May 16, 2022

New Article: “Disrupting The Subscription Journals’ Business Model For The Necessary Large-Scale Transformation To Open Access”

Here’s an announcement/summary of a new article written by researchers from the Max Planck Digital Library.

From the Announcement:

The Max Planck Digital Library has put forward a study on the transformation of the subscription-driven system for scientific publications to an Open Access model. For the first time, quantitative parameters are presented showing that the liberation of scholarly literature is possible at no extra costs.

According to market analyses, annual turnovers of academic publishers amount to approximately EUR 7.6 billion [$8.5 billion/USD]. This money comes predominantly from publicly funded scientific libraries as they purchase subscriptions or licenses in order to provide access to scientific journals for their customers. Since more than a decade the Open Access movement, in which the Max Planck Society plays a major role, has been demanding free and immediate access to the results of academic research on the internet.

Open Access publishers ensure their financial sustainability through charging publication fees: Not readers but rather authors or their institutions or funders are supposed to pay for publications. While numerous publishers have already adopted an Open Access business model during the last few years, the share of openly available scientific articles is still only at a level of some 13%.

“We need to create an efficient and widely budget-neutral transition which offers fresh incentives to traditional publishers to cooperate and transfer established journals to Open Access,” says Martin Stratmann, President of the Max Planck Society.

The study which has now been presented by the Max Planck Digital Library is investigating the question whether the previously used subscription budgets would be sufficient to fund the Open Access publication charges and thus bring about a complete transition of academic publishing. The paper, entitled Disrupting the subscription journal’s business model for the necessary large-scale transformation to open access, concludes that such a transition would be possible at no extra costs. “An internationally concerted shifting of subscription budgets is possible at no financial risk, maybe even at lower overall costs”, says main author Ralf Schimmer.

Direct to Full Text Research Article


Disrupting the Subscription Journal’s Business Model for the Necessary Large-Scale Transformation To Open Access (11 pages; PDF)


Ralf Schimmer 
Information, Max Planck Digital Library, Max Planck Society

Kai Karin Geschuhn  
Information, Max Planck Digital Library, Max Planck Society

Andreas Vogler
Information, Max Planck Digital Library, Max Planck Society


Max Planck Society Publications Repository


This paper makes the strong, fact-based case for a large-scale transformation of the current corpus of scientific subscription journals to an open access business model. The existing journals, with their well-tested functionalities, should be retained and developed to meet the demands of 21st century research, while the underlying payment streams undergo a major restructuring. There is sufficient momentum for this decisive push towards open access publishing. The diverse existing initiatives must be coordinated so as to converge on this clear goal. The international nature of research implies that this transformation will be achieved on a truly global scale only through a consensus of the world’s most eminent research organizations.

All the indications are that the money already invested in the research publishing system is sufficient to enable a transformation that will be sustainable for the future. There needs to be a shared understanding that the money currently locked in the journal subscription system must be withdrawn and repurposed for open access publishing services. The current library acquisition budgets are the ultimate reservoir for enabling the transformation without financial or other risks. The goal is to preserve the established service levels provided by publishers that are still requested by researchers, while redefining and reorganizing the necessary payment streams. By disrupting the underlying business model, the viability of journal publishing can be preserved and put on a solid footing for the scholarly developments of the future.

Direct to Full Text Article: Disrupting the Subscription Journal’s Business Model for the Necessary Large-Scale Transformation To Open Access (11 pages; PDF)

About Gary Price

Gary Price ( is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.