Re: Should Publishers Offer Free-Access Services?

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Tue, 22 Feb 2000 16:08:50 +0000

On Tue, 22 Feb 2000, Thomas J. Walker wrote:

>sh> most authors, knowing they can get IFWA [Immediate Free Web Access]
>sh> for free by self-archiving, will probably conclude that they can
>sh> forego needless journal o-print charges, regardless of how low
>sh> they may be.
> That is your opinion. Mine is that most authors publishing in their
> societies' journals will forego self-archiving and choose to pay a fair fee
> for a new service that their society offers and they want to have. This
> seems especially likely when the service is better and cheaper than a
> service they are already buying but will now no longer need (paper reprints).

There's no harm in our differing on this; we are on the same team.

My guess is that paper reprints are well on the way out, so it is not a
matter of swapping one cost for another, but of self-archiving at no
cost versus buying o-print rights for a cost. (But you have not yet
said why authors would or should forego self-archiving!)

> Now let's consider "regardless of how low they [IFWA charges] may be."
> The Florida Entomological Society (FES) has been providing all its authors
> IFWA since 1994 _with no additional charge_. In 1995 it started calling
> this new, free service "electronic reprints." The motivation in giving the
> service that name was to make it easier for the Society to eventually
> charge for the service. It suspected that revenues from institutional
> subscriptions would decline because all articles were immediately available
> on the Internet (first on Gopher, then on WWW). The expected decline in
> subscription revenues has yet to occur
> ( However, if it
> does, FES intends to start charging for its IFWA service and to make the
> price commensurate with its cost (which includes loss of revenues from
> institutional subscriptions).

Its cost as reckoned how? If FES is really prepared to scale down to
becoming only a QC/C [Quality-Control/Certification] Provider, then
those minimal costs could indeed be covered at the author-institution
end (out of the S/L/P [Subscription/Site-License/Pay-Per-View] savings,
and we would be talking about the same thing (you calling it IFWA and I
calling it QC/C).

But if the costs were in order to maintain the S/L/P revenue streams and
modus operandi of a print-journal product provider (whether on-line or
on-paper), then the costs would be a good deal higher and the IFWA
system would simply be propping up an outmoded and counterproductive
way of disseminating research, from the researchers' standpoint.

> Question: If FES's revenues from institutional subscriptions begin a steep
> decline, how should FES garner enough revenues to continue publishing paper
> issues until its members are willing to forego them?

Charge more and more for paper, but don't try to stop the online
version from being made available free by the author. (This would make
the situation much more realistic.)

> Question: Should FES not sell publisher-provided IFWA at a fair price to
> those authors who wish to pay for it?

Yes, as long as FES does not try to stop self-archiving by those who don't.

> FES expects to pay for publication solely from IFWA charges in the all-e
> future.

See above. If the "all-e future" means providing just the QC/C service,
we are in complete agreement, but if it means compensating for
declining S/L/P gate receipts for an o-print product out of IFWA
charges, I am afraid we are not.

> Question: How should societies that publish journals plan for the
> transition to the all-e future?

As I've said in this Forum before, a rational transition plan is
urgently needed, but here would be my stab at how one might look:

(1) Allow authors to self-archive

(2) Raise S/L/P costs to make ends meet with declining S/L/P revenues
for as long as there is still a real demand for the paper version

(3) Make a consortial agreement with the libraries (via, say, SPARC) to
receive QC/C costs directly out of the windfall S/L/P cancellation
savings to tide over the cultural and administrative transition to
direct author-institution QC/C charges in exchange for the commitment
to downsizing to QC/C service-provision alone on an agreed-upon

> If authors don't want to pay the increasing costs of publisher-provided
> IFWA they can forego IFWA or switch to self-archiving. The option of
> self-archiving should be one thing that keeps the price of
> publisher-provided IFWA low.

Agreed. And if author self-archiving is also allowed (i.e., not
proscribed by copyright) we are in COMPLETE AGREEMENT: You are proposing
to offer an optional product (IFWA) to authors (just as you are offering
an optional product, the paper version, for S/L/P to individuals and

I am simply betting, that with self-archiving clearly permissible, and
IFWA merely an option, authors will do exactly what the Physicists have
done in Los Alamos (and soon in the other disciplinary Open Archives).

The critical factor is "decriminalizing" self-archiving. Once that is
done, and the Open Archives are available, I, for one, will retire to my
tent and watch when (or, if you like whether) the academic cavalry,
having been led to the waters of free (and legal) self-archiving, will
stoop to drink!

> IFWA is IFWAccess not IFWArchiving. The emphasis is upon immediate access
> to current refereed articles rather than the archiving of same.

Well, we are free to promote our own preferred roads to IFWA (and the
descriptor is yours, so let A = Access), but surely self-Archiving IS a
form of IFWA. So let the descriptor be neutral as between our
respective proposals, rather than "rather than"...

> Can you name a journal publisher in biology or medicine that
> reference-hyperlinks to self-archived articles?

No, but that is because I cannot yet name very many self-archived
articles in biology or medicine! With the coming Open Archives, let us
hope there will be many more.

Journal publishers in Physics do already link to self-archived articles
in Los Alamos, however. And besides, I was not talking about
citation-linking by or in fire-walled, proprietary journal archives,
particularly, for I think that can be much better done instead in Open

>sh> Alas, no; firewalled reference-linking (with S/L/P barriers to cross to
>sh> get to the literature) is perfectly possible, and already exists.
> Indeed it does exist, but free access to the full text is what I'm
> referring to.

For the text of those who have paid the IFWA author charges, you

And there's free access to full text in the Open Archives.

>sh> > [Publishers will be more likely to hyperlink to PubMed Central
>sh> > postings than to self-archived articles, because it will be simpler and
>sh> > because publishers are unlikely to go out of their ways to encourage
>sh> > self-archiving.]
>sh> Why will it be simpler? The whole point of the Santa-Fe convention is
>sh> to ensure that all the Open Archives are interoperable and
>sh> interlinkable:
> It will be simpler because all articles on PubMed Central will be organized
> with a single (easy-to-use?) system and all articles that are posted there
> will be publisher-certified as being the archived versions of refereed
> articles.

All articles in the Open Archives will have simple system(s) too, for
searching, reference linking services, etc. because of the Santa Fe
convention and the interoperability it ensures. They may not be the
publishers' page-images, but (if publishers don't proscribe
self-archiving), they will be QC/C'd versions anyway, and hence close
enough! (And anyone who thinks otherwise can always pay your IFWA costs
and seal the gap completely: we are simply differing on how many are
likely to want to do that!)

>sh> The [paid IFWA] formula unfortunately does not gain from repetition!
>sh> You have to explain why anyone would want to pay for IFWA when they
>sh> can have it for free, along with every one of the benefits you mention.
> The missing benefits are convenience and publisher certification.
> Speaking of convenience, having grown up in the US's Great Depression, I'm
> appalled at what my countrymen now are willing to pay for convenience. For
> example, the groceries where I shop sell huge quantities of high-price
> cut-up lettuce (for salads) even though low-price whole lettuce is in the
> next bin. [Is it simpler to self-archive than to cut up lettuce?]

We are on the same team, Tom, and that is an empirical question. Our
target destination, IFWA, is exactly the same one.

> What are "o-prints"? [=online reprints?] Whatever they are, why should
> "o-prints" be used in place of previously suggested terms.

o-prints = offprints, to make it clear that they are the (paid)
publisher-provided official off-prints. e-prints are any form
of e-paper, from unrefereed preprint, to unofficial, self-archived,
author's version of the reprint. Your proposal specifically advocates
the journal offprint over the authors self-archived home-brew.

>sh> NOTE: A complete archive of this ongoing discussion of "Freeing the
>sh> Refereed Journal Literature Through Online Self-Archiving" is available
>sh> at the American Scientist September Forum (98 & 99):
> As a former U.S. president once said, "There you go again!" Why not
> "...this ongoing discussion of 'Providing free Web access to the refereed
> journal literature'"?

You are quite right. That trailer dates from before you formulated
IFWA and it has now been duly updated as you suggest (see below).

Best wishes,


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 providing free
access to the refereed journal literature is available at the American
Scientist September Forum (98 & 99 & 00):

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Received on Mon Jan 24 2000 - 19:17:43 GMT

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