Re: Why are e-prints not rivals to journals?

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Mon, 6 Nov 2000 16:56:33 +0000

On Fri, 3 Nov 2000, Rune Dalgaard wrote:

> But who will pay for refereed journals if all their content is available for
> free? What library will pay for a journal if its not read because the
> articles are accessed by other means (e-print archives)? In other words,
> while the referee process, as agreed by most, is necessary, it is unclear
> how the institutions (journal publishers) that at present coordinates and
> administrate this process, will be able to maintain a profitable business if
> the core part of their product is given away.

There are (at least) two possibilities, and a spectrum in between.

(1) Either things will continue roughly the same way they do now even
after the refereed literature is available online free for all -- with
enough libraries still willing and able to continue to pay the
Subscription/Site-License/Pay-Per-View [S/L/P] fees for the journal
publisher's version, thereby continuing to cover the full costs (and a
fair return) for producing and selling on-paper and enhanced on-line
versions just the way it is being done today,

(2) Or cancellation pressure from the competing free version will
induce publishers to downsize to providing only the essential
Quality-Control (peer review) and Certification service [QC/C] to the
author-institition, paid for out of that percentage of the total annual
100% institutional S/L/P savings that turns out to be the true cost of
the QC/C service alone (perhaps 10-30%).

The key change will be that the publisher's for-fee version will become
an optional one, rather than an obligate one, as it is now, and that
the costs of the QC/C service will be covered up-front, out of the
institutional S/L/P savings.

> it raises the question, whether the e-print model is a self-sufficient
> solution or it is parasitic to a parallel system of refereeing that it
> might be undermining or reforming? Perhaps, journals and e-print
> archives can even co-exist but that seems to me an open question and
> not an evident outcome.

By my lights, author/institution self-archiving of eprints is
definitely "parasitic" on the QC/C service provided by journal
publishers, and those essential costs will have to be covered out of
any savings.

Peer-review reform (still in the untested, hypothetical stage) is not
part of the initiative to free the peer-reviewed literature, now.
Freeing it now is one thing; reforming it some day (when we have a
better alternative) is another.

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 the ongoing discussion of providing free
access to the refereed journal literature online 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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