Re: Should Publishers Offer Free-Access Services?

From: Thomas J. Walker <tjw_at_GNV.IFAS.UFL.EDU>
Date: Fri, 18 Jun 1999 09:50:30 -0400

At 06:23 PM 6/17/99 -0400, you wrote:
>On Fri, 11 Jun 1999, Thomas J. Walker wrote:
>> I've not understood why you seem so opposed to authors/institutions
>> paying for free access now [by buying PDF reprints], even though you
>>think (and I agree) that authors/institutions will ultimately pay
>>publication charges (for free access).
>And I've never understood why you didn't understand why I was opposed! I
>will try to spell it out again in a minimum of words.
>(1) Authors can provide free access to their work RIGHT NOW by
>self-archiving it all on their institutional servers and/or LANL and/or
>CogPrints and/or (eventually) E-biomed/Scholar's-Forum.

True--if they want to go to the trouble of putting their work in a place
where their colleagues aren't conditioned to look and if they don't mind
violating the copyright agreement they have signed.

>(2) This is precisely what 100,000 LANL authors have done already.

But how many authors are posting to CogPrints? The point of PDF reprints
is to quicken the pace toward free Web access and to help
authors/institutions and publishers make the transition from users-pay to
authors/institutions pay.

Incidentally, as I understand it, LANL authors generally provide the text
of the refereed version but not the formatted, official version. As you
and Paul G. say in your citation-linking proposal, "Authors might wish to
have arrangements for official links with the published version in order to
provide an authenticated draft, or one in which the paper page images can
be viewed or cited by page and line."

Publishers should be paid for the services they provide, even if it is for
posting the formatted, official version on the Web.

>(3) Hence there is no earthly reason why they should want to pay anyone
>to do that for them.

Here are three reasons: convenience, ethics, and better exposure.

>(4) There is equally no reason why they should want to pay anyone for
>reprint rights.

Authors should pay for services they receive.

PDF reprints have no more to do with "reprint rights" than do paper
reprints. Authors who choose not to buy paper reprints can and do
distribute photocopies. Infinite PDF reprints are a better buy for an
author than are 100 paper reprints when they are priced the same. Selling
PDF reprints at that price is also more profitable for the publisher,
because PDF reprints are cheaper to produce. Publishers don't offer them
because they hope to delay or prevent free Web access to the journal

>(5) There IS an UNearthly (needless, unconstructive, unjustifiable,
>counterproductive) reason authors might feel they HAVE to pay for the
>right to self-archive their own papers, given to their journal
>publisher for free, and that is if they were foolish enough to sign a
>copyright agreement that DENIED them that right (except if they buy it
>back again).
>But the solution to (5) is for authors to refuse to sign any copyright
>agreement denying self-archiving rights, and to self-archive any paper
>for which they have not explicitly signed away their right to do so.

That would be the solution _if_ you could get authors to spend time
confronting a system that, in their view, isn't broken. As they taste the
advantages of free Web access to their articles through self-archiving and
PDF reprints, they will realize the system, broken or not, needs changing!

>And if/when they HAVE inadevrtently signed it away, they should DEMAND it
>back, not BUY it back; the latter would be adding insult to injury, and a
>horrible precedent for the future. There is no reason (scientific,
>moral, logical or practical) why what is permitted to (e.g.) APS
>authors should not be permitted to all authors.

They don't inadvertently sign their rights away. They do it because they
don't yet see the bad consequences, and they want to get on with their
research rather than risk a hassle.

>And if they cannot get back the right to self-archive the final draft,
>they should simply self-archive a penultimate draft, rather than the
>final one, incorporating into it whatever there is of scientific
>substance that needs be incorporated to make it as archivally useful as
>the copyrighted final draft. Self-archiving of the prior unrefereed
>preprints is also a good way of asserting this incontestable right.
>There is a slippery slope there in favour of the author, in those
>anomalous cases where author and publisher are in conflict rather than
>in harmony -- as they ought to be, about copyright "protection."
>(Copyright law was not drafted to protect authors from themselves!)
>For the record: My advocacy of author-instution-end publication charges
>is most definitely NOT so that authors can buy back their
>self-archiving rights, having given away both their papers and their
>rights for free. It is only to pay for peer review and certification --
>and that only after S/L/P toll-gate receipts no longer cover that cost,
>and all other costs and barriers have been eliminated. And the source
>of those funds will be the S/L/P savings themselves; before that, yet
>another unnecessary and counterproductive access toll, this time on the
>author rather than the reader, would be outrageous.

You and I agree that access should be free and that authors/institutions
should pay. I see PDF reprints as one means of speeding the transition
from the present system.

>> Also because, _anything_ that helps researchers learn the benefits of free
>> access will accelerate the move to free access to all articles.
>That is true, but the full benefits of free access are already available from
>free self-archiving. Hence nothing more is to be learnt from adding
>needless expenditures to them! We must UNlearn the habit of supporting
>needless, access-denying cost-barriers.

PDF reprints are not an access-denying cost barrier. They make an author's
work totally and permanently free in the official form for the cost of 100
paper reprints--something that more than 90% of authors pay (in the
journals for which I have data).

>> And finally, because allowing publishers to profit during the move to free
>> access should make them not fight it so hard.
>I disagree. A surcharge for self-archiving would only entrench the status
>quo more firmly. The only thing that will convince publishers that they
>need to phase out needless services and costs, cede archiving to
>self-archiving, and scale down to quality control/certification only
>will be clearly disappearing S/L/P revenues as a consequence of user
>preference for the free self-archived versions.
>Some support is needed during the transition, I agree, but not support
>that just entrenches the status quo and weighs it down with yet another

Free Web access to journal articles is not the status quo. PDF reprints
achieve it for a fee that most authors already pay.

To learn more about PDF reprints (a.k.a electronic reprints and e-reprints)
go to

Tom Walker

Thomas J. Walker
Department of Entomology & Nematology
University of Florida, PO Box 110620, Gainesville, FL 32611-0620
E-mail: FAX: (352)392-0190
Received on Wed Feb 10 1999 - 19:17:43 GMT

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