The author’s ignorance on the publication fees is a source of power for publishers

How much does it cost to publish a research article in a scholarly journal? Different academic publishers have widely varying levels of publication fees to help to fund editorial and peer review administration. In this context, publishers of scientific journals might create author’s ignorance by making the publication fees more complex, thereby gaining power to increase their profits. This paper shows a model of competition between academic journals to publish authors’ manuscripts. Since the low-fees journals want authors to know that they have the lowest publication cost, these journals want fees to be reasonably clear. Adding clarity allows them to undercut their competitors and gain percentage of authors in the field. On the contrary, high-fees journals desire more complexity in the disclosure of author’s costs. We also show that a higher proportion of journals will add complexity to their author’s costs when there is greater journal competition in the research field. In our model, as journal competition increases, the expected number of authors informed about the publication costs in the field may decrease without optimal regulation. On the contrary, if the academy or interest groups in the field add educational initiatives, the expected number of informed authors may still increase as the number of competitor journals grows.