Recently, I learnt that in the food services industry in Mumbai, the profits (declared in the income tax returns) is typically of the order of 30-40% of the turnover. Apparently, academic publishing is no different; the profit margins are about 40%. John Hawks points to a piece which gives this information, and also tells that the solution is not in complaining about the industry but to come up with alternatives!
Could somebody please let Amazon take charge of this? They have a system that maintains content at varying levels of pay/free, recognizes its users across multiple devices, and presents text material in an easy-to-read format. Every research author can publish to the e-book format as easily as an export from a word processor. Let’s suppose that editors charged for the service of managing peer review, at levels that vary with the prestige that they have earned. Some editors would charge a fee that enabled them to pay reviewers, some would be paid or subsidized by universities. Then authors could choose to pay for a prestigious editor, and recoup that cost by grants or charging per-access, again, possibly subsidized by libraries.
The solution to the collective action problem isn’t complaining about the journals, it’s providing a solution that works better.
A nice piece.