New SPARC guide reviews income models for supporting open-access journals

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For immediate release
October 8, 2009

For more information, contact:
Jennifer McLennan
(202) 296-2996 ext 121
jennifer [at] arl [dot] org


WASHINGTON, DC – “Who pays for Open Access?” is a key question faced by publishers, authors, and libraries as awareness and interest in free, immediate, online access to scholarly research increases. SPARC (the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition) examines the issue of sustainability for current and prospective open-access publishers in a timely new guide, “Income models for Open Access: An overview of current practice,” by Raym Crow.

“Income models for Open Access: An overview of current practice” examines the use of supply-side revenue streams (such as article processing fees, advertising) and demand-side models (including versioning, use-triggered fees). The guide provides an overview of income models currently in use to support open-access journals, including a description of each model along with examples of journals currently employing it.

Since its inception, SPARC has supported publishing models and policy initiatives that broaden access to the peer-reviewed results of research, and has recognized that this has financial implications for society and other nonprofit publishers. The new SPARC guide aims to support the development of sound open-access publishing business models by providing an overview of current practice as well as practical guidance for publishers in evaluating the viability and financial potential of selected income models.

Developing a sound business model is a critical concern for all publishers and the process can be especially challenging for those considering open-access distribution. The guide recognizes that the needs of individual journals differ, and that publishers will apply a variety of income models to support open-access distribution. The right model must take into account not only the publisher’s need to cover expenses, but also the organization’s mission objectives, size, business management resources, and other factors.

“There’s not a single solution to creating the income stream necessary to support open-access publication that works for every publisher,” said Heather Joseph, Executive Director of SPARC. “Through this experimental phase, it’s important to be both flexible and pragmatic in the evaluation of new models. This guide will be a critical tool both for publishers exploring new potential sources of income and for libraries weighing where to direct meager library funds.”

“Income models for Open Access: An overview of current practice” is available for free to read or download online. The guide is supplemented by an extensive Web resource, which invites community discussion on models described as well as contributions related to new and other models. The resource is online at


SPARC (Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition), with SPARC Europe and SPARC Japan, is an international alliance of more than 800 academic and research libraries working to create a more open system of scholarly communication. SPARC’s advocacy, educational, and publisher partnership programs encourage expanded dissemination of research. Membership in SPARC is open to academic and research libraries of all sizes, which share interest in advancing scholarship through broadening access to research. SPARC is on the Web at