Re: Nature 10 September on Public Archiving

From: Albert Henderson <NobleStation_at_COMPUSERVE.COM>
Date: Fri, 18 Sep 1998 08:58:30 -0400

on 17 Sep 1998 Mark Doyle <> wrote:

> On Thu, 17 Sep 1998, "Albert Henderson <>" wrote:
ah> Most important, Odlyzko fails to take on the costs sustained by the
ah> reader. Readers' costs exceed those of authors, publishers, and
ah> libraries in 1977 [his reference KingMR p. 220]:
ah> 12% Authors
ah> 14% Publishers
ah> 10% Libraries and (A&I) secondary organizations
ah> 64% Users

md> A thirty year old study? You must be joking....

King's work on the economics of scientific journals was an enormous
undertaking, financed largely by the National Science Foundation at
a time when "dissemination" was recognized by science policy as
important. It gave us benchmarks like the distribution of costs
described above. I feel this is a key question.

My understanding of the allocation envisioned by Harnad and the
Association of American Universities crowd would probably be:

                        30% authors
                        70% users

No publishers. No libraries. Do you agree with it or do you dispute it?

ah> As I understand it, the proposal aims to shift costs from libraries and
ah> publishers to authors and users.

md> Hence you misunderstand. We are not saying that you take all present day
md> costs and shift them to authors and users. Rather, by re-designing and
md> optmizing the entire process, you create an opportunity where it is actually
md> feasible to transfer the _reduced_ costs.

As I read Harnad, electronic journals will be financially
supported by authors' page-charges and will be otherwise

Users would have to have their own equipment and supplies
paid by tuitions, grants, employers or out of the users'
own pockets.

The elimination of libraries' spending is a huge
carrot to university managers who want that money
for their own reasons (I suspect real estate
development, ever more impressive back office
empires, interest-free loans, travel, and so on).

ah> - Users already have been absorbing more costs of equipment, printing
ah> supplies, photocopycosts, document delivery fees, and travel to use a
ah> decent library. They complain about this. Why would authors and other
ah> researchers favor more cost shifting in their general direction?

md> Printing vs. photocopying is a wash (well, actually printers are cheaper
md> than photocopiers and more reliable). Relatively expensive document delivery
md> via faxing and snail mail would be a thing of the past. Travel to the
md> library would be eliminated. So there are no costs to shift in these
md> examples.

Yes, as I interpret Harnad, libraries and librarians will be gone.
Authors will pay for distribution, presumably with page charges
financed by their grants or employers. Users will pay for the
technology required for 'free' access. Universities will spend the
"former" library money to grow their bureaucracy a la Max Weber's
widely recognized analysis of administrative behavior.

ah> - It would eliminate the dissemination services - primarily
ah> organization, presentation, and procurement -- provided by publishers
ah> and libraries. Why would researchers favor this?

md> None would of course and no one is calling for this. Another strawman.
md> Publishers and other entities could still provide value-added overlays that
md> serve as guides to the literature. They just wouldn't be tied to the
md> delivery of the documents itself (though if someone wanted to buy paper then
md> a publisher could easily print and bind it and sell it without affecting
md> the cost to those who like free electronic access to the literature).

You are not calling for this, but it is inevitable if the
AAU cabal has its way. They have abandoned 'dissemination'
as a part of science policy (as I describe extensively in
the current issue of SOCIETY). They lobbied heavily to
obtain endorsement of "library photocopying" as fair use
in the Copyright Act of 1976. The result has been devestating
to the circulation of all learned journals and books, (Tenopir
and King. J. Schol. Publ. 28(3):135-170. 1997). The new
campaign is admittedly designed to drive publishers out
entirely and end the role of libraries.

They have attempted to set commercial and nonprofits, print
and electronic, against each other. Divide and conquer. If
they succeed, they will stand alone with a monopoly on
knowledge (if there is any knowledge left to monopolize).

As it is, the government makes no effort to set standards for
research contractors -- a departure from policy affecting
every other area of government contracts. I mean standards
for libraries proposed by Association of College and Research
Libraries are ignored (Noted last year by National Center for
Education Statistics).

I think your ideas are different from those of Harnad when it
comes to the money. The money is important. Please think it out.

ah> With all due respect I am more impressed by actual experience in dual
ah> publishing related by Peter B. Boyce and Heather Dalterio. (1996.
ah> Electronic publishing of scientific journals. Physics Today.
ah> 49,1(Jan.):42-47). An electronic version of Astrophysical Journal was
ah> unable to achieve savings suggested by Harnad without dropping
ah> editorial standards. Costs eliminated by author keyboarding were
ah> replaced by costs of online editing. The authors also note that the
ah> strong demand to continue publication in paper form will double many
ah> make-ready costs of production and distribution.

md> They were still maintaining a dual system -- hardly optimized. Having a
md> paper deliverable doesn't preclude free electronic distribution. It should
md> also be noted that a sizeable portion of the Astrophysical Journal (and the
md> rest of the astrophysics literature) appears on xxx in the astro-ph archive
md> which has grown about 400 manuscripts per month).

Based on the needs of their community, I think
they could reach no other conclusion.

I don't know that xxx has any significance here
other than to provide a useful mode of informal
exchange. It is complementary I think. We cannot
call it a substitute for Astrophysical Journal,
can we?


ah> Library impoverishment is discouraging to publishers. Poor library
ah> collections are an obstacle to writing good reviews and syntheses.

md> Costly publishing discourages librarians....

Here is what discourages librarians:

Twenty ARL libraries received less money in FY1997 than they
did the prior year. Similar numbers the year before. This has
gone on for 30 years, long before the internet and email.
I call THAT discouraging, particularly as research work product
continues its inexorable increase.

ah> Then you are against a market-oriented solution to problems of
ah> dissemination and the bottleneck in research communications?

md> xxx is a player in the market econonmy and is doing quite well by any
md> measure...

How is xxx in the market economy? It is free to everyone but
the government which, in its wisdom, could abandon it just like
it dropped so much solar energy.

md> All players in the market compete against each other. The xxx
md> model presents a direct market challenge to traditional publishers -- the
md> market economy will drive publishers who don't embrace new means of
md> disseminating information out of business (see Forbes article from several
md> year ago about Elsevier as potential first Internet victim because of the
md> threat of xxx).

I recall the article. It centered on a big cancellation
by Louisiana State University which has contained its
library for over a decade (while doubling its research
activity). LSU's collection development has been stuck
in the $3 million range since the early 1980s. They have
to cancel something every year for many years. This time
it happened to be focused on a single publisher. Spinning
it as a "positive" strike at that publisher and a sign
of progress was designed to cover up financial weakness
and misallocation.

(The alternative to paper subscriptions at LSU, by the way,
has been the UnCover docment delivery service, not xxx.
There is more to science than physics, you know!:)=|

Unfortunately I feel LSU's faculty and students are
more threatened by its financial policies than any
publisher might be. Faculty and students are captive.
Publishers have many, many other customers.

md> Also, it is market forces that are preventing libraries from
md> increasing their serials budgets to keep apace. You choose to see this
md> market pressure on publishers as being a sign that the demand side should
md> increase to meet supply. But this is backwards -- it is the supplier who
md> responds to demand. It is up to the publishers to respond to market forces
md> in other ways than continually raising prices and re-evaluate the way they
md> do business. So much for your free market views....

This is absolutely incorrect. British economist David J Brown
(Electronic Publishing and Libraries. Bowker-Saur 1996: 41-42)
points out the 'market' problem arises because libraries'
finances are not controlled by anyone interested in the
dissemination of knowedge. Agencies that finance research
do not finance libraries (although they supposedly
contribute via research 'overhead' payments; these are
under the complete control of university managers).

Weberian dynamics, moving the bureaucracy to cannibalize
library money for its own ends is described by Crawford and
Gorman (Future Libraries. American Library Assn. 1995).

As we envision possible futures, take the Weberian ideas a
step further. If one gives the university an interest in
authors' exclusive rights, what will stop them from attempting
to exploit them for profit -- as they try to do with patents?
They monopolize research grants already in the US. Basic
research yields only journal articles, rarely a patent. I am
convinced they want it all.

ah> Your are against better financial support for libraries?

md> This is the silliest cariacture yet. We are against increasing support just
md> to feed publishers who refuse to take measures to reduce the costs in their
md> business (or their profit margins). We would rather see libraries free up
md> money they already have for other uses by reducing their ever-increasing
md> outlays for acquiring and maintaining their serials collections.

The record of APS is not free of commercial interests and a very
healthy profit (I know, for tax reasons you call profit a "surplus").
The record of G&B v. AIP/APS is very clear on this point. The PHYSICAL
REVIEW / LETTERS behemoth is worth millions of dollars every year.
It is so huge that users must start with separate indexes to find
anything, thus advantages of niche journals are lost. Why has it
remained in print and not gone totally electronic?


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

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.3.0 : Fri Dec 10 2010 - 19:45:27 GMT