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

From: Jonathan Baron <> <harnad_at_COGSCI.SOTON.AC.UK>
Date: Mon, 31 Aug 1998 18:48:00 -0400

Arthur Smith raised the question of whether authors have
different motives for journal articles and books (I think).

I write books, journal articles, and I have a web page with
working papers in it (as well as papers that never got
published). My motives are different for these different media.
For books, they are, in part, financial. But a good selling book
is also one that is widely read (or at least widely put on
people's bookshelves), so it is hard to disentangle the money
from its signal value. Still, I think the money matters, and I
would like to see books stay out of this discussion. (But some
very long journal articles used to be published in monographs
like journals. In psychology, these have largely disappeared.
Web publication could bring them back.)

For journal articles, I do want them cited and read. The
approval from the review process matters. The editing mostly
makes things worse, although once or twice I've had wonderful
copy editors who caught substantive errors that I and the
reviewers missed.

Web publication is timely. A few people working on related
problems will read my papers on the web. Sometimes I tell them
about the papers. The web is really a fine way to do working
papers, right now. Some fields don't have these, but many of the
social sciences do because publication lags are very long, over a
year from the time of submission, typically - compared to zero
for working papers.

What we've been talking about is the economics of doing regular
journals on the web, as well as working papers. I think that if
the "prestige problem" is solved, then this will increase the
number of people who read my papers and cite them. I frequently
get reprint requests for large numbers of papers from Eastern
Europe, India, the Arab Middle East, and even Spain, often with a
note of explanation about how their library just cannot afford to
have so many English language journals. This problem will be
totally solved (once these people get on the internet, which they
are close to doing). Still, we need the review process so that
people know what has met some sort of standard.

The problem is largely how to pay for this process, and for some
sort of organized display (rather than just a stamp of approval
that the authors can put in their own web pages). Since the
reviewers usually work for nothing, this amounts to paying the
editor (who sometimes works for nothing) and editorial
assistants. The following sources might do the trick:

1. contributions from scholarly societies;

2. subscription fees for the paper version of the journal, for
those who still want it;

3. subscription fees for an early version of the web edition
(i.e., the free version is delayed by a few months).

Libraries would pay for #3 and possibly #2. The transition
to this could be accomplished with little difficulty for journals
now controlled by scholarly societies.

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

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