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

From: Arthur Smith <apsmith_at_APS.ORG>
Date: Fri, 28 Aug 1998 18:26:08 -0400

On Fri, 28 Aug 1998 15:40:16 -0400, Stevan Harnad <harnad_at_COGSCI.SOTON.AC.UK> wrote:

>> There are of course many other electronic-only journals, but they "own"
>> the content in the traditional manner, and do the distribution
>> themselves.
>Correct. But if free, they have nothing to lose (and a good deal
>to gain, and save) by reconfiguring as an xxx overlay.

Then why have they not done so? People generally do things that
are in their economic self-interest. I brought up ATMP because it uses
EXACTLY the model you propose for publication, except that it has somehow
NOT been able to run itself off author page charges. Why not?
You dismiss this, but I think it is well worth investigating as
a practical example of what can be done, technically, politically
and economically.

>The model I proposed was (1) author-end page charges to support the
>cost of (2) refereed journals free for all with (3) xxx as the public
>mode of access. Overlaying (3) looks like the simplest and most
>efficient way to achieve (1) and (2). But that is not what you are
>questioning; you are questioning whether we could/should achieve (1)
>and (2) at all.

Exactly. Why should we? What's wrong with (1) no author page charges,
(2) modest charges to access quality refereed journals with (3) journal
publishers or third parties supplying the distribution mechanisms? It
is not only workable (since it is what is being done now) but it can bring
all the cost savings and added value from on-line conversion to bear at a
pace that no volunteer effort can match.

>> What's so special about a truly electronic-only journal? It merely
>> eliminates one of the production and distribution pieces of the
>> process.
>Please see the subject header for this thread: You are
>presupposing the answer to the 70/30 question, based on the
>way you are presupposing that it should all be done!

No you are presupposing to understand something you have no practical
working example of, while I am basing my comments on what I have seen and my
experience with a number of online journals (both online-only and not).
I fully accept the "30" answer - sure we could cut costs by a factor
of three through online-only production (given various things that
will probably take at least a decade to implement). I have no
argument with that. My argument is with supporting it with author
page charges and making everything freely accessible to readers, an
approach which I think will either destroy peer review entirely or
will lead to the demise of non-profit publishers while the for-profits
increase their monopoly power.

>> The majority of users of electronic journals print out a copy of
>> articles they are interested in - does that make every electronic
>> journal not electronic-only?
>Do you really think the 70,000 daily hits on xxx are all (or mostly)
>printer downloads?

I have no idea what they are. What's a "hit" anyway? I was talking
about the articles readers are actually interested in enough to take
home and read in the bathtub.

>> Ahh, here is the key sentence: "once most of the literature is on-line
>> and free"...
>But that's been the premise and the conclusion all along: that
>that is the optimal and inevitable condition, and the question is,
>how to get there as soon as possible? The status quo (which you
>appear to want to modify relatively little) is certainly not the
>condition on which conditional statements like the above one are

I'm happy to modify the status quo, but I prefer evolution to revolution.
I fully expect in the distant future ALL of the literature to be on-line
and inexepensive. But probably not free. Does it make such a big
difference, cheap vs. free?

>> Even if the current linear growth rate continued
>> it would be several decades before even 50% coverage of physics was
>> reached.
>How many papers do you think are published monthly in all of physics?
>The slope (45 degrees) and intercept (now over 2000 papers monthly)
>from 0 after 7 x 12 months is known for xxx:

Yes, it's been seven years. 25,000 papers in one year is a lot, more than
the Physical Review handles. But the subject coverage is very sparse,
concentrated almost exclusively in high energy theory, astrophysical theory,
and some parts of condensed matter theory. In basic physics there should be
at least a factor of 3 or 4 more than what is there, and including
areas of applied physics gives another factor of 3 or 4. Covering all of
science means at least a couple of extra orders of magnitude, and the growth
has not been sufficient in recent years to reach that lofty goal in
less than a century. There could certainly be an "inflection point" in
the offing, but wouldn't it have happened by now? There has been little
in the way of technology changes in the last 4 or so years to make it that
much easier for other areas of physics or science to join the bandwagon.
Burgeoning systems generally show exponential, not linear, growth.

But it could still happen. If authors en masse suddenly decided to
post to xxx, what then? I grant your assumption, and then what?

1. Peer reviewed journal subscriptions crash
2. For-profits simply raise their prices (and make out with their 3-year
contracts) while non-profits scramble.
3. Non-profits try to introduce author page charges. For-profits keep theirs
at zero. Authors flock to for-profits for publication (the recognition
imperative is still important) and non-profit submissions crash.
4. Non-profits turn to government funding. For-profits cry foul and
unfair competition.
5. The non-profits fold or are bought out by for-profit publishers.
6. The for-profits notice that xxx also is government subsidized...

Is my scenario any less likely than yours?
Received on Tue Aug 25 1998 - 19:17:43 BST

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.3.0 : Fri Dec 10 2010 - 19:45:24 GMT