There are so many debates and criticisms around the topic of publishers, who are accused of charging excessive fees for access when all the work of the journal is done for free by academics. But why don't some of the big journals just go independent and open access? What do publishers actually provide as a benefit?
These are some of the things that publishers might provide, but it seems to me that they are easily replaced:
I edited a postgraduate journal and typeset it myself on LaTeX. It looks as good as any other journal. Surely there are many students familiar with LaTeX who would typeset for not much money, especially if people submitting papers were required at the minimum to provide an endnote/bibtex file of references and use proper document styles etc.
Obviously, this would not be a problem for open access journals.
Do academic journal publishers really need publishers to do this? Do publishers actually do this?
I design and host my website on Weebly. It looks professional and costs hardly anything.
Well it's the 21st century, so print articles out yourself or read on a tablet. If this is absolutely necessary, print on demand.
It seems to me at least that to cover the costs of typesetting and webhosting, a journal would require hardly any money. They could raise this through a combination of charging authors (but not crazy money), donations and grants.
Either I'm missing something really important that publishers do or there is something holding back the likes of Mind (top-ranked philosophy journal) from doing this. All I could come up with was that perhaps publishers own the past content of the journal.
Some great responses below. To summarise, it seems there are broadly two answers to the question:
- Journals offer more than I and other people sometimes think (e.g. secure web hosting, submission handling, registering papers with various databases).
- There are costs associated with trying to leave a publisher. The name of a journal can be owned by the publisher, and the impact factor etc. are all held along with that. These costs present a barrier that already overworked academics rarely consider taking on.