After traveling to Sweden, I'm behind on The Economist. The May 28th issue had an interesting article on academic publishing. The essence of the article is that academic publishers are doing very well, university libraries (and the university system in general) struggle for money, and the approach publishers use of bundling journals together to maximize profit. Don't believe me, you can read the article, Of Goats and Headaches.
Having paid a lot of attention to the e-book market and POD publishing for fiction, I find it interesting to contrast fiction and the academic markets. Fiction writing includes a number of costs: the writer, the cover art, editing, marketing, physical printing, warehousing, etc.. Whereas academic publishing doesn't pay the writer, cover art can be very simple, and the editors often work for free as well. The journals, or rather the editors, act as gatekeepers performing peer review and determining which papers are of publishable quality.
I'm surprised that the academic market hasn't switched away from expensive journals. Especially since, the intent of the writers is to be read -- largely so they can be cited which will be an indication of the quality of their research and therefore help in their promotion. Many professors publish their papers on their webpages. It would seem to me that it would be trivial for a professor to create an e-book, or to do the POD publishing themselves. However, the most important aspect is distribution and the discovery of articles. Academic libraries should encourage their professor colleagues to consider electronic distribution. The money that was saved could be spent on improving search and discovery methods for papers.