I was checking the content of a Springer journal, when I found out some papers which are not open access, yet they are made public and everyone can download them. While other articles, also published in subscription mode, do not have the option of being downloaded.

My question is why some articles have the option of being public and downloaded even when they are not open access, while some other articles don't.

To illustrate what I'm talking about, I give the following two articles

Article published in subscription mode, yet it is public and can be downloaded by anyone

Article published in subscription mode, yet it is not public and cannot be downloaded by anyone

Is there a reasonable explanation?

  • 1
    How are you identifying papers that are "published in subscription mode"?
    – Bryan Krause
    Sep 13, 2022 at 22:26
  • 1
    @BryanKrause, articles that are published open access have a label "open access" and articles that aren't don't have that label, example of an open access article: link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s40435-021-00893-2 Sep 13, 2022 at 22:28
  • I see, thanks for clarifying :) Reasons might be boring like "publisher didn't check the right box in their system" (either for article access itself or for whatever flag displays the "open access" text). For practical purposes, I would say this article is open access whether it carries the label or not. Embargo would be another possibility but would not seem likely to apply to such a recent paper.
    – Bryan Krause
    Sep 13, 2022 at 22:32
  • 3
    It looks to me like the "open access" label only gets added to open access articles in that journal which have been published in final form (they have a volume and page numbers).
    – Kimball
    Sep 13, 2022 at 23:09
  • @Kimball, here is an article labeled "open access", not published in the final form. That is, without a volume and page numbers. link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s40435-022-01012-5 Sep 15, 2022 at 11:30

1 Answer 1


There is a difference between free access and open access, as you've discovered. For these articles, the publisher made it freely available. That's all there is to it.

Why would the publisher make something freely available? There're several possible explanations, e.g.:

  • They want to promote that journal or its content (easily the most likely reason).
  • The authors requested it and the publisher feels they can reasonably grant it, e.g. because the article is old, has not been generating much downloads or denials anyway, etc. (I did this before.)
  • I think Kimball's comment is more likely than this distinction, though the point that it's basically up to the publisher is important.
    – Bryan Krause
    Sep 14, 2022 at 1:33
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    @BryanKrause for those particular papers, maybe, but the question doesn't ask about those papers. Those papers are only examples.
    – Allure
    Sep 14, 2022 at 4:07
  • 1
    @BryanKrause, I don't think that's the case, (see link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s40435-022-01012-5) Sep 15, 2022 at 11:30

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