Over the past two to three years, commercial publishers have been called a lot of names: greedy, rapacious, price-gouging, and so forth. Usually these remarks are made when comparing commercial journal prices with the prices of journals published by those who have the advantage of the high moral ground: learned societies. Why, it is asked (or, worse, not asked), does an American Chemical Society journal cost perhaps 10 cents per page, while an ier journal costs 25 cents per page? Let me quickly review the very great differences between the cost and revenue structures of society and nonsociety publishers.

Societies gain revenues from several sources:

  • member subscriptions (or dues);
  • nonmember individual subscriptions;
  • library subscriptions;
  • author page charges;
  • reprints; and
  • advertising.

In addition, they have postal subsidies and pay little or no taxes.

[By contrast], commercial publishers generally have revenue from only two sources: library subscriptions and reprints. We generally collect...

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