Re: 2.0K vs. 0.2K

From: Arthur Smith <apsmith_at_APS.ORG>
Date: Fri, 7 May 1999 14:54:27 -0400

On Fri, 7 May 1999 11:51:16 -0400, Thomas J. Walker <tjw_at_GNV.IFAS.UFL.EDU> wrote:

>Selling electronic reprints, so long as paper publication continues, can be
>quite profitable (and thus fiscally responsible).

Well, I wasn't very clear in my reply on that - sorry. The reason
we can't sell electronic reprints is because we believe, as a non-profit
researcher-friendly society, that the author already has the right to
unlimited electronic reprints, at least as far as it extends to distribution
from a web server under their own control. If we tried to sell authors the
extra right to post on preprint servers we'd probably be laughed at -
we certainly wouldn't be likely to get a lot of money for it.
We have explicitly given the more limited right to authors in our copyright
agreements with them for at least the last two years. So if we were
to go your way, we would first have to become more restrictive in our
copyright licensing, and there's no way that would be accepted by our
research community. Maybe some other society could do this (in fact yours
has) but we no longer have that option.

Now the American Chemical Society has a different policy on electronic reprints
- in fact they DO sell electronic reprints to their authors, in limited quantities.
If I recall correctly, authors are not allowed to post their papers to any public
web site, but the ACS gives them a special URL to tell colleagues about to
get copies of the article - but this URL counts the number of downloads,
and becomes inactive after it reaches the limit paid for. So the ACS can
make money from authors in a way we can't, fiscally responsible or not,
because we've already painted ourselves out of that corner.

I've also taken issue with your comments relative to "while paper publication
continues" - I don't know if you think in the same time frame on this, but all
our current planning is based on the assumption that paper publication will
not continue much longer, at least not as the primary distribution mechanism
for our journals. In fact some of our journals are now being published
electronically article by article, and the print issue when it comes out
is really just a "reprint", since the articles have already been published.
In that environment, unlimited electronic reprints with no restrictions
really have to recover first copy, not last copy costs.

Which is where Harnad's comments in this thread are really talking about
a completely different situation - our utopian future where all the last
vestiges of print-related expenses have been removed from the system (and
also where all authors somehow do have the funds to pay the remaining
publication expenses, another point I took issue with).
But the question I was addressing was what we would have
to charge NOW for unlimited reprints, recovering these first copy costs.
It's a big number for us, but I also believe almost anybody publishing a
journal now using traditional peer review has a first-copy cost within a factor
of 2 of ours, whether they publish electronically only or not.
As Harnad has emphasized elsewhere, empirical experience is worth
more than the best theories, and that's what experience tells us right now
on the expense side of running journals.

By the way, another example (besides the New Journal of Physics) of
a freely available author-funded journal is Optics Express,
<> designed
using a completely web-based editorial and refereeing process. They seem
to be publishing about 4-5 papers/month, and charge $300-$700 for publication.
I have no idea whether they are making or losing money though - and it's
probably hard to tell with such a small journal.

But I could be wrong - other numbers would be helpful too - are there other publishers
out there who can reveal their rough first copy costs per article? Preferably
this would be journals publishing at least several hundred articles/year?

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

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