Via Heather Morrison, Research Brief: Library savings from full flip to open access via article processing fees: about two-thirds savings, The Imaginary Journal of Poetic Economics, October 18, 2009.
Based on data supplied by Mark Ware in the recently released report for the Scientific, Technical and Medical Publishers Association (STM) An overview of scientific and scholarly journals publishing, I calculate that library savings from a full flip from subscriptions to [open] access via article processing fees, at the PLoS One rate of $1,350 would be at least 64%. For the avoidance of doubt, that’s about a two-thirds discount. This is presented as an illustration that open access is a wise choice economically, and not just from an access perspective; it is not meant as an endorsement of PLoS One or the article processing fee approach. The majority of OA journals do not charge article processing fees.
In brief, Ware estimates annual STM revenue at $8 billion per year, and quotes Bjork et al on an estimated total peer-reviewed journal article production of 1.5 million articles per year. This is an average of $5,333 revenue for STM for each scholarly article produced in a year. Compare this with the PLoS One article processing fee of $1,350 per article. Factoring in about 70% of STM revenues coming from library sources, the resulting global savings for libraries are 64%. See here for figures.
Other ways of expressing this: PLoS One costs about a fourth of the average revenue per article for STM, or PLoS One is four times as efficient as the average traditional STM journal.
There are many limitations to this brief study. Most of these limitations are reasons why library savings would be greater than 64%. Examples of variables not taken into account:
STM revenue does not take into account non-STM revenue, for journals in the humanities and social sciences and smaller publishers that are not part of STM. The article count, however, is for all disciplines. A higher total revenue would result in a higher average per-article revenue with the current subscription system, which in turn would mean higher library savings with a flip to open access via article processing fees.
This scenario does not take into account non-library revenue for article processing fees, such as authors who can tap into research grant funds for this purpose. …