Re: Should Publishers Offer Free-Access Services?

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Fri, 5 May 2000 20:34:45 +0100

On Fri, 5 May 2000, Franck Ramus wrote:

> sh> Authors can have exactly the same benefit for free by simply
> sh> self-archiving their refereed, final drafts online in an Open Archive.
> it's not exactly the same benefit, since what authors can archive is
> their ugly-looking unreadable preprint. the 'official reprint'
> represents some actual work by the publisher and deserves payment. this
> should not of course preclude self-archiving of authors' preprints...

Not quite -- and this is important: The target has always been the
(freeing by) self-archiving of BOTH unrefereed preprints AND refereed
reprints. Not necessarily the PDF page images of the latter -- that
added-value can remain with the publisher to sell, if he wishes.

But the refereed final draft, in the author's own format, most

If the "ugliness" of that is enough to keep the PDF version paid for
pretty much as it is now in perpetuo, that's fine with me! The
objective is to free the refereed research literature, not particularly
the publisher's page-images. Those who want it will have the choice
between the pretty for-fee version and the ugly for-free version.

(But if I were a publisher of refereed journals now, I wouldn't want to
rely too heavily on the likelihood that there will be a market for the
pretty choice for much longer -- particularly as more and more
self-prettifying authorware becomes available...)

> since the ideal model advocated by Harnad includes authors paying
> page charges, i think it's pretty equivalent if the publisher sells
> them the 'official reprint' instead.

The product/service distinction here makes all the difference in the
world. The "product" model (whether reader-subscription-based or
author-institution e-print charge-based) covers a multitude of sins of
"value-added" (through no request of the customer); the content of the
research is simply held hostage to these add-ons. In the service model,
this is not possible:

It's all about what costs do and do not need to be wrapped into what
one is charging for (hence it is also about how big that charge will
need to be). I believe that once subversive self-archiving forces a
scaling down to the real essentials, the only one will turn out to be
the cost of the SERVICE of Quality Control/Certification, QC/C (mainly
peer review).

This will not be the cost of a PRODUCT, namely, the text. Hence there
will be no room nor need for selling authors "electronic reprints".
Sell them (or rather their institutions) the service of QC/C (paid for
out of a small part of their annual institutional savings from
the termination of Subscription/Site-License/Pay-Per-View [S/L/P]
access tolls, rendered obsolete by subversive self-archiving) and
let self-archiving in the Open Archives take care of the rest, as it is
already doing for 128,000 Physics papers.

As long as a text-PRODUCT is being sold (whether to the
reader-institution through S/L/P, or to the author-institution through
"electronic reprint" charges), all kinds of unnecessary costs will be
wrapped into it, under the guise of "value-added" -- and the result
will be that the refereed research literature continues to be held
hostage to needless and unjustified access-tolls.

Let PDF-prettification be sold as an ADD-ON OPTION (instead of a
take-it-or-leave-it ball-and-chain), and it can be sold with impunity.
The market can decide which refereed version it wants: the for-fee or
the for-free one.

> ultimately it would perhaps even be more convenient to have journals
> entirely financed through optional 'official reprints' charges, rather
> than through compulsory page charges. indeed, in the compulsory page
> charge model, poor authors/institutions would have trouble publishing.
> in the optional reprint charge model, well-funded authors/institutions
> would pay for the publication costs of everyone, and get a valuable
> reprint service in return.

There is some validity to this, but only insamuch as, in paying for the
SERVICE of QC/C, there will be institutional differences, between the
net-providers and the net-consumers of research papers. But as the cost
of QC/C will be so much lower than the cost of S/L/P, any minor
inequities here will be well-buffered and negligible.

But QC/C is not, and should not be seen as, "page charges." The text
(product) is free. The charge is for the quality control and
certification (service).

Stevan Harnad

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):

You may join the list at the site above.

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

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