Publishers using open access article processing charges are either big or small (skewed distribution)

Of the minority of journals in DOAJ that have article processing charges (26 – 30%) , most (80%) are published either by publishers that have 50 or more journals that use APCs, or 1 – 9 journals that use APCs, with not much in the middle.


Of the publishers with 1 – 9 journals using APCs, by far the largest category of this group (83%) are one-off journals, i.e. the publisher has only one journal using APCs. This is a skewed distribution.


This finding supports the distribution found by Frantsvåg (2010), although unlike Frantsvåg I do not see the large number of small publishers as a problem, but rather, as suggested by Edgar and Willinsky (2010), a possible indication of a renaissance of scholar-led publishing.  This distribution also fits the pattern for scholarly journal publishers overall described by Crow (2006).

This is very similar to the findings of Thompson (2005, p. 63),who found through a major study of scholarly monograph publishers in several English-speaking countries, a tendency towards concentration and larger publishers combined with a healthy system of very small publishers, but not much in the middle.

We hear a lot about the big publishers using APCs, like BioMedCentral and Hindawi, but not as much about the many small publishers. For this reason, it is the smaller  journals and publishers that I most want to highlight.


Crow, R. (2006). Publishing cooperatives: An alternative for not-for-profit publishers. First Monday, 11(9) Retrieved 2011 from

Edgar, B. D., & Willinsky, J. (2010). A survey of the scholarly journals using open journal systems. Scholarly and Research Communication 1:2 Retrieved July 21, 2014 from

Frantsvåg, J. E. (2010). The size distribution of open access publishers: A problem for open access? First Monday 15:2. Retrieved November 28, 2010 from

Thompson, J. B. (2005). Books in the digital age : The transformation of academic and higher education publishing in Britain and the United States. Cambridge: Polity.


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