Re: 2.0K vs. 0.2K

From: Arthur Smith <apsmith_at_APS.ORG>
Date: Mon, 10 May 1999 14:24:48 -0400

First an apology to Tom Walker:

On Mon, 10 May 1999, Thomas J. Walker wrote:
> Firstly, if Tom Walker's journal is the Florida Entomologist (for which he
> is the WWW Associate Editor), that journal has yet to charge authors for
> their electronic reprints.

I did misunderstand - sorry about that. However I don't think the
essence of the issue (particularly since you admit to possibly charging
extra at a later date) is very different from what I portrayed.

> [... APA -> APS in the following (Society, not Association!) ...]
> APS is coming close to giving such
> access away (!) but, if I understand Smith's most recent posting correctly,
> APS still forbids authors to post the PDF files of their formatted,
> refereed articles on xxx. Posting on xxx is surely more desirable to
> physics authors than having the files freely accessible on any other
> server. Would APS authors be offended if given the chance to pay APS to
> put their refereed articles on xxx? Is APS tempting its authors to violate
> their signed agreements by giving them no legal way to have the final PDF
> files of their articles on xxx? Wouldn't APS be more fiscally responsible
> and be promoting free access in a more sustainable way by offering this
> service?

Lots of questions - the problem is, we'd probably charge something
like the first-copy $1500 for this. At that price, yes it would be more
likely to give offense than raise money. The actual primary reason for
not allowing this at present is not to deny authors rights
so much as to deny certain commercial publishers the possibility of
scooping up our articles and republishing selections (or entire issues)
of our journals at much-reduced prices. There do exist publishers
all too eager to do this kind of thing if they can get away with it,
and the rights issues associated with putting things on centralized
preprint archives are too sketchy at this point to say they couldn't.

Anyway, good luck in your efforts to get other society publishers to
adopt this approach - as I said, I think we're too far gone on
the author's rights side for it to be practical.

Back to the discussion with Stevan:

On Sat, 8 May 1999 12:53:35 +0100, Stevan Harnad <harnad_at_COGLIT.ECS.SOTON.AC.UK>
> The minor differences have to do with a way of thinking that Arthur
> repeatedly lapses into despite himself. (It has happened in this
> discussion before.) I can't think of a better name for it than S/L/P
> thinking, or reader-end thinking. He just doesn't seem able to sustain
> the concept of selling a product to readers instead of a service
> to authors, no matter how ardently he tries!

Well, I try to think both ways, but I admit it's difficult.

There are real issues from both perspectives, reader and author
services. Let's consider 3 systems of payment for the peer review,
selection, and presentation work that is what journals do:

(I) The traditional system, where the author pays (let's say)
nothing, transfers full copyright to the journal, and the reader pays
all costs which can be artificially inflated because the journal
has monopoly control over the article.

(II) The "Harnadian" system, where the author or author's institution
pays all costs, and readers have free access to all the literature.

(III) The "Ginspargian" system, which is the current situation in physics:
the author pays nothing or a nominal page charge, transfers partial
copyright to the journal, and the reader pays all journal costs which
CANNOT be artificially inflated because the journal no longer has monopoly
control: the author has also (at least optionally) posted the article
to a free preprint archive. (Apologies to Paul Ginsparg if he doesn't
actually believe in this system.)

The Harnadian system (II) solves the problem from the "author service"
perspective, that readers run into barriers trying to read an article.
This can happen in (I) and (III) where they, or their institution,
cannot afford either a subscription or the specific one-time pay-per-view
cost (note that "barrier" is different from "totally inaccessible" -
everything is available through interlibrary loans, or through the
Copyright Clearance Center, although these generally constitute time
and effort barriers, as well as monetary barriers). However,
note that under the Ginspargian system (III) readers can also
get fee-less access to every article via eprint archives. And in reality,
researchers wanting to read an article can generally get a free
copy out of the author one way or another under any system (how many
of us have fulfilled requests from developing countries, or even
smaller colleges in the U.S., for reprints of our work?)

But there is a serious problem with the Harnadian system from the
"reader service" perspective: some authors or their institutions, and
therefore some critically important work, may not be able to afford
the monetary or other barriers associated with an author-pays system.
Did Einstein have an "institution" or the means to pay substantial
author charges in 1905?

Now it has been proposed that authors or institutions who cannot
pay under the Harnadian system could receive subsidies of some sort.
Fine - but many readers who cannot pay under systems I or III
are also eligible for various subsidies, developing country journal
discounts, free back-copies of journals, etc. Why would the subsidies
be more effective under the Harnadian system?

Both Systems II and III of course allow authors to freely post
their work on preprint servers. The problem from the "reader service"
perspective under the Harnadian system is not access - it's that the journals
(or whatever replaces them) are not serving the reader-oriented role of
providing a prominent, official, authoritative place for important
work. The enormous mass of "raw" author-provided material is what
makes the journals worth money to readers, under the Ginspargian system.

Also note that access is improving even under the traditional
publication system, system I. Whether prices are improving is
another matter, but electronic delivery on a pay-per-view basis
should present a lower barrier for readers than a trip to the library,
search of the stacks, and session at the photocopy machine, or
especially relative to a $20-$30 document delivery fee and a two-week wait.
And I think we'll see pay-per-view prices come down as electronic
payment systems improve. At least where competition is available
(the Ginspargian system).

Now, let's turn to the question of how a journal gets paid.
I have argued earlier that, at least under systems II and III
the total global cost is not going to be much different. Costs
certainly should drop getting out of system I, and I think opening
up preprint archives to other disciplines is a great idea. But
it's already there in physics.

Anyway, Harnad does not agree on system II/III costs being equal:

> But that is not the only issue: As long as one is creating a product
> with more features wrapped into it than necessary, the costs will be
> higher than necessary. Quality control is the only essential service
> that learned journal publishers will perform in the online era.
> That is an author-end service.

But a "quality-controlled" literature serves both authors and readers.
And why should we deny those who read journals the opportunity
to request enhanced services? As long as there is competition
for access to specific articles (the Ginspargian system) let
the market decide what is "necessary"!

And on payment, a practical problem crops up - how do you enforce
the Harnadian system? With I and III it's easy: you don't
allow access to the journal to readers who don't pay. With author-pays,
especially if submission charges are not allowed, the journal
has already sunk its costs in reviewing the article. How do
you not reveal the fact that the article was accepted while
expecting the author to send the publication charge? How do
you prevent an author from not paying but then posting "Accepted
for publication in the Journal of ..." along with the article on
a preprint server? How do you deal with authors and institutions
who are clearly well-funded but claim poverty (as many do now on page
charges - I wouldn't want to name a certain major institution near
Lake Michigan would I? But maybe they've reformed since a decade ago
when I first heard complaints.)

However, there is one area where the Harnadian system improves
things - institutional payments (if they can be gotten out of
the institutions) are fairer than under any current reader-pays system.
By basing it on number of published articles, the payment becomes
more closely proportional to actual research activity. Some
such restructuring of payment based on insitutional size
or activity makes a lot of sense, but the Harnadian system is
not necessarily the fairest. For example, it penalizes research
institutions (particularly national laboratories) to the benefit
of teaching-oriented institutions which may still make heavy use
of current and archival journals in their instruction. The Harnadian
system also makes the payment schedule very uneven for a small
institution with widely variable numbers of publications each year.
That was my thinking when I got into the following earlier discussion:

> > A start towards this would be simply to change our pricing structure
> > to scale prices in some way according to the number of authors or
> > researchers at an institution - but we really don't want to
> > go to direct usage based pricing, as that (institutionalized
> > pay-per-view in a sense) discourages use, which is the opposite of what
> > we all want. So some kind of "number of authors" based price makes a
> > lot of sense.
> This has become a Mobius strip! What on earth does "pay per view,"
> which is a reader-end concept (the "P" in S/L/P), have to do with an
> author-end service?

I was simply thinking of how we could perhaps move to the fairer
cost structure of the Harnadian system whether or not we actually
make the journals free to all readers. Since the institution pays
(not the author) either way according to Harnad, it really shouldn't
matter how the journal figures out the charges, should it? As long as
we have the competition of the Ginspargian system, the charge
is not going to be excessive.

> [...]
> This is all reader-end, access-toll-based thinking: The tolls need to be
> paid, or the papers are simply not accessible.

No - they are accessible, even under the traditional system I, and
much more so under the Ginspargian system III. Just because they aren't
accessible freely from journal-controlled systems doesn't
mean they are not accessible.

> [... on costs being artificially high ...]
> I have no paranoia whatsoever regarding APS, for example. I
> simply believe that you need to be protected from yourselves: As long as
> you persist in thinking in terms of providing a reader-end product,
> your "g" will be needlessly (even if unwittingly) inflated by expenses
> from inessentials wrapped into that product.

Who will police costs under the Harnadian system? Or will institutions
only allow their researchers to submit articles to journals with
the lowest bid price? If prestige and reputation determines where
articles get sent, then what is to keep the "best" journals from
having artificially high author charges, and if it is not prestige
and reputation, then on what will this competition between journals
be based?

As long as the journal monopoly is gone (the Ginspargian system,
and of course that was Harnad's original subversive proposal) there
should be very few "needless inessentials" that journals waste money on.

                        Arthur (
Received on Wed Feb 10 1999 - 19:17:43 GMT

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