Mike Dunford writing in of The Questionable Authority has written a post that compares the business model and profits of journal publishers with oil companies. One figure that he arrives at is shocking, to say the least, but also illustrative of the current journal market:
Gas prices are going up. You’ve been combining trips, cutting your milage as much as you can, driving a more efficient vehicle, and your fuel costs are still going up. You drive home from work, stopping along the way to put $30+ dollars worth of gas into the 10 gallon tank in your Prius. You sit on the sofa, turn on the news, and hear that Exxon-Mobil just reported quarterly profits of about $1,500 per second. The price of something that you need to buy is going through the roof, it’s making things inconvenient for you, and the people who sell it are making money faster than the mint can print it. How happy are you?
If you want to understand the anger that the major publishing houses are generating, that’s a good place to start.
Publishers don’t make money at anything close to the clip that Big Oil does, but they’re not doing badly. Elsevier is probably the biggest fish, and they come in at a respectable $1,700 per minute. That’s 60 times less than Exxon-Mobil, but it’s still a nice chunk of change.
He goes on to discuss the relationships between authors and publishers, and the reaction to the open access movement. All in all, this is a good essay that can provide some perspective for those outside of the library and publishing worlds.
found via Open Access News