Journals that charge authors (and not for open access publication)

8th Mar 2012

Among the discussion of open access recently, there have been a few comments about the level of charges for open access publication. But of course many journals charge authors even without making their articles freely available. I think these charges are worth highlighting so that you can make an informed choice of journal.

Frequently these charges are to cover the cost of colour printing, which seems reasonable given that nowadays printed journal articles are a bonus not standard. But not all: some journals have submission fees (which I’ll cover in a future post), others have page charges, and I found two that even charge for supplementary material.

I’m not going to comment here on whether I think these charges are justified. But I suggest you take the charges into account when choosing a journal, and think about whether they represent value for money. If they go towards supporting a scientific society that you would like to donate to, for example, or if you feel that your paper will have its full impact only if printed in colour, you might be happy to pay. Also, if you can afford these charges, why not consider spending the money on making your article freely available instead?

Colour charges

In the past, print journals often charged authors for printing their article in colour, as colour printing was (and still is) more expensive than printing in black and white. With online publication there is no difference in cost, so it doesn’t make sense for journals to charge authors for colour for the online version of an article. But some journals are still charging for colour printing.

A few examples (with links to the relevant page) are:

  • The Journal of Neuroscience (Society for Neuroscience) charges US$1000 per colour figure, but offers free colour when it is judged essential by the editors and when the first and last authors are members of the society.
  • J Biol Chem charges US$150 per colour figure (with discounts for society members).
  • Evolution (Wiley-Blackwell) charges $500.00 per printed figure. FEMS Microbiology Letters (also Wiley-Blackwell) offers free colour provided that the colour is deemed essential for interpretation of the figure, whereas another Wiley-Blackwell journal, Proteomics, charges €500 for one colour figure up to €1664 for four.
  • FASEB Journal charges US$350 per colour figure.
  • BMJ Journals all seem to charge £250 per article for colour printing, but the BMJ itself (pdf) does not.
  • Of Oxford University Press journals, Bioinformatics and Human Molecular Genetics charge £350/US$600/€525 per colour figure, whereas Journal of Experimental Botany charges £100/US$190/€150.
  • Some Springer journals charge for colour printing, but I wasn’t able to find out which ones.
  • Similarly, some Nature Publishing Group journals charge for colour printing, but I wasn’t able to find out which ones. As far as I can tell, Nature and its sister journals with the word ‘Nature’ in the title have no charges.
  • Elsevier’s author site seems to imply that all their journals have colour charges.

Journals that do not charge for colour printing include:

Page charges

Page charges seem to be almost as common as colour charges, but there isn’t much logic as to which journals charge for what. Only one journal that I could find, Journal of Neuroscience, has publication fees per article (US$980, or US$490 for Brief Communications) – all others charge per page, sometimes over a certain limit. For example:

  • FASEB Journal charges US$80 per printed page for the first 8 pages and $160 per page thereafter. Articles containing eight or more figures and/or tables cost an additional $150 per figure or table.
  • J Biol Chem charges US$80 per page for the first nine pages and $160 per page thereafter (with discounts for society members).

The charges don’t seem to be consistent within each publisher.

One publisher is consistent – none of the BMJ Journals or BMJ (pdf) have any page charges.

Fees for supplementary material

I had never heard of the idea of charges for supplementary material until I was researching for this post. But FASEB Journal charges for supplemental ‘units’ (presumably files) at $160 each (up to four units are allowed), and Proc Natl Acad Sci USA charges US$250 per article for up to five pages of SI (US$500 over six pages). I haven’t come across any other journal that does this.

Your experience

Have I missed any important biomedical journals that have particularly striking charging policies (not including open access charges)? What do you think about these fees? Journal editors, what is the rationale for how much your journal charges for what? Do also let me know if can expand on any of the incomplete parts of in this post.


16 Comments on “Journals that charge authors (and not for open access publication)

[…] worth noting that the open access PLoS is by no means alone in charging it’s authors. Most journals are “pay as you go publications” so this argument is invalid, not to mention weirdly juvenile coming from someone in Bargh’s […]

as a follow on to this i did a summary for astronomy (on g+):

sharmanedit says:

Thanks very much for this additional information, August. I’m intrigued by the pricing structure used by the IOP journals: as well as charges for printing, they charge $35 per ‘digital quantum’ (350 words, a figure, a table, etc). I can’t quite see what the rationale is for charging authors for the online version that is subscription only. However, this kind of system is used by some journals to pay copyeditors, which could be partly why they are using it to charge authors.
I also note that all the journals you mention have colour printing charges and nearly all have page charges. I’ll be covering open access fees in a future post.

enid rosenstiel says:

The J of Prosthet Dent does not charge for pages or colour. The journal supports the websites of various groups, including the American Academy of Fixed Pros. The members of that academy receive the journal as part of their membership fee. No submissions are sent back to the author for trivial reasons and certainly not before they have any chance of being accepted. That is a problem. Does the journal fix the language or fix the dentistry? Sometimes it fixes the language, if the science seems good, so that the reviewers have half a chance of understanding. Not everyone can see through ESL manuscripts! The JPD is now published by Elsevier.

sharmanedit says:

Thanks for this information about the Journal of Prosthetic Dentistry, Enid. It’s interesting that the journal sometimes edits for language before sending papers to reviewers – I haven’t heard of journals doing this before, though I have heard of journals asking the authors to get the language improved before they will send a paper to reviewers.

tjvision says:

I believe there are a number of other journals that for supplementary online materials besides the one you mention. A particularly expensive example is the Journal of Clinical Investigation, which charges a $300 flat fee (

sharmanedit says:

Thanks for pointing out the JCI, tjvision. I note that the page you linked to also says “For publication of Regular articles and Technical Advances, authors will be assessed $0.26 per word, including the text of legends, tables, and references, based on the word count of the accepted manuscript. Authors will be billed $175 per figure and $75 per table. For publication of Brief Reports, the publication fee is $2,500.” This is not an open access journal as the publisher keeps the copyright, but the articles are all free to read. Intriguing. I suppose the costs could be proportional to the number of words.

karthik2k2 says:

is there any journal which publishes articles for free in endocrinology? If so how to get that information? I mean case reports.

Argishti says:

Is there any journal which pays authors for publication in water management or agricultural science

omar says:

please, Informe me for fee charges of acta oceanologica sinica ???????

insfporan says:

How much the fee charges of acta oceanologica sinica ?

sharmanedit says:

I’m afraid I’m not going to give advice on the charges of individual journals. This information can be found on the journal website or by emailing the editors.

Ali says:

Sharmanedit: thanks for the insight.
I am in a strange situation right now and I would like you to advice me if you can.
One of my articles has been accepted in ISI indexed journals and it is online for the last two months.
I have received an email from the journal asking for the publication fee. Although, i was aware of the fee but i was not sure of the exact amount and the journal doesn’t mention it as well.
I cannot pay the hefty amount now, So I was thinking what happens if i don’t pay the publication charges?
Does my article stays online as accepted or my article gets rejected ? Can I ask the editing press to lower the fee ? I am confused

sharmanedit says:

Hi Ali. This is an unusual situation. If the journal has publication charges, these charges should always be agreed with you before the article is accepted, and any reputable journal would display their charges on their website.

You say you were aware of the fee but didn’t know how much it was. Did you ask the editor before agreeing to have your article published there? Did you decide to go ahead with publication without knowing how much the fee would be?

I can see two possibilities here. The first is that the journal informed you of the fee but you missed the email, or otherwise didn’t understand the exact amount, but you decided to allow your article to be published anyway. If they told you the amount and you went ahead, I think the journal can reasonably expect to be paid.

The second possibility is that they did not tell you the fee. In this case it seems reasonable for you to refuse to pay. However, you would probably have to prove that they did not tell you the fee, and you would also have to explain why you went ahead with publication even when you knew there would be a fee.

Is this an open access journal? Is it a member of OASPA? If it is, you could perhaps consult them for advice. I also suggest searching online using the name of the journal and the words ‘charges’ or ‘complaints’ to see if anyone else has had the same problem.

Please note that I am not a lawyer and this comment gives only suggestions. I hope this is helpful. If you can give more information, I or other readers of this blog may be able to give more suggestions.

[…] respect to their speed (of review and publication), impact metrics and charges (for open access and other things), so I will be doing updated surveys on these and other features of journals before long. One […]

[…] constraints in most OA journals, there are no hidden charges – some subscription journals have page fees and colour figure charges – and you can re-use figures (with attribution) without worrying about permissions. I quite […]

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