Open Access as a Crude Solution to a Hold-up Problem in the Two-Sided Market for Academic Journals

We analyze a model in which journals cannot commit to subscription fees when authors (who prefer low subscription fees because this boosts readership) make submission decisions. A hold-up problem arises, manifested as excessive subscription fees. Open access is a crude attempt to avoid hold up by eliminating subscription fees. We assess the profitability and efficiency of traditional relative to open-access journals in a monopoly model (with extensions to nonprofit, bundled, hybrid, and competing journals). We apply the theory to understand the evolving market for academic journals in the Internet age and policies currently being debated such as an open-access mandate.