Making the choice: Paid journals vs open-access journals

Dr Zoran Dinev

Researchers usually struggle to select the best journal for their manuscript, and this decision becomes even more difficult when deciding between an open-access journal or a paid journal. We live in a progressively internet-centric society. This shift in how we connect, communicate, share, and conduct business has profoundly impacted scientific research and academic publishing.

In the contemporary world, research is disseminated through several venues, including blogs, social media platforms, Twitter, open access journals, and traditional paid journals. Open access journals are freely available to any individual that has internet access. They provide free content on the internet and charge researchers or scholars for publishing their findings. On the other hand, paid journals charge readers a hefty fee to explore the content of the journal.

Although the notion of a journal that is easily and freely available to the general public with no financial barriers to access sounds excellent in theory, when it comes time for publishing their paper, researchers struggle with the decision of whether to publish their research in an open-access journal or a traditional paid journal.

To help you answer this question, discussed below are a few key differences between paid journals and open access journals and the factors to consider when making the decision.

Differences between paid journals and open access journals

The following are a few key differences between paid journals and open access journals and the factors to consider when choosing one for your academic publishing:

Factor #1: Visibility
Publishing your article in an open-access journal means that more people will see it because more individuals can access it as there are no financial limitations. A study revealed that full-text downloads of online journals were 89 percent higher, unique visitors were 23 percent higher, and PDF downloads were 42 percent higher than those for paid journals.

In addition, many research and science authors believe that open access publications are read more widely than paid journals, which is one of the key factors why academic researchers choose open access journals over paid journals. But there is no evidence whether the increase in access can translate into higher citation rates.

Factor #2: Cost
Traditional and open access journals usually don’t charge a fee at the time of submission. The main difference occurs post-acceptance. Traditional paid journals are usually free but some do charge for colour figures, which can be easily avoided. However, open access journals generally charge a flat article processing fee to cover peer review and editorial related costs. If the authors don’t have the means to pay for publication charges, they can also apply for partial or full waivers. Some journals also have special relationships with universities, allowing researchers to publish at a discounted rate or even for free.

Another cost is related to subscriptions, which can be prohibitive as some journal subscriptions cost as much as $40,000 for complete online access to scientific and academic publications published by a publisher. These extreme charges might even lead some libraries to cancel their subscriptions, which harms both authors and readers. This is why numerous academic writers consider submitting their work to open access journals or to ones that have sustainable and reasonable subscription costs.

Factor #3: Prestige
Many academic researchers are more hesitant to publish in open access journals as they are less famous than some of the more prominent and more well-established journals in the field. We cannot deny that the most common cause of research authors deciding not to publish in an open-access journal is related to the perceived quality of open access publications. It is crucial to note that many free access journals are new and have not received their impact factor.

Because of this, many researchers still place a lot of importance on ‘brand name’ journals, as publication in these types of journals can drastically increase their chance of gaining tenure, being promoted, and acquiring funding for grant proposals.

Factor #4: Speed
Several authors consider the speed of acceptance from a journal as a critical factor when deciding in which journal to publish. Publishing in a peer-reviewed journal would always involve some degree of delay from submission to final publication. These delays can negatively affect fields such as clinical science, in which patients are waiting for new therapies.

Traditional journals usually face considerable delays owing to backlogs, space limitations, and physical printing. On the other hand, open access journals follow a more rapid publication process. Therefore, if speed is a critical factor in your publication decision, then an open-access journal might be the ideal choice for you.

Final note

In summary, when choosing between open access and paid journals, it is vital to consider the journal’s prestige, visibility, cost of publication, and publication speed. Ultimately, it all depends on your personal choice and preference. If you feel you cannot trust your publication with an open-access journal, then choose a paid journal publisher that you know and trust.

To learn more about academic publishing and writing, click here to explore our services that can help you write an effective academic paper.

Some of our Editing Services

Manuscript Health Check

Manuscript Health Check

$250.00 AUD
Approx $186.75 USD
View product
Submission Extras

Submission Extras

$450.00 AUD
Approx $336.15 USD
View product
Revision Extras

Revision Extras

$500.00 AUD
Approx $373.50 USD
View product

Related News

A collection of blog posts that will help you with preparing your paper for publication. From choosing your journal to writing yoru cover letter, and everything in between. 

In most cases editing and proofreading is not enough to get a paper ready for submission. So instead of just fixing grammatical errors and spelling mistakes, I started adding detailed comments and questions about the structure, content, conclusions. This was how the manuscript health check was born.