The Logic of Page Charges to Free the Journal Literature

From: Stevan Harnad <harnad_at_COGLIT.ECS.SOTON.AC.UK>
Date: Thu, 29 Apr 1999 12:54:34 +0100

I am posting this exchange with my colleague Steve Hitchcock in the
hope that it will elucidate the logic of up-front author page-charges
and their role in freeing the journal literature for everyone.

Stevan Harnad

shi> From: Steve Hitchcock <>
shi> Open Journal Project
shi> Multimedia Research Group, Department of Electronics and Computer Science
shi> University of Southampton SO17 1BJ, UK
shi> Tel: +44 (01)703 593256 Fax: +44 (01)703 592865
shi> Open Journal Project Web page
shi> Somewhat daunted by the length I nevertheless read
shi> your reply to the... proposals and found it very effective. I like
shi> the emphasis on changing one variable at a time. A couple of points I want
shi> to clarify. How are the physics 'overlay' journals recovering costs, i.e.
shi> charging users for the 'refereed reprints'?

NO, definitely not. The American Physical Society (APS) journals
continue to charge for the paper edition as well as for the APS On-Line
edition (with many added enhancements) that APS sells. But the Los
Alamos (LANL) public Archive version is free. This is a critical point.
The "overlays" are a service to the authors, in that authors can submit
papers directly to APS journals by depositing the preprint in LANL.
They can also deposit their final accepted drafts (but not the proprietary
APS version, with the enhancements, which only comes from the paid APS
Archive) in LANL.

As you can no doubt guess, I am betting that Users will be mainly
using the free version. If there is still a market for the paid version,
that's fine, but irrelevant to the goal of providing the entire corpus
online for free, which is achieved as soon as ALL publishers fall into
step with the benign and responsible stance of APS.

shi> Of course you advocate author page charges, but not exclusively I presume.
shi> S/L/P are also possible. Can you resolve possible confusion on this in the
shi> following two paragraphs?

S/L/P are possible, but I am opposed to them because, by definition,
they mean toll-barriers instead of a free refereed journal literature.

But let us make some critical distinctions: As long as authors can and
do publicly self-archive their unrefereed preprints AND their refereed
reprints, the goal is achieved. S/L/P are only objectionable if they in
any way prevent that. Of course if there is a free public Archive, then a
parallel fee-based one with added enhancements is perfectly fine too,
if there is a market for it. So I certainly don't oppose S/L/P for
that parallel source.

But there is one critical interdependency: In order to appear in refereed
form in the free archive, a paper needs to have been refereed and
accepted by a journal. How is that quality control to be paid for? For
if it is not paid in any way, the quality control and journal system
collapses. <>

It is conceivable to pay for the quality control via S/L/P in PARALLEL
(i.e., there is a free version in the Public Archive, plus a fee-based
version in paper, and in the Publisher's Online Proprietary Archive),
and there is no reason anyone should object to that, except that it
makes no sense: Why would anyone want to continue paying for what they
can get for free?

On the other hand, to attach an S/L/P price tag to the FREE version
would make it no longer free, so that is out of the question.

So page-charges are my candidate for how everyone could have their cake
and eat it too (assuming that people will not long want to keep paying
for what they can get for free):

(1) Quality control continues to be paid for, hence it continues to be
provided, and publishers continue to have their niche (albeit a much
scaled-down one).

(2) Libraries save their entire 100% serials budget, in exchange for
redistributing <30% of it to their institutional authors' publication

(3) Authors draw on the publication funds to pay their page charges

Now do you see the logic of why it does not make sense to recover that
30% directly via S/L/P barriers?

> sha> The ARL initiative is largely backing new forms of licensing. Inasmuch
> sha> as these retain the author's right to self-archive for free, they are
> sha> commendable; inasmuch as they help to preserve S/L/P barriers -- in the
> sha> form of L alone -- they are counterproductive.
shi> ...later...
> sha> I have tried to sketch out a way
> sha> <> based on switching
> sha> to cost-recovery from up-front page-charges, but the promotion of
> sha> universal self-archiving by authors does not require a commitment to a
> sha> specific transition scenario.
shi> So S/L/P and page charges are all non-exclusive options?

I hope that the above has clarified this: It is a logical fact that you
cannot have something for free that you pay for by S/L/P. "L" stands
for "License," and a License, whether Individual, Institutional,
Consortial, or National is an access toll to be paid -- or not paid.
Those Individuals/Institutions/Consortia/Nations that cannot pay it do
not have access to the literature in question. Therefore it is not

The logic of L is precisely the same as the logic of S and P. And the
publishers know it; which is why Arnoud de Kemp at Springer regularly
delights in informing audiences at which we both talk [at loggerheads!]
that we are in fact BOTH arguing for the same outcome: A seamless,
interconnected, global, online literature, free for all, paid for
"up-front": All that's needed is a Global Site License! So just pay us
the 100% now, and if there are indeed economies to be made that will
scale it all down to 30% or lower, we will make those economies, and
pass them on to all of you...

But what this is envisioning is something that would I think make Adam
Smith convulse in his grave: A Global Consortial Monopoly on the part of
all publishers, where they name the 100% figure, and their sole,
inelastic customer shells it out obligingly up-front, and entrusts the
rest to the market-free beneficence of the Monopoly.

Nonsense. Better to have the "market forces" distributed, but not via
S/L/P, with its access barriers, which is how they are distributed now,
but via author page charges, which has the virtue of calling a spade a
spade. For once there is a free public archive for accessing the papers
themselves, it is clear that the only indispensable product/service
that online-only journal publishers are providing is quality control.

The customer for that service is the author and, more specifically, his
institution, for quality-controlled publications are the measures of
research productivity on which their funding is in turn largely based.
Referees actually do the quality control for free, but implementing it
costs a little money, and that's what the page charges are to pay for.
And just a small portion of the 100% annual savings from the termination
of all S/L/P is the natural source for these funds.

shi> Do we need to make another distinction between refereed reprint (author's
shi> version) and the edited version of the same paper? One version can be made
shi> available from the archive for free, the other for-pay. If there is no
shi> distinction, then author page charges are the only way forward. But then
shi> prescribing page charges as the only way goes against the 'one variable at
shi> a time' principle.

You said this a bit confusingly, but if you meant more or less what I
said above -- free unrefereed preprints + free refereed final drafts +
paid final drafts with publisher add-ons -- then the answer is yes, and
the contingency is that, assuming that the paid version under these
conditions will not find a market, the only way to pay for the quality
control (the "Invisible Hand") behind the no-frills, vanilla version
(the refereed, final draft) is up-front author page-charges.

shi> Which brings us to the role of publishers and existing journals. Your broad
shi> advice to the biologists is base the (LANL-like) archive on simple
shi> principles and let market forces develop enhancements.

The market decides whether it is worth paying for publishers'
proprietary add-on enhancements. Peer-review itself needs to be
financed in any case. But I also suggested that the Online community
itself will develop powerful search/link enhancements for its Archive,
for free. So I don't expect much of a market for proprietary
enhancements by primary publishers (and that is even truer for the
secondary publishers -- abstract, index, citation services -- who will
have much more trouble finding something of value to add once the
entire corpus is online for free [which includes its abstracts,
keywords, reference lists, and full texts!]).

shi> You also suggest
shi> that it is desirable if many existing journals, esp. prestigious journals,
shi> can adapt and attach to the archive, and to this end that the E-Biomed
shi> proposal aims to bring publishers on board, if possible:

> sha> Work out agreements with a sufficient proportion of established
> sha> journals, as in the case of APS/LANL, and this will be a highly
> sha> attractive feature, and will hasten the success of the ... Archive.
shi> and
> sha> Rather than announce it as a
> sha> fait accompli, a priori, that established journals will allow their
> sha> authors to self-archive online preprints and to submit to the journal
> sha> via the Archive, I suggest you confirm this with a sufficient number of
> sha> them so that you have a viable and attractive package to offer
> sha> prospective archivers.
shi> This is fine until we get to perhaps your most contentious statement:
> sha> Journals just become quality control
> sha> tags; otherwise, they are an outmoded concept.
shi> I hope it is not the case that journals just become tags. I would not argue
shi> that journals should remain the same, but what incentive is there for
shi> publishers to cooperate in allowing journals to be reduced to this? I think
shi> there has to be scope for journals to add value, and they have to have some
shi> way of exploiting that value. Are the physics 'overlay' journals just
shi> 'tags'?

Perhaps I should have said: "Implementers of quality control and its
certification via a tag, the journal name."

Now if you don't like that, then you don't like the online incarnation
of the refereed journal corpus! For, absent paper, and absent also the
need to provide the archival version online, that is indeed the only
ESSENTIAL service that publishers still provide.

(Add-ons are anyone's game, but I'm betting the community will do it
better, and for free, than paper publishers, re-tooled as
online-service-enhancers will be able to do. Remember one critically
important thing: We are only talking about this highly anomalous subset
of the entire world literature, namely, refereed learned journals. In
this peculiar, non-trade domain, authors GIVE AWAY their work for free.
This is not true of books, popular magazines, or just about any other
product, online or otherwise, literature or otherwise. That non-trade,
give-away reward structure -- where authors want to make maximal impact
on the eyes and minds of their peers, not to extract dollars from their
pockets in exchange for their products -- is what leads inexorably to
the conclusion that quality-control certification is the only thing
that needs to be provided or paid for in this very nonstandard

shi> I think all this is possible - free archives with value-adding (for pay)
shi> services overlaid - providing the one variable at a time rule is followed
shi> and we don't try to prescribe too many features at once.



shi> Date: Thu, 29 Apr 1999 10:08:10 +0100
shi> From: Steve Hitchcock <>
> sha> NO, definitely not. The American Physical Society (APS) journals
> sha> continue to charge for the paper edition as well as for the APS On-Line
> sha> edition (with many added enhancements) that APS sells. But the Los
> sha> Alamos (LANL) public Archive version is free. This is a critical point.
> sha> The "overlays" are a service to the authors, in that authors can submit
> sha> papers directly to APS journals by depositing the preprint in LANL.
> sha> They can also deposit their final accepted drafts (but not the
> sha> proprietary APS version, with the enhancements, which only comes from
> sha> the paid APS Archive) in LANL.
shi> This appears to be along the lines I was suggesting, i.e. free copy of
shi> author's final version but for-pay enhanced proprietary version. But I'm
shi> still unclear what 'overlays' are in the context of the archive, or how the
shi> concept works in practice. If I go to xxx, how can I ask to see only papers
shi> in the archive that have been accepted by APS journals, or by a specified
shi> APS journal? Or do I have to go through APS' proprietary service to
shi> discover that? Or, in the archive, do overlays exist not so much at the
shi> journal level but at the level of the single paper, i.e. replacing the
shi> original e-print with the refereed version? If you could point me to an
shi> example that would be useful. Thanks -- Steve Hitchcock

The answer is trivial: An Archive like LANL is a database and we are
just discussing parameters on which searches can be set: You could do a
search on, say, "Strange Attractors" on the whole archive, or you could
restrict your search to the refereed journal sector, "R," or you can restrict
to a particular journal, "JX," or even to a particular journal/year/month,

What you retrieve when you retrieve the refereed journal article is not
necessarily the page images of the journal: Those may only be available
from the publisher's proprietary, fee-based archive (if one still
exists), with all kinds of add-on enhancements. The public archive will
definitely contain only the "vanilla" version of the refereed final
draft: the text and figures will be the final ones, but the formatting
may not be the same as the printed page image (so what? paragraphs are
the relevant entities on-line, not pages); the free version will,
however, almost certainly be citation-linked, commentary-linked,
update-linked, etc. So it will have plenty of useful add-ons of its

So the "overlay" could take several forms: For a journal that has
scaled down to providing quality-control certification only, fully
funded from author page charges, the overlay will indeed be the
official, authorized, final accepted draft of all papers. For a journal
that still sells a paper version and/or maintains a proprietary online
archive funded by S/L/P, with enhanced versions, the version in the
public overlay will be the vanilla one, not the enhanced one; but it
will still be identical in content, if not precise form, with the
enhanced version.

> sha> Perhaps I should have said: "Implementers of quality control and its
> sha> certification via a tag, the journal name."
shi> This is curious. You appear to have moderated the contentious statement. In
shi> fact I think there is a vision where a journal can become a powerful set of
shi> tags, link tags, more powerful than is suggested by the added comment. But
shi> there must be more, and my contention is with the word 'just'.
shi> Over the last four years in the Open Journal project we promoted the idea
shi> of journals as 'open', mediated by links, so what are such journals but
shi> collections of (link) tags:
shi> 'The project also expressed a longer-term vision of link-based journals:
shi> "For publishers the "journal" now becomes a set of links: substitute links
shi> for the glue of the paper journal" (Hitchcock 1996).'
shi> So I hope that e-journals will become largely collections of tags - the
shi> knowledge process that is editing and publishing can effectively be boiled
shi> down to link data - but the Open Journal project showed that there has to
shi> be more, and that is where there is scope for value-adding.

Tags and links are technological matters. The main "tag" I'm concerned
with is the price-tag, in particular, its absence! If the price of
quality-controlling (refereeing/editing) is paid up-front, there is no
need or justification for attaching any further price-tag to the
quality-controlled final product, as quality-tagged by the journal

Stevan Harnad
Professor of Cognitive Science
Department of Electronics and phone: +44 1703 592-582
Computer Science fax: +44 1703 592-865
University of Southampton
Highfield, Southampton
Received on Wed Feb 10 1999 - 19:17:43 GMT

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