Re: Savings from Converting to On-Line-Only: 30%- or 70%+ ?

From: Marvin Margoshes <> <harnad_at_COGSCI.SOTON.AC.UK>
Date: Tue, 20 Oct 1998 10:56:33 -0400

I see two important flaws in the assumptions behind the notion that
making the online publication free to the reader is the best way. The
second flaw is a quantitative matter that will change in time, but the
first is fundamental.

First, the model as outlined most recently by Harnad includes: "(2) The
authors of the refereed journal literature, not writing for fee, wish
only to maximise the visibility and accessibility of their work."
Authors are not so altruistic as the word "only" suggests. Authors need
to publish, preferably in prestigious journals, for several reasons. It
makes it possible to get the grants that are needed to continue ongoing
research and to start new projects. In many universities and colleges
it is required for promotion and tenure. It can lead to awards. But it
is perhaps more important that the model ignores the need of the reader
for the information. With few exceptions, the consumers of information
pay for it, not the providers.

    [SH: I'll reply here to save time and minimize misunderstandings:
    This comment seems to be missing the point, which is that refereed
    journal authors (unlike most other authors) are not writing for the
    access-fee. There is no contingency whatsoever between the benefits
    of publishing in a peer-reviewed journal and the fact that
    consumers are paying a fee to access it; quite the contrary. To
    redescribe the status quo is not to advance our understanding of
    it: The savings from doing away with access fees (S/SL/PPV) at the
    "consumer" end will be enough to cover the residual costs at the
    "provider" end thrice over; no author is out of pocket and the
    entire learned community gains.]
The second flaw is the assumption that the costs of editing and
redacting amount to only 1/3 of the total cost of publishing. That is
questionable. Even if it is true, as online publishing substantially
replaces print (except for archiving, where no better alternative is in
sight), total costs to the reader will decrease. The trend for
nonprofit publishers (i.e, professional societies) is to bundle the
online version with the print subscription; when the print
subscriptions is included in the membership dues, the online version is
made free to members, perhaps with a small increase in dues to cover
Marvin Margoshes
   [SH: There has been some quantitative discussion in the Forum about
   this matter; the underlying issue concerns whether it makes sense to
   continue to recover the much reduced online-only costs through
   access-tolls; see especially the postings of Mark Doyle on this
   70/30 thread concerning the true costs and savings, and see the
   "S/SL/PPV's Trojan Horse" thread for a critique of the hybrid strategy
   for preserving access-fees that this commentator appears to be
   accepting as a matter of course. (About the superiority of archiving
   in paper I can only throw up my hands in despair...) SH]
Received on Tue Aug 25 1998 - 19:17:43 BST

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