Interesting new development in Math publishing
Tim Gowers reports on a new set of open access math journals. There will be a Forum of Mathematics:Pi that is supposed to be a generalist math journal, and Forum of Mathematics:Sigma that would have “clusters” for different areas. It will be paid for by Cambridge University Press for the first three years, and will then be author-pays open access. Mainly online (though one will be able to buy a print version). No fixed number of issues a year, so not rate-controlled.
The author-pays model is economically a more sensible one than the reader-pays one, I think. In the current model the agent deciding on where to send the paper has no incentive to take into account the cost of the product, except in very indirect ways such as concern that fewer libraries would subscribe to expensive journals and lead to fewer people reading the paper. As a result, journals have little incentive to keep prices down, and would essentially do monopolistic pricing. In the author-pays model, which in many (most? almost all?) cases will be an institution-pays model, at least the author will see what they are paying, so there will be some downward competitive pressure on prices. The currently announced price per paper for this new journal (USD 750; waived for the first three years) does seem a lot more than the cost of some of our CS open access journals (e.g. JMLR), and one hopes it will come down with time once they figure out the actual cost of running such an open access journal.