Re: The True Cost of the Essentials (Implementing Peer Review)

From: Albert Henderson <>
Date: Mon, 10 Dec 2001 22:37:54 +0000

On Fri, 7 Dec 2001 Alan Story <> wrote:

> On your second strand, breaking publishers' monopoly and the question of
> assignment of copyright ( which as Stevan points out is
> complementary).....and here speaking from the perspective of the UK. >
> The "assignment as a condition of publication" contracts that publishers
> require academic authors to sign are "unreasonable", defining "unreasonable"

        Such contracts are not at all unreasonable if you consider that
        the author asks the publisher to invest over $1000 (1977
        dollars) in average pre-press costs per article. (Distribution
        costs averaged an additional 9 cents.) The publisher provides
        to the author a recognition that is invaluable in establishing
        competence, intelligence, and even vision in the sense of being
        the first to 'publish' insightful ideas and discoveries.

        The reader should view such agreements as reasonable because
        the reader benefits by bona fides accorded 'published' claims
        that are locatable by browsing in credible sources.

        In short, these copyright transfer agreements, used by the
        publishers to secure their investments, are hardly
        'unreasonable' in any sense of the word. They benefit the
        author and the reader as well as the publisher. Moreover,
        publishers have exploited the new technology for the benefit of
        authors and readers so that any qualified researcher does have
        free access through membership in a library. What is
        unreasonable is the proposition that the reader who relies
        exclusively on self-published 'archives' gets equal value.

        The implication that libraries need not provide
        services to students, faculty, and others because
        copies of articles can be obtained through labor-
        intensive efforts is far more 'unreasonable' than
        publishers' contracts with authors.

> Not only is this a rather questionable business model for universities--- to
> understate the absurdity of this situation --- for the production and
> distribution of knowledge, but it also dramatically decreases access toand
> use of that knowledge. And it is the signing of an "unreasonable" contract
> that lies at the centre of this tangled and inequitable web of copyright
> power relations and limitations on access.

        By 'business model' you must mean profitability.

        Yes, universities would be much more profitable if library
        spending were eliminated and the burden of dissemination were
        shifted entirely to authors and readers. The increased gap
        between spending on research and on libraries, 1970 to date,
        demonstrates the business plan: universities' interests in
        profits. It is only equaled by their disdain for the work
        product of research and the quality of education.

        It is not, as you claim, the copyright agreement that
        'dramatically decreases access to and use of that knowledge.'
        It is that universities have cut library spending, canceled
        journal subscriptions, stopped buying books, and laid off
        librarians. The evidence of this is in 40 years of skyrocketing
        'just too late' interlibrary photocopy and document delivery
        statistics. The evidence to support Harnad's utopian promises
        and your argumentative claims is nowhere to be found.

Albert Henderson

Received on Mon Dec 10 2001 - 22:38:36 GMT

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