Academic publishers charging $30 for a PDF — but for how long?

A deeply cheering article from George Monbiot at the Guardian.

Academic publishers make Murdoch look like a socialist

Academic publishers charge vast fees to access research paid for by us. Down with the knowledge monopoly racketeers

You might resent Murdoch’s paywall policy, in which he charges £1 for 24 hours of access to the Times and Sunday Times. But at least in that period you can read and download as many articles as you like. Reading a single article published by one of Elsevier’s journals will cost you $31.50. Springer charges €34.95, Wiley-Blackwell, $42. Read 10 and you pay 10 times. And the journals retain perpetual copyright. You want to read a letter printed in 1981? That’ll be $31.50.

Murdoch pays his journalists and editors, and his companies generate much of the content they use. But the academic publishers get their articles, their peer reviewing (vetting by other researchers) and even much of their editing for free. The material they publish was commissioned and funded not by them but by us, through government research grants and academic stipends. But to see it, we must pay again, and through the nose.

The returns are astronomical: in the past financial year, for example, Elsevier’s operating profit margin was 36% (£724m on revenues of £2bn). They result from a stranglehold on the market. Elsevier, Springer and Wiley, who have bought up many of their competitors, now publish 42% of journal articles.

What we see here is pure rentier capitalism: monopolising a public resource then charging exorbitant fees to use it. Another term for it is economic parasitism. To obtain the knowledge for which we have already paid, we must surrender our feu to the lairds of learning.

I endorse every word, every punctuation mark of this article.  Gaudeamus!  It is great to see this in the mainstream press. 

This racket needs to stop.  Why should I work for pay in order to fund the profits of these people?

Once they performed a useful service, and their charges related to it.  Now, in the age of the PDF, their costs are tiny and their greed insensate.

1 Response to “Academic publishers charging $30 for a PDF — but for how long?”


  1. September 2011 Biblical Studies Carnival Episode III: The Final Frontier as the Carnival Strikes Back | Exploring Our Matrix

    [...] Smith, Jim West and Roger Pearse blogged about the keeping of academic publications in the hands of an elite (and wealthy) few. [...]



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