The Nature Publishing Group (NPG) today announced a new online journal that will allow authors to pay a fee so that their paper will be freely available online the moment it's published. Dozens of publishers already give authors a choice between traditional publication, which means only subscribers can see the full text (at least for several months), or open access for a fee (see a list here). NPG's flagship journal Nature (as well as Science) have been among several major journals that have held out against offering an open-access option—and that has not changed. But NPG is making a foray into open access with the new Nature Communications, which will be online only and will cover all disciplines. The fee will be announced close to its launch in October. NPG plans more open-access journals next year.
Whether a top-tier, fully open-access journal can turn a profit is still uncertain. Nature itself published a controversial news story in 2008 arguing that the Public Library of Science, a leader in open access, makes ends meet in part by publishing a large volume of lower quality papers in its journal PLoS One. (Scroll down for representative backlash.)