“The problem, however, is illustrated by Springer Nature’s European quartet: The read-and-publish strategy is making global inequality worse. Nearly all the deals involve wealthy northern European countries or rich North American institutions like the University of California system. The practical effect is to grant selective OA authorship rights—with all their citation and visibility benefits—to scholars from the affluent West. If you’re Dutch, your Springer Nature article will appear OA by default; if you’re not, chances are that you’ll need $3,000 to $5,000 for that privilege. The OA citation-and-visibility advantage is one of the best-established findings in the scholarly communication literature. In practice if not by intent, the read-and-publish deal-makers are buying that advantage for their constituent-scholars. Scholarly publishing is already stratified along North-South lines—making read-and-publish an insult to long-standing injury….
For the Plan S architects, the deals are “transitional and temporary,” to give way to full open access by 2025. That’s if all goes well, and if the plan withstands aggressive lobbying from big publishers. There’s no surprise that Springer and SAGE find the agreements appealing in the meantime: They lock in libraries subscription spending while winning short-run Plan S compliance.
It’s this leg-up to the legacy publishers that critics find objectionable. The deals offer, in Roger Schonfeld’s phrase, “to crown the existing major publishers as the OA Royalty.” …
More fundamentally, the move to fold in author fees is an implicit endorsement of the deeply flawed APC regime—one that lowers barriers to readers only to raise them for authors. For scholars in the Global South—and in the humanities and social sciences everywhere—the APC option is laughably beyond reach. Yes, some publishers offer fee waivers, but the system is limited, shoddy, and patronizing—a charity band-aid on a broken system….
The short-run effect of read-and-publish and its variants, then, is to amplify the voices—through the OA visibility and citation advantage—of scholars from rich countries and universities. There are indeed other paths to publish open access: There’s the ramshackle APC waiver system, of course, and many natural scientists have their fees covered by funders. Nearly half of all OA articles are published in no-fee journals—so-called “diamond” titles that operate on a shoestring or through third-party subsidies. As a barrier to authorship, the APC regime has some gaps….”