In this article we raise a problem, and we offer two practical contributions to its solution. The problem is that academic communities interested in digital publishing do not have adequate tools to help them in choosing a publishing model that suits their needs. We believe that excessive focus on Open Access (OA) has obscured some important issues; moreover exclusive emphasis on increasing openness has contributed to an agenda and to policies that show clear practical shortcomings. We believe that academic communities have different needs and priorities; therefore there cannot be a ranking of publishing models that fits all and is based on only one criterion or value. We thus believe that two things are needed. First, communities need help in working out what they want from their digital publications. Their needs and desiderata should be made explicit and their relative importance estimated. This exercise leads to the formulation and ordering of their objectives. Second, available publishing models should be assessed on the basis of these objectives, so as to choose one that satisfies them well. Accordingly we have developed a framework that assists communities in going through these two steps. The framework can be used informally, as a guide to the collection and systematic organization of the information needed to make an informed choice of publishing model. In order to do so it maps the values that should be weighed and the technical features that embed them.
Building on our framework, we also offer a method to produce ordinal and cardinal scores of publishing models. When these techniques are applied the framework becomes a formal decision–making tool.
Finally, the framework stresses that, while the OA movement tackles important issues in digital publishing, it cannot incorporate the whole range of values and interests that are at the core of academic publishing. Therefore the framework suggests a broader agenda that is relevant in making better policy decisions around academic publishing and OA.