Background Open access (OA) is a revolutionary way of providing access to the scholarly journal literature made possible by the Internet. The primary aim of this study was to measure the volume of scientific articles published in full immediate OA journals from 2000 to 2011, while observing longitudinal internal shifts in the structure of OA publishing concerning revenue models, publisher types and relative distribution among scientific disciplines. The secondary aim was to measure the share of OA articles of all journal articles, including articles made OA by publishers with a delay and individual author-paid OA articles in subscription journals (hybrid OA), as these subsets of OA publishing have mostly been ignored in previous studies. Methods Stratified random sampling of journals in the Directory of Open Access Journals (n = 787) was performed. The annual publication volumes spanning 2000 to 2011 were retrieved from major publication indexes and through manual data collection. Results An estimated 340,000 articles were published by 6,713 full immediate OA journals during 2011. OA journals requiring article-processing charges have become increasingly common, publishing 166,700 articles in 2011 (49% of all OA articles). This growth is related to the growth of commercial publishers, who, despite only a marginal presence a decade ago, have grown to become key actors on the OA scene, responsible for 120,000 of the articles published in 2011. Publication volume has grown within all major scientific disciplines, however, biomedicine has seen a particularly rapid 16-fold growth between 2000 (7,400 articles) and 2011 (120,900 articles). Over the past decade, OA journal publishing has steadily increased its relative share of all scholarly journal articles by about 1% annually. Approximately 17% of the 1.66 million articles published during 2011 and indexed in the most comprehensive article-level index of scholarly articles (Scopus) are available OA through journal publishers, most articles immediately (12%) but some within 12 months of publication (5%). Conclusions OA journal publishing is disrupting the dominant subscription-based model of scientific publishing, having rapidly grown in relative annual share of published journal articles during the last decade.