As usual, if you want to know the back story, Bora has the links. What has always steamed me about the for-profit publishers is that they charge so much for something they have very little part in manufacturing.
They don’t pay the salaries of the those who provide the product–the research and accompanying article. They don’t pay the reviewers. They often don’t pay most of the editors. To top it all off, they take publicly funded research and makes the results inaccessible to many citizens who, often, have supported that research.
Oh yeah, researchers in the developing world often can’t afford the articles to the point that there was a non-profit, Satellife, that used to transcribe select articles and email them to universities and hospitals (email was used since, in the 1990s, bandwidth and reliability were serious issues).
But other than that, there are no problems at all.
The worst offender, in my book, is Reed Elsevier. Their prices–which you or your offspring pay for in terms in higher library expenditures and thus higher tuition fees–are obscene, and often for really shitty journals. Faculty usually put up with this crap because publications are the lifeblood of tenure packages and grant proposals. No one wants to piss these guys off. I’m not talking about muttering what gonifs these guys are, I mean taking them out at the fucking knees.
That’s why I almost never review articles for these journals anymore (as opposed to Open Access journals, which I do–two in the last month alone, and that’s during grant season). Seriously, if they ever did want me to review, then they have to pay me just like any other business who wanted to consult my expertise would. If enough of us did that, well, things would get very interesting….