Journal launch rate continues to rise

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Publishing companies, especially the large and commercial ones, are launching journals at a higher rate than in 2005.

‘There has been no let up in the rate of launches,’ said Laura Cox, who co-authored a recent report for the Association of Learned and Professional Society Publishers (ALPSP). ‘Surprisingly, given the number of years needed to break even, this rate has increased since 2005, notably amongst commercial publishers of all sizes and the largest not-for-profit publishers.’

But as well as launching more journals, publishers are closing more titles. According to this survey of 203 scholarly publishers, 2008 saw journal closures averaging 1.78 per publisher while in 2005 this figure came in at 1.06. ‘The rate of merging titles is generally falling... and the rate of journals sold or transferred has also fallen,’ Cox added.

Meanwhile, the online availability of such journals continues to grow, with 96.1 per cent of STM titles and 86.5 per cent of arts, humanities and social sciences publications now accessible electronically. Figures in 2005 came in at 92.7 per cent for STM titles and 84.2 per cent for arts, humanities and social sciences. What’s more, nearly all publishers - 95.7 per cent - make their journal back volumes available online.

But despite the market for online publications steadily marching towards maturity, pricing strategies remain as complex as ever. ‘Most publishers use multiple means to devise pricing,’ observed Cox. ‘The variance in pricing models is as diverse as in 2005, although fewer publishers are providing online access free with print, and instead providing online-only subscriptions.’

All major publishers have now adopted online submission and peer-review systems with take-up having increased in all publishers. At the same time, the market penetration of electronic submissions and peer review has grown to 65 per cent in 2008, up 6.4 per cent since 2005.

More and more publishers are providing authors with an open-access option. Three years ago, only 9 per cent of publishers offered optional open access but today, some 30 per cent are pushing the model.

However, despite the increasing support from publishers, authors are still reluctant to embrace the open-access model. In 2008, most publishers saw a take-up rate of less than 10 per cent for their open-access options.

Fully open-access journals – rather than subscription-based publications with an open-access option – are also on the rise. The number of such journals published by the publishers surveyed came in at 786 in 2008 compared with 199 titles in 2005.

‘The advocacy of open access as an alternative to subscription-based journals has had an effect... with 24.5 per cent of publishers publishing at least one open-access journal,’ highlighted Cox. ‘The funding for open access has also become less experimental.’

Publishers are also relaxing their requirements on the transfer of copyright when an article is published. In 2003, 83 per cent of publishers required copyright transfer while today this figure has dropped to 53 per cent. Fewer publishers, however, are allowing authors to post published articles on the web or in subject repositories.

Looking to the future, Cox notes that the so-called Web 2.0 - a term describing developments in the use of the internet such as social-networking sites and blogs - has yet to be embraced by publishers. Only 10 to 15 per cent of publishers surveyed had implemented forums, blogs and podcasts for a journal although many said that they had plans to introduce Web 2.0 technologies in the future.

‘Publishers have started to experiment with the application of Web 2.0 technologies to scholarly journals… but are clearly at different stages of development, with [some] declining to answer questions or stating they did not understand them,’ added Cox.