The cost of electrons
The Research Information Network has published a detailed study on the costs of scientific publishing. Although focussed on the UK, there is much surprising information, the first being that a major cost is the value of time that employed scientists spend reading the stuff (the time of the unemployed and retired, but Eli repeats himself, having lesser value), £34bn, other free labor that has a real cost is £1.9bn for unpaid peer reviews.
They ran the numbers and found that the cost of printing, distribution and access, including print and electrons is about £25bn.
The largest component in the costs of the process (£16.46 bn) are accounted for by users’ costs in searching for and printing the articles they need. Publishing and distribution costs c£6.4 bn, and libraries’ costs (excluding the costs of subscriptions) in providing access to journals amount to £2.1 bn.Fans of electrons should be interested to know that wiping out printed journals would save only £1.08bn (12%), but this would be partially offset by by old guys like Eli printing everything out (+£93m)