In this special issue, Nature explores the changing landscape. A News Feature weighs claims that online, author-pays publishing can drastically cut costs. Several authors discuss the nuts and bolts of making open-access publishing work well — including copyright pioneer John Wilbanks on open licensing agreements. A report explores the dark side of open access: publishers whose tactics lead authors to feel disgruntled or duped. And a Careers Feature offers advice for researchers trying to balance prestige, cost and career implications in deciding where to submit manuscripts.