Problems addressed by academic publishing reform
The motivations for academic journal publishing reform include the ability of computers to store large amounts of information, the advantages of giving more researchers access to preprints, and the potential for interactivity between researchers.
Various studies showed that the demand for open access research was such that freely available articles consistently had impact factors which were higher than articles published under restricted access.
Some universities reported that modern "package deal" subscriptions were too costly for them to maintain, and that they would prefer to subscribe to journals individually to save money.
The problems which led to discussion about academic publishing reform have been considered in the context of what provision of open access might provide. Here are some of the problems in academic publishing which open access advocates purport that open access would address:
A pricing crisis called the serials crisis has been growing in the decades before open access and remains today. The academic publishing industry has increased prices of academic journals faster than inflation and beyond the library budgets.
The pricing crisis does not only mean strain to budgets, but also that people actually are losing access to journals.
Not even the wealthiest libraries in the world are able to afford all the journals that their users are demanding, and less rich libraries are severely harmed by lack of access to journals.
Publishers are using "bundling" strategies to sell journals, and this marketing strategy is criticized by many libraries as forcing them to pay for unpopular journals which their users are not demanding.
Libraries are cutting their book budgets to pay for academic journals.
Libraries do not own electronic journals in permanent archival form as they do paper copies, so if they have to cancel a subscription then they lose all subscribed journals. This did not happen with paper journals, and yet costs historically have been higher for electronic versions.
Academic publishers get essential assets from their subscribers in a way that other publishers do not. Authors donate the texts of academic journals to the publishers and grant rights to publish them, and editors and referees donate peer-review to validate the articles. The people writing the journals are questioning the increased pressure put upon them to pay higher prices for the journal produced by their community.
Conventional publishers are using a business model which requires access barriers and creates artificial scarcity. All publishers need revenue, but open access promises models in which scarcity is fundamental to raising revenue.
Scholarly publishing depends heavily on government policy, public subsidies, gift economy, and anti-competitive practices, yet all of these things are in conflict with the conventional academic publishing model of restricting access to works.
Toll access journals compete more for authors to donate content to them than they compete for subscribers to pay for the work. This is because every scholarly journal has a natural monopoly over the information of its field. Because of this, the market for pricing journals does not have feedback because it is outside of traditional market forces, and the prices have no control to drive it to serve the needs of the market.
Besides the natural monopoly, there is supporting evidence that prices are artificially inflated to benefit publishers while harming the market. Evidence includes the trend of large publishers to have accelerating prices increases greater than small publishers, when in traditional markets high volume and high sales enables cost savings and lower prices.
Conventional publishers fund "content protection" actions which restrict and police content sharing.
For-profit publishers have economic incentives to decrease rates of rejected articles so that they publish more content to sell. No such market force exists if selling content for money is not a motivating factor.
Many researchers are unaware that it might be possible for them to have all the research articles they need, and just accept it as fate that they will always be without some of the articles they would like to read.
Access to toll-access journals is not scaling with increases in research and publishing, and the academic publishers are under market forces to restrict increases in publishing and indirectly because of that they are restricting the growth of research.