Re: Should Publishers Offer Free-Access Services?

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Mon, 21 Feb 2000 19:31:02 +0000

I'm afraid Tom has not answered any of the points I raised about the
relative advantages and disadvantages of IFWA (Immediate Free Web
Access) via paid journal o-prints vs. free self-archiving:

On Mon, 21 Feb 2000, Thomas J. Walker wrote:

> For this transition to occur, authors and their supporting institutions
> must be willing to pay for IFWA, which at first might seem to be a stopper.

No, one can have IFWA for free, immediately, through self-archiving in
Open Archives, now.

> Most authors who buy paper reprints will probably conclude that they
> can forego them

And most authors, knowing they can get IFWA for free by self-archiving,
will probably conclude that they can forego needless journal o-print
charges, regardless of how low they may be.

> When (and if) IFWA sales becomes great enough to encourage subscription
> cancellations, the price of IFWA can be raised to compensate for declining
> subscription revenues. Then, unless sales of IFWA decline, the path to the
> new system will be clear.

But given the free IFWA option, i.e., self-archiving, clearly
available, what else can IFWA sales do but decline as their cost goes

> I believe that the path will be clear because IFWA is becoming increasingly
> valuable as more and more journals establish online versions and try to add
> value to them by providing hyperlinks to the full text of entries in their
> Reference Cited sections.

No, IFWA (Immediate Free Web Archiving) is free through self-archiving,
and free archives are being reference-hyperlinked too (and without any
financial firewalls to cross from reference to reference):

> Only those works that are freely accessible or for which the
> publisher has special access can be so linked.

Alas, no; firewalled reference-linking (with S/L/P barriers to cross to
get to the literature) is perfectly possible, and already exists.

> Thus those authors whose
> articles are _freely_ Web accessible will especially benefit from increased
> employment of external hyperlinks, as will the institutions that support
> them.

Some publishers are contemplating click-through monopolies whereby
their respective proprietary contents can be interlinked within collective
licensing agreements.

> [Publishers will be more likely to hyperlink to PubMed Central
> postings than to self-archived articles, because it will be simpler and
> because publishers are unlikely to go out of their ways to encourage
> self-archiving.]

Why will it be simpler? The whole point of the Santa-Fe convention is
to ensure that all the Open Archives are interoperable and

> The value of IFWA becomes even clearer when one considers the online
> versions of major literature indexes (such as Current Contents, Biological
> Abstracts, CAB, and Agricola). Users of these indexes would like immediate
> access to the full text of their hits. Producers of these indexes will
> compete to add value to their products by including as many external links
> as possible. Thus IFWA articles should be immediately accessible from
> online indexes. Non-IFWA articles (=those with restricted access) cannot
> be linked or the links will work only for those who are qualified by having
> subscriptions or by belonging to an institution that has a site license.

This is exactly equally true for IFWA self-archiving for free in the
Open Archives and for paid IFWA by journals; so it is not a factor in
favour of paid o-prints either.

Open Archives are designed so that secondary service providers can offer
services on top of them. But the main services of the secondaries like
CC and BA will be so easy to provide on the full-text archives that they
are far more likely to be (free) competitors than added values for the
the existing (non-free) secondaries...

> Do authors want anyone using one of these indexes to have immediate access
> to their current articles? Do institutions want such access to the results
> of the research they have sponsored? If the answers are YES, society
> publishers will be an untenable position if they refuse to offer their
> authors that option. And all publishers that offer IFWA will profit from
> it, which just might speed the transition to universal free access.

This formula unfortunately does not gain from repetition! You have to
explain why anyone would want to pay for IFWA when they can have it for
free, along with every one of the benefits you mention.

Stevan Harnad
Professor of Cognitive Science
Department of Electronics and phone: +44 23-80 592-582
             Computer Science fax: +44 23-80 592-865
University of Southampton
Highfield, Southampton

NOTE: A complete archive of this ongoing discussion of "Freeing the
Refereed Journal Literature Through Online Self-Archiving" is available
at the American Scientist September Forum (98 & 99):
Received on Mon Jan 24 2000 - 19:17:43 GMT

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