There is a Perspecitves article on PLoS Biology titled “Why Full Open Access Matters“, by Michael W. Carroll. Worth a read. In fact, I learned some facts from this that shocked me.
– Access to scholarly journals, instead of getting cheaper due to digital publishing and networks, has become more expensive, greatly in excess of inflation! This means that publishers have a lot of cost-saving tools available, and instead rip us off even more! For a short calculation on just how much money they make see this at SVPOW.
See this source that is also cited. Carroll summarizes it this way:
“Having their subscribers over a barrel, commercial publishers have steadily consolidated to reduce their costs while increasing profits through uncompetitive pricing”
– In some research fields, commercial publishers are more expensive than non-commercial ones, and manage to still sell despite being less cited. You pay more for less prestige? Weird.
Carroll also argues that full re-use right should be given to readers. Many open-access (or should I say pretned-to-be-open-access?) publishers retain copyrights to gain additional revenue. Well, when was the last time someone used one of my papers to do so? I know of a few ways, but no commercial science publisher would go that way, e.g., by cooperating with a dinosaur toy manufacturer. Stoopid! Carroll imagines a horror scenario in which a web publisher goes broke and shuts down, but the copyrights linger on and block others from making the papers available again.
In short, if we as a society keep paying huge sums so that researchers can access other researchers research, we simply siphon money into pockets of people who do little for us. Very little. Will this get better if we change to an authors-fee system? Partly, yes, because access becomes total. but the second step required is to have the material, once published, free for re-use.