The idea that a commercial enterprise can so easily take advantage of hide-bound scholarly processes to gain huge profits at little expense is galling, to say the least. It is also stifling, of course, to the very academic pursuits that the journals owned by the likes of Elsevier are supposed to be promoting.
There is no other situation I know of where work paid for by one entity is used by another, which then charges the first for access to it.
Elsevier and the other commercial publishers of academic journals rarely pay the academic editors, reviewers, and authors who make those journals possible. They leave that to the colleges and universities. Because of needs of re-appointment, tenure, promotion, and even grant-funding, scholars clamor to give their work to these journals. They have to, for their careers. The journals then charge outrageous fees for access to the scholarship to the institutional libraries where the scholars work.
This really has to stop. Immediate, and extremely low-cost access to scholarship needs to be one of the underpinnings of our academic universe. Otherwise, we stifle future scholarship.