Traditional journals have always followed the subscription mode of publishing. Therefore, subscription journals are usually the ones having more prestige and impact factor as compared to open access journals.
The articles are hidden under a paywall and are readable by only “subscribers” of the journal. In other words, scholarly articles of high impact are read by only elite members of the society, that is, the ones who are willing to pay hefty charges of the subscription journal.
Either the entire journal may be subscribed by an individual or institution or a single individual article may be accessed by paying the article access fees.
This has been the conventional academic publishing model. The cost of publication is borne by subscription charges, that is, the readers pay for accessing scholarly content.
To overcome the restricted access of hefty paywall, academic publishers have now come up with open access journals. In this case, readers have access to hundreds of scholarly articles absolutely free of cost on the internet, that is, there is unrestricted online usage and the visibility of these scholarly articles increases tremendously.
In other words, the readership of open access journals exceeds that of subscription journals today because their content is accessible to the general public free of cost. The cost of publication is borne by the authors or by the institutions affiliated to them.
This means that the authors or the affiliated institutions pay the article processing charges (APC). Most institutions support open access movement, making academic research free of legal, financial, and technical constraints.
Copyrights is another area where the two models of publishing differ. In the subscription model of publishing, the copyrights of the content published in the journal are usually restricted to the editorial team of the journal.
On the other hand, the copyrights of the content published in an open access is usually retained by the authors of the articles. Therefore, if a researcher wants to make use of the content published in a subscription journal, they need the permission of the editorial team of the journal.
On the other hand, the society of Creative Common Licenses manages copyrights of the content published in open access journal. Therefore, it is relatively easier to share and work upon the original article.
Today, scholarly content is no longer restricted under the barriers of hefty paywall. It can be reused and reconstructed thanks to the international open access movement.