The editorial board of the journal Prometheus: Critical Studies in Innovation has threatened to resign because the academic journal's corporate owners, Taylor and Francis, have ordered them not to publish a paper critical of the academic publishing industry. The paper, Publisher, be damned! from price gouging to the open road, was written by academics from the University of Leicester's School of Management.
What has been characterised as rampant price inflation is one characteristic of the market in academic journals – or at least those journals published by commercial publishers – with several studies since 2000 indicating rapidly increasing prices charged by for-profit publishers (Bergstrom, 2001; Bergstrom and Bergstrom, 2004; Dewatripont et al., 2007; Harvie et al., 2012). Bergstrom and Bergstrom (2004) suggest that a journal page published by a for-profit publisher is between three and five times more expensive than one published by a not-for-profit publisher. One factor driving increasing prices is journal reputation (Bergstrom, 2001) – but this leads to increasing profit margins (McCabe, 2004). In short, widely-cited journals are perceived to be higher quality, which allows for-profit publishers to charge higher prices for such journals; if widely-cited and more highly-priced journals also enjoy higher circulation (because they are widely-cited), then publishers also benefit through lower average production costs (McCabe, 2004; Dewatripont et al., 2007).
(Image: Silence, Wiros, CC-BY-SA)