SpringerNature and Macmillan: one company, two directions: open access and IP maximization

Second update July 30 (thanks to Springer’s Katie Baker): this Holtzbrinck.com site helps with how it all sits. SpringerNature is first on the page of companies owned, Macmillan Publishing is second.

Update July 30:

To help readers “see” the overall SpringerNature business, I’ve included the following screen shots which lists of Springer Nature brands captured from the SpringerNature group website on July 30, 2019 and the Macmillan.com site which that states that “Macmillan Publishers is a division of the Holtzbrinck Publishing Group, a large family-owned media company headquartered in Stuttgart, Germany”. According to the SpringerNature group history, “Springer Nature was formed through the merger of Nature Publishing Group, Palgrave Macmillan, Macmillan Education and Springer Science+Business Media. The main shareholders of Springer Nature are Holtzbrinck Publishing Group and BC Partners. Holtzbrinck, a family-owned company based in Stuttgart, holds a majority share of 53 per cent” (from https://group.springernature.com/gp/group/aboutus/our-history). According to Springer representative Katie Baker (see comment), Macmillan Publishing is not associated with SpringerNature group. This is no doubt correct, however both report to the same owners, unless the Macmillan.com website is out of date, in which case an update on the business’ current ownership would be helpful.



When we interact with a large global business, whether as staff, customers, partners, or others, it is quite common that we only interact with a small portion of the company and have little or no knowledge of the company as a whole. Why does this matter?  Two examples:

  • When a country is having consultations on topics such as open access and copyright, a complex company like SpringerNature may be lobbying for opposing positions. SpringerOpen staff may only be aware of the open access position.
  • The nature of the mix of sub-companies owned by SpringerNature is such that SpringerOpen open access policies such as open licensing might be feeding commercial profit interests at another sub-company such as macmillan education without the knowledge of SpringerOpen staff, authors, and their acquaintances. For example, I would be surprised if SpringerNature sent staff from macmillan education to talk about downstream benefits of commercial re-use in textbook sales and rentals at OASPA or other open access / open education conferences. If open access advocates refer exclusively to downstream open educational uses of openly licensed material, it is not in the best financial interests of the parent company to discuss the potential for downstream toll access re-use.

Original post:

SpringerNature, owner of Springer Open, Nature, and BioMedCentral, positions itself as a leader in the open access movement. However, Springer, Nature, and BMC are only 3 of the brands of the parent company, SpringerNature Group. The purpose of this post is to raise awareness about the dual approach of the parent company with respect to copyright and intellectual property – positioning itself as both a leader in open access and a leader in IP maximization, and to encourage those with a sincere interest in the goal of open access to learn about, and question, organizations with an interest in serving this area.

While the SpringerNature site today states that it is:

“A new force in research publishing
Springer Nature is the world’s largest academic book publisher, publisher of the world’s most influential journals, and a pioneer in the field of open research” (from: https://group.springernature.com/gp/group

…another of the company’s brands, Macmillan, is sending letters to creators complaining that library lending is cannibalizing sales, and is further restricting paid library use of works. See the Canadian Urban Libraries’ Council on this matter here:

Following are the brands listed on the SpringerNature group site as of today:

Our brand sites
Nature Research
Palgrave Macmillan
Macmillan Education
Springer Healthcare
Scientific American

In addition to open access, this company is involved in toll access textbook publishing and rentals and educational services that appear to compete with public education services. Even among the 3 brands involved in open access, 2 (Springer and Nature Research) have a long history of making money through subscriptions and sales. Even today, this is probably a much larger source of income than open access, and one of these brands’ main assets is copyright ownership of a large corpus of works.

To understand the potential futures of open access, it is important to understand the nature of the players involved. The friendly staff of Springer Open are no doubt a pleasure to work with for people in the OA movement, and sincere in their embrace of OA. However, when they tell you that true open access requires open licensing granting blanket downstream permission for commercial uses, they might not be aware that some of these commercial uses could involve for-profit textbook sales and rentals.

Unlike Elsevier, SpringerNatureGroup does not post financial information on its website. As a publicly traded corporation, Elsevier is obliged to provide this kind of transparency, including profits and business strategy. The corporation as a form of business can be viewed as an early form of openness in business; anyone can buy shares and participate in profits and decision-making. Springer is privately owned, and has no such obligation. In this respect, Springer is far less open than Elsevier.

Originally posted on the Global Open Access List and the Radical Open Access List.

Cite as: Morrison, H. (2019). SpringerNature and Macmillan: One company, two directions: open access and IP maximization. Sustaining the Knowledge Commons / Soutenir Les Savoirs Communs. Retrieved from https://sustainingknowledgecommons.org/2019/07/29/springernature-and-macmillan-one-company-two-directions-open-access-and-ip-maximization/

Taylor & Francis bought Co-Action Publishing

In the last year, Taylor and Francis announced that Co-Action Publishing will be part of their portfolio for 2017.

Caroline Sutton, co-founder of Co-Action Publishing is now the Head of Open Scholarship Development in Taylor & Francis Group. It appears that the journals that were published by Co-Action Publishing are now merged in Taylor & Francis’ brand and not as a separate imprint.

According to Open Access Scholarly Publishers Association, Co-Action Publishing was publishing 34 journals and more than 2000 open access articles per year.

References :



Cite as:

Laprade, K. (2017). Taylor & Francis bought Co-Action Publishing. Sustaining the Knowledge Commons / Soutenir Les Savoirs Communs. Retrieved from https://sustainingknowledgecommons.org/2017/04/11/taylor-francis-bought-co-action-publishing/

Society for Scholarly Publishing AGM Presentation 2016

The slides from my presentation at the Society for Scholarly Publishing AGM June 3, 2016 in Vancouver are available here:  SSP presentation 2016 06 03 hgm

Please see the references slides at the ends for citations and links to further information. Comments and questions are welcome, here or via email to Heather dot Morrison at uottawa dot ca. If you would like to comment on the blog but prefer anonymity please contact me via e-mail

Cite as:

Morrison, H. (2016, June). Sustaining the knowledge commons: Open access scholarship. Conference Presentation presented at the Society for Scholarly Publishing (SSP) annual meeting, Vancouver, British Columbia. Retrieved from https://sustainingknowledgecommons.files.wordpress.com/2016/06/ssp-presentation-2016-06-03-hgm.pdf



Elsevier: now the world’s largest open access publisher

Elsevier: the world’s largest open access publisher as of May 2016

** draft ** by Heather Morrison


Elsevier is now the world’s largest open access publisher as measured by the number of fully open access journals published. Elsevier has 511 fully open access journals. De Gruyter is second with 435, Hindawi third with 405. These figures are based on data from the publishers’ own websites. 315 of the 511 journals (63%) have an APC of 0 and indicate “fee not payable by author”. Sampling of the open access journals indicates that a very large percentage (90%) of the fully open access journals are sponsored by actively involved societies and institutions with most owning copyright. I argue that society copyright ownership is not a bad thing; the alternative may not be vision of pure OA but rather Elsevier copyright.

In addition, 2,149 Elsevier journals have hybrid options at 2,149 journals. There is a marked difference in pricing patterns between hybrid and open access journals. Fully open access journals are clustered at the low end of the $0 – $5,000 USD price range while hybrids’ pricing is skewed toward the higher end.

A sampling of 50 journals from the full list of Elsevier journals found that 70% feature a “supports open access” button on the about the journal page; 38% have indications of society involvement, but clear indication of society copyright ownership is much less common. There is very limited historical information provided about Elsevier journals on the freely available website, making it difficult to assess past society or institutional involvement for a large percentage of journals.

Finally, an analysis is presented of the potential for Elsevier to achieve a full flip to open access APC while retaining current revenue. Reasonably realistic estimates range from a low of $5,000 USD to a high of over $11,000 USD to cover the 2015 Elsevier annual revenue of $3 billion USD from STM and enjoy the current 37% profit rate. These rates are not realistic. Libraries and those wishing to further the transition to open access should anticipate that Elsevier will seek to continue to receive subscriptions revenue, even with broad-based support for APCs, for a long time to come.

For full details see the draft in PDF:

Elsevier and open access publishing May 2016

Data from the study of 50 Elsevier journals can be downloaded from the dataverse.

Morrison, H. (2016). Elsevier: Now the world’s largest open access publisher. Sustaining the Knowledge Commons / Soutenir Les Savoirs Communs. Retrieved from https://sustainingknowledgecommons.org/2016/05/13/elsevier-now-the-worlds-largest-open-access-publisher/

Deals for members and journal as publicity for society membership: options for society journals

One of the challenges for journals published by societies is the historical relationship between journal subscriptions and society memberships. One option for such journals if they are using article processing fees is to use a discounted rate for members.

The Journal of the Ceramic Society of Japan provides awards each year for outstanding papers. Only members of the society quality for the awards.

mBio authors can join ASM at the contributing member rate of $50 (students $20) to qualify for a $1,000 discount on the $3,000 OA APC.

G3 : Genes, Genomes, Genetics uses this method. Another is using the journal website as an advertising venue for membership. Language from the publisher website


G3 publication charges will be invoiced within several weeks of article acceptance. Charges (all inclusive) are:

  • $1650 (corresponding authors who are members of the Genetics Society of America or the American Society of Human Genetics)
  • $1950 (non-members)

Read about additional benefits of joining the Genetics Society of America here. There are no additional charges for author corrections, figures, supporting information files, or submission fees.

Is this method effective in attracting or retaining members? I don’t know – that would make a great research project. The team is collecting information about this variation in pricing as we go along. When we’re done we’ll post the spreadsheet and anyone interested can use this column to find a list of journals using the method to study.

This post is part of the open access article processing charges project.

Morrison, H. (2015). Deals for members and journal as publicity for society membership: Options for society journals. Sustaining the Knowledge Commons / Soutenir Les Savoirs Communs. Retrieved from https://sustainingknowledgecommons.org/2015/05/21/deals-for-members-and-journal-as-publicity-for-society-membership-options-for-society-journals/

Who is served by for-profit gold open access publishing? A case study of Hindawi and Egypt

by: Jihane Salhab and Heather Morrison


The highly successful Egypt-based open access publisher Hindawi is presented as a model of quality publishing and commercial success. However, this success is not accompanied by obvious benefits to Egypt’s own research and researchers. Even in the best-case scenario for academics in Egypt’s public university system, it would take three month’s salary for a full professor to pay the $1,500 USD OA APC of Hindawi’s high-end Disease Markers. Egypt’s largest public university, Cairo University, has no institutional repository. Fortunately for Egyptian researchers, there are open access journals that do not charge APCs, and not all open access repositories are institutional repositories. Open access may not be the most salient issue for Egyptian researchers at any rate. It is not clear that the pre-revolutionary state interference with research detailed in a 2005 Human Rights Watch report has been resolved, and the need to take on other work due to low salaries leaves many academics with little to no time to do research. In this instance, commercial success is not correlated with social benefit.


Hindawi is an open access commercial publishing success story and an Egyptian business success story. Hindawi Publishing Corporation was founded by Ahmed Hindawi who, in an interview with Richard Poynder conducted in September 2012, confirmed a revenue of millions of dollars from APCs alone – a $3.3 net profit on $12 million in revenue, a 28% profit rate (Poynder, 2012). Hindawi is highly respected in open access publishing circles, and was an early leader in establishing the Open Access Scholarly Publishers’ Association (OASPA), an organization that takes quality in publishing seriously.

However, it seems highly unlikely that Egyptian researchers could afford to publish in the larger Hindawi journals. It would take three months’ salary for a full professor in today’s public university system to pay the $1,500 USD APC of Hindawi’s Disease Markers; this would take six months’ salary for a lecturer. This is the best-case scenario, assuming a university that has been able to implement the raise for academics decreed by Morsi in July 2012 to 3500 EGY monthly for a full professor ($579 USD) (1).

In addition to the financial factor, years of the pre-revolution regime’s interference with research subjects and methods formed a stagnant nature of contemporary scholarship where “the state restricts who can research what and severely punishes those who overstep their bounds” (Human Rights Watch, 46). Though there is a slight improvement after the revolution, still “economic, political, and physical insecurity in the country make it very difficult for serious changes to be made” (El-Awady, 2013).

There are other options for Egyptian researchers: the vast majority of open access journals do not charge article processing fees (Morrison et. al., 2015), there are subject as well as institutional open access repositories, and Egyptian researchers can read open access works of others. Still it might be reasonable to ask whether the most appropriate route to “open” in the short-term for researchers in Egypt involves opening up time to do the research through adequate salaries and opening up freedom to conduct and share research by building support for intellectual and academic freedom.


1. In July 2012, more than a year after the revolution that ousted the Mubarak regime, elected president Morsi issued decree 84, amending the wages for academics that had not been changed since 1972. Published on July 14th in the Egyptian Official Journal (issue 28), Decree 84 (translated from Arabic by Jihane Salhab). lists the amendments of academics’ monthly wages as follows: 3500 EGY ($579 US) for professors, 3000 EGY ($497 US) for associate professors, 2500 EGY ($414 US) for lecturers, 1500 EGY ($248 US) for assistant lecturers and 1000EGY ($165 US) for teaching assistants respectively (using XE currency converter for that same date at a rate of $1=6.045 EGY). That raise was supposed to be only the first phase, but in February 2013 Egyptian minister of higher education Mas’ad confirmed in a statement that no other phases would follow (Bedewi, 2013).


Bedewi, M. (24 February 2013). Higher education: the country cannot endure the second phase of ‘academic wages.’ Al-Youm Al-Sabe’ [In Arabic]. Retrieved on 10 April 2015.

El-Awady, Nadia. (8 June 2013). Higher education still suffering after the revolution. University World News. Retrieved March 28, 2015 from http://www.universityworldnews.com/article.php?story=20130606161959301

Human Rights Watch (2005). Reading between the “Red Lines”: the repression of academic freedom in Egyptian universities. Human Rights Watch, 17(6): 1-109. Retrieved February 17, 2015 from http://www.hrw.org/reports/2005/egypt0605/egypt0605.pdf

Morrison H, Salhab J, Calvé-Genest A, Horava T (2015). Open Access Article Processing Charges: DOAJ Survey May 2014. Publications 3(1):1-16. Retrieved April 10, 2015 from http://www.mdpi.com/2304-6775/3/1/1

Poynder, R. (2012).The OA interviews: Ahmed Hindawi, founder of Hindawi Publishing Corporation. Retrieved March 10, 2015 from http://www.richardpoynder.co.uk/Hindawi_Interview.pdf

This post is the first in a series analyzing the actual or potential impact of APCs.

Cite as:

Salhab, J., & Morrison, H. (2015). Who is served by for-profit gold open access publishing? A case study of Hindawi and Egypt. Sustaining the Knowledge Commons / Soutenir Les Savoirs Communs. Retrieved from https://sustainingknowledgecommons.org/2015/04/10/who-is-served-by-for-profit-gold-open-access-publishing-a-case-study-of-hindawi-and-egypt/


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 http://www.src-online.ca/index.php/src/article/viewFile/24/40

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 http://firstmonday.org/htbin/cgiwrap/bin/ojs/index.php/fm/article/view/3208/2726

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.


Cite as: Morrison, H. (2014). Publishers using open access article processing charges are either big or small (skewed distribution). Sustaining the Knowledge Commons / Soutenir Les Savoirs Communs. Retrieved from https://sustainingknowledgecommons.org/2014/07/21/publishers-using-open-access-article-processing-charges-are-either-big-or-small-skewed-distribution/