Re: 2.0K vs. 0.2K

From: Arthur P. Smith <>
Date: Fri, 7 May 1999 10:43:30 -0400

On Thu, 6 May 1999, Stevan Harnad wrote:

> Everything below rides on three issues:
> (1) Is the true cost closer to $2000 per article or $200?

Well, the true cost (for this specific question, for us) is
a matter of calculation, not speculation. Taking our total
costs for editorial and production and electronic services work
(ie. not including printing and distribution) and dividing by
the number of papers we publish in a year yields very close to
$1500 per article. As I've said elsewhere, this should drop
as we implement new technologies - our editorial office is currently
undergoing a complete workflow analysis to move to a more electronic
environment and to determine where inefficiencies remain and
can be improved. And one of Mark Doyle's projects here (that I'm
a bit involved with) is to help authors send us material that
should cut our copyediting costs significantly too.

But those new things aren't there yet, and if we were to
cover all our first-copy costs through page charges, that's what
it would have to be for us right now. It will certainly be
different for other publishers and from journal to journal - however
I doubt there are many publishers with real first-copy
costs right now as low as $200/published article.

To take another example, the New Journal of Physics (
is a totally new journal, funded by author charges. Their introductory
price is $500/article. Having talked with them, I know that's not near
covering their current costs (especially with only 7 published articles
so far).

> (2) Is the distinction between allowing free self-archiving of the final
> draft on the "home" server and on the "global" server coherent and
> enforceable?

I just sent off a note requesting our official policy on this.
To some extent it's probably a matter for copyright lawyers to decide.
But please note that our copyright license (which allows authors to
at least self-archive the final APS production version of their paper
on their home server, and also allows them to at least leave earlier
versions up on preprint servers) is viewed as flamingly liberal by
most of our scientific publishing colleagues :-) In fact, Tom Walker's
journal does NOT allow this unless authors pay their electronic
reprint fee.

> (3) Is the cost to be thought of as coming from authors' pockets or
> from institutional S/L/P savings?

What savings? Tom Walker's model (which was what the discussion quoted
was about) still requires institutions to purchase the journal in order
to get access to papers by authors who haven't paid the reprint charge. Even
if they could drop their subscriptions this doesn't make sense though.
Aside from the authors we have at institutions too small to subscribe to
our journals (which for us is I think really a very small fraction),
a large number of our authors come from institutions that have
many authors, but only one subscription: ie. if those institutions
went to an "author-pays" system rather than a "reader-pays"
system, they would be paying more, not less. For example, a national
lab (let's say Los Alamos) which pays $12,000 for a subscription
to everything we publish would need to publish at most 8 papers
per year with us to save money using our costs (or at most 60
papers/year with Stevan's number) when in fact they send us something
like 200 papers/year right now. Does Los Alamos's library have
an extra $300,000 (or even $40,000) to throw at us?

Now maybe an author-pays system would be fairer on the smaller
institutions - but let's not talk about saving institutions money
when all we're doing is redistributing the same costs in different ways.

> My guess is (1) ~$200, (2) incoherent, (3) S/L/P.

Wrong, probably not, and wrong, at least as pertains to the discussion
Tom was quoting.

> I might add that (as the AmSci discussion showed), Arthur's opinions
> are not always representative of those of APS, and it's good also to
> consult what people like Mark Doyle think.

Sure - Mark and I like to argue :-) Even our ed. in chief (Marty Blume)
doesn't always speak for the APS - the only official voice of the society
is through the elected council, but they tend to be a bit ponderous
in making official pronouncements.
And a last note on Tom Walker's introductory comment:

> On Thu, 6 May 1999, Thomas J. Walker wrote:
> > [...]
> > I was naive to think that Societies would think it win-win to sell at a
> > profit what their authors want.

If it was something that obviously increased quarterly profits you
can expect the commercial journals to jump on it faster than societies!
We're non-profit after all! :-)

            Arthur (
Received on Wed Feb 10 1999 - 19:17:43 GMT

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