Q: What are the differences between open access and standard subscription-based publication?

Detailed Question -

The journal wants me to pay a fee for open access publication. If I do not choose to pay, my paper can be published with the standard subscription-based access free of cost. Apart from the charge difference, what are the other differences between open access and standard subscription-based access?

2 Answers to this question

Subscription-based journals typically require readers to pay for the content that they read. This has been the model followed traditionally in the academic publishing industry. Since individuals or institutions have to pay subscription charges, only those who have purchased a subscription to the journal/have purchased an article will have access to your paper. 

In the open access model, readers are not charged: they have free online access to the content. By allowing free access to the scientific community and to the public, the open access model definitely ensures a wider readership.

Another difference is that in the subscription model, copyrights for the published content are usually transferred to the journal, while with open access journals authors generally retain copyright. This means that for an article published in a subscrition-based journal, anybody who wishes to use any part of the paper will have to seek permission from the journal. OA journals, on the other hand, often use Creative Commons licenses (CC licenses), which make it easier for users to share, use, and build upon the original work. 

However, in the open access model, authors usually have to pay article-processing charges (APCs) once their paper has been accepted for publication.

You might also be interested in knowing about some other publication options offered by a journal.


There’s a quite distinct difference between open journals and subscription-based journals. Let me simplify it for you to understand it better. 

Open Access Journals 

  • It is free of cost for the public to access open access journals.

  • A one-time flat fee called article processing charge (APC) has to be paid by the author to the journal publisher on behalf of the readers.. (If you want to minimize the cost, it’s possible)

  • The larger a journal's audience, the more impact an article can have on its readers.


Subscription-based Journal

  • The public pays to access these journals. The price sometimes gets very high for some reputed journals.

  • No fee has to be paid by the author on behalf of the audience.

  • The visibility of paper would be low because those who are intrigued by it will pay to participate.

Hope It’s easier for you to differentiate between an open-access journal and a subscription-based journal now.