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Costs of journals publishing

Following are some publicly available cost estimates, for both print &
e-journals, that you might find interesting. All not-for-profits; I was
unable to find any cost estimates from for-profit publishers.

(Now here's my disclaimer: I work for The University of Chicago Press, but
the interpretations below are my own & don't necessarily represent the
views of my employer.)

My interpretation:

1) Published cost estimates are fairly consistent. For print journals,
first-copy costs (editing, review, design, etc) are usually about 60-65%
but can range up to 80%. Reproduction & distribution (variable costs) are
about 20-30%, most of which is reproduction. The biggest discrepancy in
published reports is in the way overhead (administration, warehousing,
etc) is calculated & assigned to first-copy or variable costs.

2) The costs of e-journals are more variable and depend upon the
circulation of the e-journal, the size of the publishing program, the
format used (e.g. SGML or PDF) and where in the production process e-files
are generated, the extent of added value in the e-journal, and whether or
not a print journal is retained.

3) Publishers starting an e-journal can expect increased capital and IS
costs, increased personnel costs, and probably increased marketing &
customer service costs. They may see savings in editing & review costs &
production costs, depending on the system they adopt. They will see large
savings in reproduction & distribution costs ONLY IF they get rid of the
print edition. If they offer both editions and lose large number of print
subscriptions, the variable costs will go up significantly. Publishers
with more e-journals are able to spread out the start-up costs more

4) The costs of maintaining a print & electronic edition, assuming no
major changes in subscriptions, typically range from about 90% of the
print edition to about 110%, but there's a lot of variation. E-editions
costing more than 110% may do so because they have significant added
value; they increase access; they are priced to offset anticipated loss of
print subs (if a choice is offered); there are high start-up costs.

Useful references:

Papers presented to the Scholarly Communication and Technology Conference
organized by the Andrew J. Mellon Foundation, Emory University, April 1997,
o Fisher, J.H. 1997. Comparing electronic journals to print journals: are
there savings?
o Getz, M. 1997. Electronic publishing in academia: an economic
o Regier, W.G. 1997. Epic: electronic publishing is cheaper. 
o Shirrell, R. 1997. Economics of electronic publishing: cost issues -
comments on session one presenations. 
org/scomm/scat/<author's last name>.html>

Holmes, A. 1997. Electronic publishing in science: reality check. Canadian
Journal of Communication 22 (3/4): 105-116

King, D.W. & C. Tenopir. 1998. Economic cost models of scientific scholarly
journals. Paper presented to the ICSU Press Workshop, March/April, 1998.

Walker, T.J. 1998a. Free Internet access to traditional journals. American
Scientist 86 (5).

Walker, T.J. 1998b. The future of scientific journals: free access or pay per
view? American Entomologist 44(3): in press. Preprint available at

Kate Duff
Special Projects Coordinator
University of Chicago Press, Journals Division
5720 S. Woodlawn Ave.
Chicago, IL 60637 USA
Tel: 773-702-7688
Fax: 773-702-0694
E-mail: kduff@journals.uchicago.edu