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

From: Stevan Harnad <harnad_at_COGSCI.SOTON.AC.UK>
Date: Thu, 27 Aug 1998 15:59:37 -0400

Arthur Smith <apsmith_at_APS.ORG wrote:

> sh> the virtue of making xxx the locus of more and more of the
> sh> literature in all disciplines is that many eggs can be
> sh> collectively tended in one basket.
> the proverb counter to this has a fundamental rationale

And that's the function of mirroring (and redundant archiving at
home and xxx).

The egg/basket metaphor was to illustrate that the preservability issue
is different when viewed as willy-nilly bits by willy-nilly authors at
willy-nilly loci, versus a "class action" on behalf of a shared
corpus (under -- why not? -- xxx?).

See which lists xxx's 15 (not 12,
as I incorrectly stated) mirror sites:

 (South Korea)

> wasn't Utopia discredited with the fall of the Berlin wall? The
> benefits of a messy, decentralized market economy are in the huge
> incentives for rapid innovation, the pressures of competition, and
> ultimately the efficiency imposed by the price mechanism.

Please spell out for me what benefits I (as producer? consumer?)
gain from the pricing and marketing of the journal in which my
article (freely contributed, just so it will be read) appears,
in contrast to the benefits of having it appear in xxx for
free for everyone, with quality/control-costs recovered from
author-end page charges?

Besides, the question concerns switching from a costly, inefficient,
papyrocentric, reader-end S/SL/PPV model for cost-recovery to
a much less costly and much more functional on-line-only
author-end page charge model (with the remarkable side-effect that
it makes the journal literature free for all readers).

Capitalism is not at issue: Functionality and the best interests
of the learned research community are.

> Somebody does have to pay. The real question is who pays, who profits,
> and where is there waste and excess...

Indeed: Should huge costs continue to be paid through S/SL/PPV by
libraries and readers for limited access, or much smaller costs be
paid by authors for unlimited access for all?

> [and] What IS the true cost of online publication?

Make that on-line-ONLY publication, its costs reckoned with and
without the cost-recovery mechanism of S/SL/PPV...

> Ultimately, payment is made by government research funding agencies and
> corporations (or universities) who fund research or benefit from the
> latest research.

And who mandate that the research be publicly reported, and ask
and get nothing in return.

And let us not forget the libraries, who buy back the freely given
research of their scholars.

> most of the cost lies... with the authors. They do the research,
> prepare the manuscript, and handle most of the correspondence and
> alterations necessary for publication. Walker's proposal is to shift
> all the explicit cost on the author as well, through page charges.

In exchange for free access for all. But it all depends on what
that true marginal cost proves to be, as we have agreed.

> Implicit costs remain, particularly to unpaid editors and referees,

And what do they have to do with it? They are unpaid today, with
S/SL/PPV, and they will be unpaid tomorrow, when costs are recovered
from page charges and the journals are free for all.

> libraries that must still keep track of journals

This point is lost on me...

> and pay for indexing/abstracting services who themselves have costs
> that grow with each published article.

Secondary publishers will have even more perestroika to do in the age
of free full-text journals than primary publishers, to ensure they
still have a niche.

> The xxx model [leaves] only author and reader as bearers of costs...
> all explicit costs are eliminated (no money changes hands)...

The xxx model for what? xxx is not a journal! The remaining
journal costs in the free, online-only era will be paid by authors.
What reader costs?

> cost to the author is probably very little changed
> from traditional publication, perhaps slightly reduced by the lack of a
> formal refereeing process to respond to.

Non sequitur. No one is proposing doing away with peer review, just
recovering its minimal cost in a more sensible way.

> primary implicit cost increase is to the reader, who must, aside from
> the technology issues, spend considerable time wading through basically
> "raw" literature.

Non sequitur. We are discussing a refereed literature, just like the
present one.

> In some fields, particularly where the avenues of development are
> narrow and many people may be working on very similar problems, there
> is great benefit to immediate access to the work of others, and so the
> cost to the reader is well worth it. In other fields the benefits are
> not as great, and the xxx model has had more difficulty catching on.

And what fields are those? That's not what xxx's submission or
access statistics seem to be saying:

> There is clearly some benefit to the work done by [refereeing, editing,
> production, distribution, indexing/abstracting, library] in the
> publication process beyond what can be automated with current tools: if
> this benefit exceeds the related explicit cost to the reader, then
> simple economics tells us readers should pay it.

Why are they all lumped together into journal costs? Only the first two
sound relevant. And why is it the reader who should pay? And how much
are (the first two) costs anyway?

> Where these benefits
> lie, and to what extend they can be emulated by further automation, are
> certainly areas for further discussion.

It's not just about automation: It's about how to go about doing
it all: restructuring, perestroika. The trade troika -- S/SL/PPV
-- are not etched in stone.

> Examples of such benefits are improved reliability and quality of
> articles (probably not easily automated), comprehensive indexing for
> searches, and inter-linking forward and backwards between articles
> through citations.

It remains to be seen whether these value-addeds will create their own
niches (or be better provided by the generic search and indexing tools
of a vast, free full-text archive), but that is surely a secondary
publisher's question, is it not? Whereas we are speaking here about the
niche of the primary journal publisher.

> But to remove the opportunity for the reader to explicitly pay for
> improved services (as Walker and Harnad seem to suggest) cuts out a
> major incentive for innovation in the areas that implicitly cost the
> reader so much.

The single biggest innovation in this decade in learned journal
publishing has surely been xxx! If historians agree about nothing else,
they will surely agree about that. (The prior decade it was the Web,
and the one before that it was the Net.)

The reader will be able to pay for the value-addeds he can't get
for free; but the articles themselves will not need to be one of them.

> I agree that journal prices should come down as the electronic
> revolution moves forward and automation eliminates many of the people
> costs of a journal - but should they go away?

No. Only S/SL/PPV should go away...

Stevan Harnad
Received on Tue Aug 25 1998 - 19:17:43 BST

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