Article processing charge

An article processing charge (APC), also known as a publication fee, is a fee which is sometimes charged to authors to make a work available open access in either an open access journal or hybrid journal.[1][2][3] This fee is usually paid by an author's institution or research funder rather than by the author themselves.[4] Some publishers waive the fee in cases of hardship.[5] An article processing charge does not guarantee that the author retains copyright to the work, or that it will be made available under a Creative Commons license.

Journals use a variety of ways to generate the income required to cover publishing costs (including editorial costs, any costs of administering the peer review system), such as subsidies from institutions[6] and subscriptions. A majority of open access journals do not charge article processing charges,[7] but a significant and growing number of them do.[8] They are the most common funding method for professionally published open access articles.[9]

APC fees applied to academic research are usually expensive, effectively limiting open access circulation among the less affluent institutions, scholars, and students.

APC model of open access, among other controversies — is part of the wider and increasing global Open Access OA's ethics debate.[10]

Different academic publishers have widely varying levels of fees, from under $100 to over $3000.[1][11][12] High fees are sometimes charged by traditional publishers in order to publish in a hybrid open access journal, which make an individual article in a subscription journal open access. The average APC for hybrid journals has been calculated to be almost twice as high as APCs from full open access publishers.[13] Journals with high impact factors from major publishers tend to have the highest APCs.[1] Many open access publishers, such as PLOS, waive their APCs for those who cannot afford to pay them.[5]

Open access articles often have a surcharge compared to a closed-access APC; for example the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences regularly charges $1700 per article, with a surcharge of $1350 for open-access.[14] Similarly, AGU's Journal of Geophysical Research charges $1000 for closed-access and $3500 for open-access.[15]

Even when publishers do not charge standard fees, excess or overlength fees might still apply after a certain number of pages or publication units is exceeded;[15][16] additional fees might exist for color figures,[14] primarily for print journals that are not online-only.

While publication charges occur upon article acceptance, article submission fees are charged prior to the start of peer review; they are not uncommon among journals in some fields, e.g., finance and economics.[17] Page charge may refer to either publication or submission fees.


The "article processing charges" which are often used for open access journals shift the burden of payment from readers to authors (or their funders), which creates a new set of concerns.[18] One concern is that if a publisher makes a profit from accepting papers, it has an incentive to accept anything submitted, rather than selecting and rejecting articles based on quality. This could be remedied, however, by charging for the peer-review rather than acceptance.[19] Another concern is that institutional budgets may need to be adjusted in order to provide funding for the article processing charges required to publish in many open access journals (e.g. those published by BioMed Central[20]). It has been argued that this may reduce the ability to publish research results due to lack of sufficient funds, leading to some research not becoming a part of the public record.[21]

Unless discounts are available to authors from countries with low incomes or external funding is provided to cover the cost, article processing charges could exclude authors from developing countries or less well-funded research fields from publishing in open access journals. However, under the traditional model, the prohibitive costs of some non-open access journal subscriptions already place a heavy burden on the research community; and if green open access self-archiving eventually makes subscriptions unsustainable, the cancelled subscription savings can pay the gold open access publishing costs without the need to divert extra money from research.[22] Moreover, many open access publishers offer discounts or publishing fee waivers to authors from developing countries or those suffering financial hardship. Self-archiving of non-open access publications provides a low cost alternative model.[23]

Another concern is the redirection of money by major funding agencies such as the National Institutes of Health and the Wellcome Trust from the direct support of research to the support of open access publication. Robert Terry, Senior Policy Advisor at the Wellcome Trust, has said that he feels that 1–2% of their research budget will change from the creation of knowledge to the dissemination of knowledge.[24]

Research institutions could cover the cost of open access by converting to an open access journal cost-recovery model, with the institutions' annual tool access subscription savings being available to cover annual open access publication costs.[25] A 2017 study by the Max Planck Society the annual turnovers of academic publishers amount to approximately EUR 7.6 billion. It is argued that this money comes predominantly from publicly funded scientific libraries as they purchase subscriptions or licenses in order to provide access to scientific journals for their members. The study was presented by the Max Planck Digital Library and found that subscription budgets would be sufficient to fund the open access publication charges.[26]


  1. ^ a b c Solomon, David J.; Björk, Bo-Christer (August 2012). "A study of open access journals using article processing charges". Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology. 63 (8): 1485–1495. CiteSeerX doi:10.1002/asi.22673.
  2. ^ "The Potential Role for Intermediaries in Managing the Payment of Open Access Article Processing Charges (APCs)" (PDF). Research Information Network. October 2012. Retrieved 26 November 2013.
  3. ^ Richard Van Noorden, "Open access: The true cost of science publishing", Nature 495, 426–429 (28 March 2013) doi:10.1038/495426a [1]
  4. ^ Suber, Peter (2012). Open access. MIT Press. pp. 138–139. ISBN 9780262517638.
  5. ^ a b "Publication fees". PLOS. Retrieved 26 November 2013.
  6. ^ Suber, Peter (2012). Open access. MIT Press. p. 136. ISBN 9780262517638.
  7. ^ Kozak, Marcin; Hartley, James (December 2013). "Publication fees for open access journals: Different disciplines—different methods". Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology. 64 (12): 2591–2594. doi:10.1002/asi.22972.
  8. ^ Laakso, Mikael; Björk, Bo-Christer (2012). "Anatomy of open access publishing: a study of longitudinal development and internal structure". BMC Medicine. 10 (1): 124. doi:10.1186/1741-7015-10-124. PMC 3478161. PMID 23088823. open access
  9. ^ Björk, Bo-Christer; Solomon, David (2012). "Pricing principles used by Scholarly Open Access Publishers" (PDF). Learned Publishing. 25 (3). Retrieved 9 June 2014.
  10. ^ Kember, Sarah. "Opening Out from Open Access: Writing and Publishing in Response to Neoliberalism". ADA. Retrieved 2018-03-12.
  11. ^ Socha, Beata (20 April 2017). "How Much Do Top Publishers Charge for Open Access?". OpenScience. Retrieved 26 April 2017.
  12. ^ García Martín, Miguel (2015-12-30). "Las revistas de Geografía en el Journal Citation Reports: lucro económico versus acceso abierto". Revista Española de Documentación Científica (in Spanish). 38 (4): 105. doi:10.3989/redc.2015.4.1248. ISSN 1988-4621.
  13. ^ Björk, Bo-Christer; Solomon, David (March 2014). "Developing an Effective Market for Open Access Article Processing Charges" (PDF). Retrieved 2 June 2014.
  14. ^ a b PNAS, Procedures for Submitting Manuscripts
  15. ^ a b American Geophysical Union publication fee table
  16. ^ "(IEEE) 2014 Voluntary Page and Overlength Article Charges" (PDF). Retrieved 2 February 2015.
  17. ^ "Journals with Fees for Submitted Paper". Retrieved 2 February 2015.
  18. ^ Socha, Beata (20 April 2017). "How Much Do Top Publishers Charge for Open Access?". Retrieved 26 April 2017.
  19. ^ Harnad, S. (2010) No-Fault Peer Review Charges: The Price of Selectivity Need Not Be Access Denied or Delayed Archived 2011-05-01 at the Wayback Machine. D-Lib Magazine 16 (7/8)
  20. ^ "Article-processing charges FAQ". BioMed Central. 1970-01-01. Archived from the original on 2011-11-26. Retrieved 2014-01-01.
  21. ^ Eftekhari, A (2012) Open Access Dream. Critic Pen. Archived May 5, 2013, at the Wayback Machine
  22. ^ Harnad, S. (2011). "Gold Open Access Publishing Must Not Be Allowed to Retard the Progress of Green Open Access Self-Archiving". Logos. 21 (3–4): 86–93. doi:10.1163/095796511x559972. Archived from the original on 2011-09-01.
  23. ^ Corrado, E. (Spring 2005). The importance of Open Access, Open Source, and Open Standards for libraries Archived 2011-12-16 at the Wayback Machine. Issues in Science and Technology Librarianship.
  24. ^ Open Access Now. "Interview – Wellcome support for Open Access". Archived from the original on August 21, 2009. Retrieved 17 October 2011.
  25. ^ Harnad, S (2007) "The Green Road to Open Access: A Leveraged Transition" Archived 2017-01-23 at the Wayback Machine. In: Anna Gacs. The Culture of Periodicals from the Perspective of the Electronic Age. L'Harmattan. 99–106. Retrieved 2012-11-19.
  26. ^ "Area-wide transition to open access is possible: A new study calculates a redeployment of funds in Open Access". Max Planck Gesellschaft. 27 April 2015. Archived from the original on 16 June 2017. Retrieved 2017-05-12.

Further reading

Academic publishing

Academic publishing is the subfield of publishing which distributes academic research and scholarship. Most academic work is published in academic journal article, book or thesis form. The part of academic written output that is not formally published but merely printed up or posted on the Internet is often called "grey literature". Most scientific and scholarly journals, and many academic and scholarly books, though not all, are based on some form of peer review or editorial refereeing to qualify texts for publication. Peer review quality and selectivity standards vary greatly from journal to journal, publisher to publisher, and field to field.

Most established academic disciplines have their own journals and other outlets for publication, although many academic journals are somewhat interdisciplinary, and publish work from several distinct fields or subfields. There is also a tendency for existing journals to divide into specialized sections as the field itself becomes more specialized. Along with the variation in review and publication procedures, the kinds of publications that are accepted as contributions to knowledge or research differ greatly among fields and subfields.

Academic publishing is undergoing major changes, as it makes the transition from the print to the electronic format. Business models are different in the electronic environment. Since the early 1990s, licensing of electronic resources, particularly journals, has been very common. An important trend, particularly with respect to journals in the sciences, is open access via the Internet. In open access publishing, a journal article is made available free for all on the web by the publisher at the time of publication. Both open and closed journals are sometimes funded by the author paying an Article processing charge, thereby shifting some fees from the reader to the researcher or their funder. Many open or closed journals fund their operations without such fees. The Internet has facilitated open access self-archiving, in which authors themselves make a copy of their published articles available free for all on the web. Some important results in mathematics have been published only on arXiv.


CafePress, Inc. is an American online retailer of stock and user-customized on demand products. The company was founded in San Mateo, California, but is now headquartered in Louisville, Kentucky, USA along with its production facility. In 2001, won the People's Voice Webby Award in the Commerce category.

Custom Ink

Custom Ink is an American-based online retail company that makes custom apparel such as T-shirts and sweatshirts.

Hybrid open-access journal

A hybrid open-access journal is a subscription journal in which some of the articles are open access. This status typically requires the payment of a publication fee (also called an article processing charge or APC) to the publisher in order to publish an article open access, in addition to the continued payment of subscriptions to access all other content.

List of open-access journals

This is a list of open-access journals by field. The list contains notable journals which have a policy of full open access. It does not include delayed open access journals, hybrid open access journals, or related collections or indexing services.

True open-access journals can be split into two categories :

diamond or platinum open-access journals, which charge no additional publication, open access or article processing fees

gold open-access journals, which charge publication fees (also called article processing charges, APCs).The list below is focused on open-access journals with no fees. However, some fields like biology and medicine have a stronger tradition of article processing charge, the corresponding journals below then have a footnote indicating such fees.

Nature Communications

Nature Communications is a peer-reviewed open access scientific journal published by the Nature Publishing Group since 2010. It covers the natural sciences, including physics, chemistry, Earth sciences, and biology.

The founding editor-in-chief was Lesley Anson. The journal has editorial offices in London, New York City, and Shanghai.

Starting October 2014, the journal only accepted submissions from authors willing to pay an article processing charge (currently $5,200 in the United States). The journal typically publishes over 100 articles per week.

Until the end of 2015, part of the published submissions were only available to subscribers. In January 2016, all content became freely accessible to the public.

Outskirts Press

Outskirts Press is a Denver, Colorado-based book publisher which caters to self-publishing authors.

Print on demand

Print-on-demand (POD) is a printing technology and business process in which book copies (or other documents) are not printed until the company receives an order, allowing prints of singular or small quantities. While other industries established the build to order business model, "print-on-demand" could only develop after the beginning of digital printing, because it was not economical to print single copies using traditional printing technology such as letterpress and offset printing.

Many traditional small presses have replaced their traditional printing equipment with POD equipment or contract their printing to POD service providers. Many academic publishers, including university presses, use POD services to maintain large backlists (lists of older publications); some use POD for all of their publications. Larger publishers may use POD in special circumstances, such as reprinting older, out of print titles or for test marketing.

Printer (publishing)

In publishing, printers are both companies providing printing services and individuals who directly operate printing presses.Printers include:

Newspaper printers, often owned by newspaper publishers

Magazine printers, usually independent of magazine publishers

Book printers, often not directly connected with book publishers

Stationery printers

Packaging printers

Trade printers, who offer wholesale rates within the printing industryAn artist who operates a printing press to execute their own works of printing press such as, hand in limited runs. That is usually distinguished from other printers by the term printmaker.


Redbubble is a global online marketplace for print-on-demand products based on user-submitted artwork. The company was founded in 2006 in Melbourne, Australia, and also maintains offices in San Francisco and Berlin.

The company operates primarily on the Internet and allows its members to sell their artwork as decoration on a variety of products. Products include prints, T-shirts, hoodies, cushions, duvet covers, leggings, stickers, skirts, and scarves. The company offers free membership to artists who maintain the copyrights to their work, regulate their own prices, and decide which products may display their images.

Royal Society Open Science

Royal Society Open Science is a peer-reviewed open access scientific journal published by the Royal Society since September 2014. Its launch was announced in February 2014.

It covers all scientific fields and publishes all articles which are scientifically sound, leaving any judgement of impact to the reader. As of 2017 the editor-in-chief, Jeremy Sanders, is supported by a team of Subject Editors and Associate Editors. Commissioning and peer review for the chemistry section of the journal is managed by the Royal Society of Chemistry.Articles published in Royal Society Open Science are regularly covered in the mainstream media, such as BBC News and The Independent newspaper.The journal is indexed by a number of services, including PubMed, PubMed Central, Scopus and the Directory of Open Access Journals.

As of January 2018, the article processing charge is GBP 900 (USD 1260, EUR 1080).

Science Advances

Science Advances is a peer-reviewed multidisciplinary open-access scientific journal established in early 2015. It is the fourth journal published by the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the first that is gold open access and online only. The journal's scope includes all areas of science, including the life sciences, physical sciences, social sciences, computer sciences, and environmental sciences.


Shopify is a Canadian e-commerce company headquartered in Ottawa, Ontario. It is also the name of its proprietary e-commerce platform for online stores and retail point-of-sale systems. Shopify offers online retailers a suite of services "including payments, marketing, shipping and customer engagement tools to simplify the process of running an online store for small merchants."The company reported that it had more than 600,000 merchants using its platform as of August 2017, with total gross merchandise volume exceeding $26 billion.


Shutterfly, Inc. is an American Internet-based company, headquartered in Redwood City, California, and specializing in image-publishing services. Shutterfly's flagship product is its photo book line. The company, founded in 1999, is currently led by Christopher North. The company went public in 2006.

The Shutterfly customer base is heavily skewed toward women, who accounted for 80% of customers as reported in 2013.Shutterfly's revenue derives from "turning digital snapshots into tangible things".

Small press

A small press is a publisher with annual sales below a certain level. Commonly, in the United States, this is set at $50 million, after returns and discounts. Small presses are also defined as those that publish an average of fewer than 10 titles per year, though there are a few who manage to do more.

The terms "small press", "indie publisher", and "independent press" are often used interchangeably, with "independent press" defined as publishers that are not part of large conglomerates or multinational corporations. Defined this way, these presses make up approximately half of the market share of the book publishing industry. Many small presses rely on specialization in genre fiction, poetry, or limited-edition books or magazines, but there are also thousands that focus on niche non-fiction markets.


Spreadshirt is a global e-commerce company that offers print-on-demand for clothing and accessories. It operates in Europe and North America. Customers can either discover products designed by others or create their own designs. It is also possible for vendors to create their own shops. Spreadshirt has its own factories for printing the ordered items.

Ubiquity Press

Ubiquity Press is a United Kingdom-based academic publisher focusing on open access publication. It was established in 2012. It is a member of the Committee on Publication Ethics, the Association of Learned and Professional Society Publishers, and the Open Access Scholarly Publishers Association. The press operates on an article processing charge basis.

Vanity press

A vanity press, vanity publisher, or subsidy publisher is a publishing house in which authors pay to have their books published. Vanity publishers have no selection criteria as opposed to other "hybrid" publishing models. The term has appeared in mainstream U.S. publications as early as 1941.

In contrast, mainstream publishers, whether major companies or small presses, derive their profit from sales of the book to the general public. Publishers must therefore be cautious and deliberate in choosing to publish works that will sell, particularly as they must recoup their investment in the book (such as an advance payment and royalties to the author, editorial guidance, promotion, marketing, or advertising). In order to sell books, commercial publishers may also be selective in order to cultivate a reputation for high-quality work, or to specialize in a particular genre.

Because vanity presses are not usually selective (at least in the same way a commercial publisher would be) publication by a vanity press is typically not seen as conferring the same recognition or prestige as commercial publication. Vanity presses do offer more independence for the author than does the mainstream publishing industry; however, their fees can be higher than the fees normally charged for similar printing services, and sometimes restrictive contracts are required.

While a commercial publisher's intended market is the general public, a vanity publisher's intended market is the author and a very small number of interested members of the general public. In some cases, authors of a book that is vanity published will buy a substantial number of copies of their book, so that they can give it away as a promotional tool.

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