Revenue form article processing charges for five publishers was over US$ 1 billion between 2015-2018

Five publishers (Elsevier, Sage, Taylor & Francis, Springer-Nature and Wiley) logos

A recent paper

A recent paper (“The oligopoly’s shift to open access: How the big five academic publishers profit from article processing charges“) looks at the “big 5” publishers (Elsevier, Sage, Springer Nature, Taylor & Francis and Wiley). The paper estimated their revenue from Article Processing Charges (APCs) from these publishers. Here are the main messages we took from the paper:

  1. Between 2015-2018 it is estimated that authors paid $1.06 billion in publication fees to these five publishers.
  2. Springer-Nature made the most revenue ($588.7 million) followed by Elsevier ($221.4 million), Wiley ($114.3 million), Taylor & Francis ($76.8 million) and Sage ($31.6 million)
  3. The data was collected from Clarivate, unpaywall, open datasets of APC list prices and historical prices retrieved from Wayback Machine.
  4. The APC’s used in their calculations were based on those used in the year the paper was published. This is to be applauded. It would have been MUCH easier to take the current APC’s but this would over estimate the revenue.
  5. To give an example of how the APC’s could have been over estimated, a Wiley journal, in 2015 charged $3,000. In 2023, the fee is $4,020. If you used today’s fee for a 2015 article the over estimate would be 34%.
  6. The number of open access articles over the four year period of study (2015-2018) increased from 91,375 articles in 2015 to 153,746 articles in 2018.
  7. Over the four-year period studied, it is estimated that Scientific Reports obtained $105.1 million in APC’s and Nature Communications obtained $71.1 million. These journals are both published by Springer-Nature.
  8. The high income of Scientific Reports can be partly explained by the fact that it published 73,206 articles.
  9. Three Springer-Nature journals had the highest average APC’s; Diabetes Therapy ($5,478), Infectious Diseases and Therapy ($5,295) and Rheumatology and Therapy ($5,169) (see Figure 1)
  10. The three countries that paid the largest amounts of APC’s were USA, $184.7 million; China, $148.0 million and the UK ($134.6 million)
Bar chart showing top 50 journals by average APCs 2015–2018.
Figure 1: Top 50 journals by average APCs 2015–2018. Gold journals are labeled, all others are hybrid (figure from

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