Publishing your article in an open access or a subscription-based (toll access) journal can significantly affect its reach and impact.

Access and citations

Access determines how broadly your work can be read, cited and discussed. The greater the access to your work, the greater its potential impact.
Access to subscription-based publications is limited by ability to pay fees. Open access works are available to anyone with an internet connection, in any part of the world and not just at well-funded universities.
Research suggests that open access articles are read and cited at a higher rate. See The effect of open access and downloads ('hits') on citation impact: a bibliography of studies.

Publication profile and impact factor

The quality of a scholar's publications is critical for job hiring and promotions but is difficult to assess.The prestige of the publisher may be used as a proxy for the quality of a monograph. A journal’s overall Impact Factor may be used as a proxy for the quality of an individual article. Both methods advantage traditional toll-access publication venues over new OA venues.
Other quantitative measures that are based on traditional citation statistics similarly disadvantage newer and/or non-tradiitonal publication venues. Various innovative altmetrics may help address this limited view.


Strategies to cover publication costs are varied:

  • A publisher may charge low subscription rates to cover their minimized production costs.
  • A publisher may charge exorbitant subscription rates to maximize their profits.
  • An OA publication may cover costs with an "author fee" or "article processing charge" (APC).
  • An OA publication may cover costs by getting an institutional subsidy or endowment.

The consequences likewise vary:

  • A high-priced publication can only be read by those at institutions that can afford the subscription.
  • An author may write an OA publishing cost into a grant proposal, or get their institution to cover an APC.

Both author fees and subscription costs may be going to more than just the costs of publishing; that revenue may

  • support the non-publishing activities of scholarly societies
  • offset costs of OA publication for authors from developing nations
  • support the profit margins of for-profit publishers.

Both subscription costs and author fees can be scrutinized to determine value for money.

Author rights

A standard publication agreement often requires an author to transfer all copyrights to the publisher. Authors may then be

  • unable to use an article on their own webpage
  • unable to deposit it in an institutional repository
  • unable to give it to students for course reading.

Authors can retain some or all of these rights by

  • choosing a publisher with a non-exclusive agreement--more common in OA publishing
  • using easy tools to manage their rights.


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