OA APC preliminary data 2015: range, central tendencies and preliminary longitudinal analysis

by Heather Morrison & Jihane Salhab

Noting the important caveat of the mythical nature of “the OA APC” as a single per-article price, following are the range, central tendencies and some highlights from our 2015 OA APC data.

Note that a2015APCll prices are in USD.





The overall average of journals sampled in 2015 was $998, compared to $964 in 2014 and $906 reported by Solomon & Björk in 2010. These are modest average increases (4% 2014 – 2015, 2% per year from 2010 – 2015). However, the average may mask contradictory tendencies, such as low or no fees for new journals to attract content obscuring increases for journals that either are, or are be2014-15 price changescoming, established.

From 2014 – 2015 on a per-title basis there was a fairly even 3-way split between journals that retained the same price, increased or decreased their price.

Different publishers show different tendencies. Hindawi, the largest OA publisher by number of journals, has such an 2015apcnohindawiimpact we are beginning to call this the “Hindawi factor”. In 2015, the overall mode (most common price) is $800, while the mode without Hindawi is $2,145. The following two charts illustrate the variation in pricing tendencies from 2010 – 2015 for the two largest OA APC publishers, Hindawi and BMC, reflecting the differences in approach to pricing for these publishers over the same time frame.

hindawi 20102015 BMC20102015 APC 2010 to 2015

The above chart shows a relatively steady average and median in contrast with a varying mode (most common price) from 2010 – 2015.

It is important to note that the samples are not entirely comparable. Notably, to facilitate the longitudinal study we have not included new publishers listed in DOAJ as of 2015. This is an important limitation. For example,  DeGruyter, not present in 2014, is the 3rd largest DOAJ publisher in 2015. The following details illustrate that the average cost-to-publish in a fully OA journal with publication fees in 2015 varies from about $250 USD to $2,145 USD, depending on the measure and particular sample of journals selected.


Range: $0 – $4,500

$0 APC = journals has APCs but currently price is $0. Most commonly this is used by journals that are “free for now” until more content is added.

Average (mean) Median Mode Standard deviation
Preliminary sample (all) 1,051


800 800 795
Preliminary sample (weighted) 858
Preliminary sample (excluding $0 APC) 1114
Preliminary sample (excluding $0 APC) weighted 1370

Preliminary sample: includes the 1,363 journals sampled in 2010, 2013 and/or 2014 confirmed as using APCs (excluding journals using APPC but not APC). APC of $0 (journals for which APC method is confirmed but no current charges, e.g. “free for now” approach) are included unless otherwise specified. The weighted figures adjust by a sampling factor designed to give added weight to journals from categories with lower rates of sampling, journals by publishers with less than 10 journals using APCs.

Full sample: 1,999 journals including preliminary sample plus additional journals sampled from publisher’s website.

Average (mean) Median Mode
All 998


800 600
Weighted 866
Excluding $0 APC 1,077


Excluding $0 APC) weighted 1,034


See above for description of “weighted”.

More details will be posted as our data analysis continues.

9 thoughts on “OA APC preliminary data 2015: range, central tendencies and preliminary longitudinal analysis

  1. Since you point to another study, it might be nice to point to my much larger study of APCs (among other things), which takes into account article volume as well. It covers more than 9,000 DOAJ-listed journals and 480,000 articles in 2014.

    The shortish version is the October 2015 Cites & Insights (http://citesandinsights.info/civ15i9on.pdf) and the longer version is The Gold OA Landscape 2011-2014.

    My study, which uses 2015 APC levels but 2014 article volume, shows an average of $1,108 per article *for articles in APC-charging journals* or $633 per article overall, but those figures vary wildly by subject area.

    • Thanks Walt. The reason the study by Solomon and Bjork is cited is because the 2010 data is theirs. That is, they provided title-level data in spreadsheet format which has been added to our data so that the data set we are analyzing is theirs as well as ours. Of course yours is one of many other useful studies in this area. This post is not meant to be a literature review. The idea is to get the data out there as soon as possible in case it might be useful.

    • Dear Walt,
      You wrote that your study covers more than 9,000 journals at DOAJ, but according to this link https://doaj.org/search?source={%22query%22%3A{%22filtered%22%3A{%22filter%22%3A{%22bool%22%3A{%22must%22%3A[{%22term%22%3A{%22_type%22%3A%22journal%22}}%2C{%22term%22%3A{%22index.has_apc.exact%22%3A%22Yes%22}}]}}%2C%22query%22%3A{%22match_all%22%3A{}}}}%2C%22from%22%3A0%2C%22size%22%3A10}#.Vq-zveHMYxM, there are only 1,187 journals with APCs in DOAJ.
      Plus, I don’t understand your last paragraph. You say that the average price was $1,108 for “articles in APC-charging journals”. Where else could they come from?? Where does the average of $633 come from then?
      Thanks a lot in advance.
      Miguel Navas

      • Miguel, I don’t think anyone knows exactly how many journals in DOAJ charge APCs. The best information that we have (from before the DOAJ transition and confirmed by our 2014 study, also drawn from DOAJ metadata) is that about a third of journals in DOAJ charge APCs. See the DOAJ website for historical information: https://doajournals.wordpress.com/2015/05/11/historical-apc-data-from-before-the-april-upgrade/

        Today’s DOAJ metadata shows 1,186 journals that indicate “yes” for APCs. This reflects only the journals that have gone through the new DOAJ application / re-application process so this is an understatement. What is far more puzzling from my perspective is why DOAJ metadata today does not have a single journal with a “no” in this column since we know the majority do not charge APCs.

        If you have questions specific to Walt’s work it may be more efficient to send them to him directly. His contact info is posted at the bottom of the Cites & Insights page here: http://citesandinsights.info/

      • Miguel: since you raised the question: my count of journals with APCs is based on actually visiting each journal; as Heather notes, DOAJ’s numbers are necessarily partial, at least for now.

        The reason I say “for articles in APC-charging journals” is to distinguish the two averages: $633 is the average APC per article for all articles in OA journals, including all the ones that don’t charge (most OA journals don’t).

    • No, that part’s right: All the journals *are* in DOAJ–but DOAJ hasn’t had consistent information on APCs from all journals. That should change as all the re-applications are processed.

      • In 2015 we included journals on publisher websites not in DOAJ. This is different from Walt’s study and what we did in 2014 (both limited to DOAJ). There are columns in the 2015 dataset to indicateur journals not in DOAJ or not in DOAJ in both 2014 and 2015.

  2. Good point. I was only referring to my 2014 study (the same will be true for the even-more-complete 2011-2015 study: it will only involve journals in DOAJ as of 12/31/15). Heather Morrison’s studies are different in a number of ways.

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