 4%
# journals in PMC with all articles open access 1,070 49 5% 94 10%
# journals in PMC with some articles open access 310 23 8% 30 11%
# journals that deposit ALL articles in PMC (from PMC website - full participation journals) 1,462 68 5% 229 19%
# journals that deposit NIH-funded articles in PMC (from PMC website - NIH portfolio journals) 281 8 3% 27 11%
# journals that deposit selected articles in PMC (from PMC website) 2,506 92 4% 422 20%
arXiv  926,535 23,866 3% 93,676 11%
RePEC total items (from LogEC as of March 2012) (Sept. 2013 note) 1,510,688 28,720 2%
RePEC online (fulltext) (downloadable as of March 2012) 1,368,765 27,333 2%
Social Sciences Research Network
Abstracts (SSRN) 540,025 17,179 3% 65,172 14%
Full text papers (SSRN) 442,928 14,592 3% 57,090 15%
Authors (SSRN) 250,824 8,016 3% 28,948 13%
Papers received in last 12 months (SSRN) 66,769 401 1% -376 -1%
Paper downloads - to date (SSRN) 74,367,932 2,464,964 3% 10,308,673 16%
Paper downloads - last 12 months (SSRN) 10,313,690 -597,001 -5% -1,072,072 -9%
Paper downloads - last 30 days (SSRN) 852,445 74,144 10% -266,148 -24%
Open Access Mandate Policies based on ROARMAP
Sub-Institutional (was Departmental) Policies (ROARMAP) 36
Funder Policies (ROARMAP) 80
Institutional Policies (ROARMAP) 165
Multi-institutional Policies (ROARMAP) 4
Thesis Policies (ROARMAP) 100
Total Policies (ROARMAP) 385
Proposed Mandates Policies (ROARMAP) 27
Internet Archive
Webpages (Internet Archive) (in billions) 402 28 7% 121 43%
Moving images (movies)  (Internet Archive) 1,585,064 85,753 6% 398,536 34%
Live music archive (concerts) (Internet Archive) 126,466 2,944 2% 12,229 11%
Audio (recordings)  (Internet Archive) 1,930,400 111,487 6% 360,098 23%
Texts  (Internet Archive) 6,028,983 360,035 6% 1,631,709 37%
SCOAP3 respository (proejct start date January 1, 2014) (beta) 1,071
This post is part of the Dramatic Growth of Open Access series

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Informa (Taylor and Francis, Routledge) academic publishing profits up for 2013: 35% profit margin

Informa.plc is the multinational conglomerate owner of scholarly-sounding brands "Taylor & Francis" and Routledge). The 2013 Informa annual report is now out.

Revenue has increased to £367 million in 2013 from £340 million in 2012 Adjusted operating profit increased by £4 million, to £130 million in 2013 from £126 million in 2012. There was a slight decrease in adjusted operating margin, from 37% in 2012 to 35% in 2013. (Informa. 2013, p. 5)

In U.S. dollars: Revenue has increased to $600 million US in 2013 from $560 million in 2012 Adjusted operating profit increased by $6 million, to $215 million in 2013 from £209 million in 2012.

What if the academic publishing arm of informa were to reduce its profit level to a very healthy profit rate of 20%, instead of 35%? The net profit for informa would have been $120 million US rather than $215 million US. The difference - $95 million - could fund 950 academic positions at an average salary of $100,000 per year. 


Informa (2013). Consolidated profit & loss account. 2013 final. Retrieved March 18, 2014 from

Elsevier STM publishing profits rise to 39%

The Reed Elsevier annual report was published in March. One highlight of interest in the area of scholarly publishing is the revenue and adjusted operating profit for the Scientific, Technical & Medical portion of the business.

STM 2013 revenue: £2,126 million STM 2013 adjusted operating profit: £826 million That's a profit margin of 39%!

Revenue is up 1% from 2012, while profit is up 6% from 2012 (Reed Elsevier 2014, p. 12). Elsevier's profit increased from £780 million in 2012 to £826 million in 2013. That's an increase in profit alone of £46 million, or $76 million in U.S. dollars.

As I've explained elsewhere (Morrison, 2013), the vast majority of revenue for scholarly journals comes from academic library budgets.

Surely universities have better things to do with this kind of money than further increasing the profits of already highly profitable publishers? For example: $76 million dollars in extra profits to Elsevier could fund 760 academic positions at a rate of $100,000 per year - and this wouldn't even touch Elsevier's previously high profit rate! $76 million dollars in extra profits to Elsevier could fund over 12,000 student research assistantships at a rate of $6,000 each.


Morrison, H. (2014). Economics of scholarly communication in transition. First Monday, [S.l.], may. 2013. ISSN 13960466. Available at: . Date accessed: 18 Mar. 2014. doi:10.5210/fm.v18i6.4370. 

Reed Elsevier (2014). 2013 Annual Report. Retrieved March 18, 2014 from 

Currency converstion Converting to U.S. dollars, that's revenue of $3.5 billion and profit of $1.3 billion, based on the Bank of Canada's daily currency conversion service, summary: On 18 March 2014, 826.00 U.K. pound sterling(s) = 1,368.94 U.S. dollar(s), at an exchange rate of 1.6573 (using nominal rate). From:

Thursday, February 27, 2014

The dramatic growth of BioMedCentral open access article processing charges

The average article processing charge for BioMedCentral journals requested from the University of Ottawa (uO) Library's author's fund increased 27% from 2010-11 to 2012-13. The 15% increase from 2011-12 to 2012-13 is 10 times the rate of inflation. 

The data indicates that this reflects increases in journal prices rather than changes in which journals uO authors publish in. For example:

Globalization and Health (a BMC journal)
  • 2010-11: uO paid an APC of $1,300 US. Assuming this reflects a BMC membership rate in effect at this time (15% discount, that's still less than $1,500 US.
  • 2011-12: uO paid APCs at 2 different rates: $1,425 US and $1,715 US
  • 2012-13: uO paid APCSs at $1,670 and $1,715 US
  • The BMC rate listed on BMC's own website as of Feb. 27, 2014 is $2,155 US from:
An increase in APC from $1,715 US to $2,155 US in the last year is about a 25% increase in the APC for this particular journal. Currency fluctuations could account for about one-tenth of this increase (see below for calculations), and the modest inflation rate would account for about a 1.5% increase. This still leaves more than a 20% increase in price above and beyond currency variations and inflation.

Currency variations UK pound sterling to USD, based on Bank of Canada daily and 10-year currency converter.
  • UK pound sterling to USD conversion rate:
  • Jan. 2011: 1.5586
  • Jan. 2012: 1.5654 (.0043 increase over 2011)
  • Jan. 2013: 1.6254 (.0383 increase over 2012)
  • as of Feb. 27, 2014: 1.6691 (.02688 increase over 2013)
  • Total increase in value of UK pound sterling in comparison with US dollar 2014 / 2011: 7%
Public Library of Science (PLoS), by contrast, has kept prices for their journals at exactly the same rates during this time frame. PLoS' achievement of a 23% surplus during this time frame indicates that this was done without financial sacrifice. While I continue to call on the not-for-profit PLoS to actually lower their prices to facilitate the transition to open access, the remarkable contrast between PLoS' holding the line on prices and while BMC raises their prices at rates far above inflation is worth noting.

Thanks to Jeanette Hatherill and the University of Ottawa Library for posting the Open Access publication rates in the uO institutional repository. This dataset contains the amounts paid for through the library's author's fund for open access article processing charges from 2010 - 2013. Watch for further calculations and release of my calculations spreadsheet as part of the open access article processing charges series.

This post also illustrates the value of open data. By posting this data for open access in the University of Ottawa's institutional repository, uO is making it possible for me to conduct research like this that could be useful to uO's own decision-making processes in future. Let's hope this post inspires others to follow uO's lead and share their data, too.

This post is part of the Open access article processing charges research series

Commenting is now open on this post. Please note that this is a scholarly blog and comments are expected to be of scholarly quality, e.g. anonymous comments will not be posted and any potential conflicts of interest should be evident to the reader (for example, if you are involved with a journal or publisher that relies on the open access article processing fee model, please say so).

Open access article processing charges series

This post gathers posts on my open access article processing charges research.

Forthcoming research: tracking open access article processing fees

Open access publishing by APC: dominated by the commercial sector

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Open access and scientific research: towards new values (international conference call for papers)

A call for papers is now open for an international conference called Open access and scientific research: towards new values, Tunis, Nov. 27-28, 2014. Version français ici: Libre accès et recherche scientifique: vers de nouvelles valeurs
The deadline for extended abstracts (2 pages) is March 30, 2014.  I am honoured to be a part of the scientific committee for this conference, organized by the research unit "Digital Library and Heritage" of the Higher Institute of Documentation (ISD), Manouba University, Tunisia, in partnership with The National University Center for Scientific and Technical Documentation (CNUDST), Tunisia.

Friday, February 07, 2014

Research Conversations - transitioning to open access

Vous invite - Invites you
à assister à une conférence - to attend a presentation
Date: jeudi le 13 fevrier2014
Heure: 12h – 13h15
Locale: Lamoureux (LMX) salle: 407

Transitioning to open access
Heather Morrison
(École des sciences de l’information,
Université d’Ottawa

All welcome - no charge, no need to RSVP.

Researcher Biography

Heather Morrison is an Assistant Professor in the School of Information Studies with an extensive background as a speaker and researcher in the areas of scholarly communication and open access. Heather completed her doctorate at Simon Fraser University in 2012, entitled Freedom for Scholarship in the Internet Age, after a distinguished career as a professional academic librarian in the world of library consortia, coordinating province-wide purchase and sharing of information resources and services in an electronic environment.

Open access to scholarly peer-reviewed journal articles is an unprecedented public good with the potential to “accelerate research, enrich education, share the learning of the rich with the poor and the poor with the rich, make this literature as useful as it can be, and lay the foundation for uniting humanity in a common intellectual conversation and quest for knowledge” (Budapest Open Access Initiative, 2002).

A dilemma for open access is how to transition economic support for scholarly journals from a subscription / licensing basis to supporting the production of journals so that they can be open access.  This is particularly critical for small scholar-led journals (independent journals and small society journals), as many have limited resources. Heather will talk about her current and emerging research in this area, which includes the theoretical framework of the knowledge commons, macro analysis (global journal article production and expenditure by libraries), collecting and analyzing data on open access article processing charges, interviews with scholarly journal editors about the resource requirements of scholar-led publishing and the infrastructure costs of new library / university publishing operations.

The presentation will be primarily in English with discussion welcome in either English or French.


Budapest Open Access Initiative (2002).

This presentation is part of the ongoing ÉSIS Research Conversations series co-organized for 2013/14 by myself and Dr. André Vellino.