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

From: Mark Doyle <doyle_at_APS.ORG>
Date: Fri, 28 Aug 1998 15:21:50 -0400


On Fri, 28 Aug 1998, Arthur Smith wrote:

> Then we have no concrete examples of an "overlay" electronic-only
> journal at all. So the thing you are proposing does not yet exist.
> Meanwhile, existing academic journals are moving forward. My argument
> is that a purely electronic "overlay" journal is not economically viable,
> whether paid for by readers or authors. You have no counterexample.

The examples you gave don't attempt to cover their costs from author-end
charges. Just because there isn't a current example doesn't mean that one
can't materialize tomorrow. Anyway, I would put forth that these new
journals that spring up don't have the correct expertise for creating a
The barrier is pretty much a political one (getting money upfront from authors).

> It is all well and good to say "of course peer review will be available",
> but peer review is expensive and the model you have proposed for a journal
> based on the xxx archives does not seem to be in any way viable as
> a purely electronic entity.

That last bit doesn't seem to follow (unless you mean it isn't viable
because of the curreent climate for author charges).

> >But generic browsers (guided by the all-important +/- REFEREED tag,
> >once most of the literature is on-line and free in xxx and
> >home-servers) could already do almost as well on the cheap...
> Ahh, here is the key sentence: "once most of the literature is
> on-line and free"... Even at its current size, xxx does not cover
> more than 10% of current physics

I am not so sure about the 10% number (I think the coverage is higher, but
probably not above 20 or 25%).

> Even if the current linear growth rate continued
> it would be several decades before even 50% coverage of physics was
> reached.

Note that growth is linear in the submission RATE. The total number of
articles grows quadratically. You also are excluding the possibility of a
sudden change in certain communities where usage can ramp up quite quickly.
These transitions always seem to happen faster than expected, not slower.

> >But, for a start, what's the obstacle in the fields/countries where it
> >IS possible, then?

> Competition. [...] If it works, we'd be happy to adopt this
> model, but we've just been burned by past experience.

Right, but note that we didn't couple page charges to greatly reduced (or
no) subscription charges and it was at a time when the journal was just
coming online, so people had to subscribe to the paper. But authors in
general do take a very myopic view of paying charges that come directly out
of their research grants.

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

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