Open access (OA) is a popular topic these days: For example, the recent White House Petition which reached 25,000 signers (the number required to get a White House response), recommending that U.S. federal policies require free access to publicly funded research. Open access is often promoted by universities, although mostly through awareness campaigns and not via institutional mandates: Universities and libraries love the idea of open access, but the practical application is still a bit of a conundrum.
OA publishing models are often criticized for putting the onus of payment on authors. For example, authors who wish to publish with BioMed Central and whose home institutions do not have a prepay membership may face author-processing charges of around 1,665 to 1,905 USD. Publishing in PLoS One costs around 1,350 USD, and PLoS Medicine is even more: 2,900 USD. Traditional publishers are usually quick to point out this issue (as well as other subtleties that I will leave aside).
Enter PeerJ: A new model in OA publishing. PeerJ will focus on the biological and medical sciences and offers several affordable lifetime membership options ranging from 99 USD to 349 USD, depending upon the circumstances. It also has a preprint server with public and private areas for gathering feedback on unpublished manuscripts, similar in some respects to arXiv. The preprint server is available to members in differing ways, depending on the category of membership.
Some are already finding the weak spots in the model, such as the requirement that all authors of any given article hold memberships. However, if the model succeeds, it could present an interesting OA publishing option that is fiscally and philosophically appealing to many.
For more information:
Interview with Peter Binfield and Jason Hoyt of PeerJ – Confessions of a Science Librarian
PeerJ — a brave new world? – Reciprocal Space
Scholarly Publishing 2012: Meet PeerJ – Publishers Weekly