Re: APS copyright policy

From: Thomas J. Walker <tjwalker_at_MAIL.IFAS.UFL.EDU>
Date: Mon, 4 Mar 2002 13:50:38 -0500

First, let me summarize:

Stevan and I agree that
(1) Immediate free web access to the journal literature is optimal and
(2) Funding the journal literature will switch from user-pays to
author-or-author's-funder pays.

I believe that (1) and (2) will be speeded if publishers will give authors
the option of buying, at a fair price, immediate free web access (IFWA) to
their articles. Stevan does not.

I further believe that learned societies that publish journals are doing
themselves and their authors a disservice by not offering IFWA to those who
wish to pay a fair price for it. To their authors, because they are
impeding access to the archived versions of the articles, thereby reducing
the impact. To themselves, because they risk alienating their members by
unnecessarily restricting access and because they are unwilling to profit
from making access freer.

Stevan thinks of IFWA as access to PDF files. I think of it as access to
the publisher-certified version.

For more on these points, see below:

At 12:43 AM 3/2/2002 +0000, you wrote:
>On Fri, 1 Mar 2002, Thomas J. Walker wrote:
> > I agree with Stevan's interpretation that self-archiving of the
> > APS-formatted version is not legal.
> > I also agree with his conclusion that APS policy encourages self-archiving
> > of preprints and updates of preprints.
>With so much agreement between my comrade-at-arms, Tom Walker, and
>myself, including agreement on the optimality and inevitability of open
>access, how is it that we still disagree on the very same basic points
>that initiated this Forum in way back in September 1998?
>Yet here we are, 4 years wiser, and still not of the same mind on
>the subject!
>Raising the question of this divergence in connection with the APS is
>still more interesting, for the APS too is of more than one mind on the
>matter: The APS, among all established publishers, has gone the farthest
>in trying to serve the interests of research and researchers. They have
>allowed and blessed author self-archiving of both the unrefereed
>preprint and the refereed postprint (i.e., the final, refereed, revised,
>accepted draft), and have only been ambivalent about the PDF, the
>APS-generated page images, worrying that if they allow authors to
>self-archive that too, it might do in their subscription/license
>revenue, and make them unable to cover their costs.

That is why I picked on APS. It is sensitive to its members' desire for
freer access but still seems to be denying that universal IFWA is the
future. Otherwise, I could not explain why APS denies its authors a
service that would be popular and profitable and could allow a smooth
transition to universal free access.

However, since picking on APS, I've re-read APS Editor-in-Chief Martin
Blume's contribution to Nature's e-access forum
and noted that he proposes that APS make the transition to universal free
access via institutional sponsorships, thereby avoiding the reluctance of
authors to pay submission or publication fees.

>Moreover, among the costs that the collapse of subscription/license
>revenue would cease to be able to cover would be the costs of the
>editing and markup that generate the PDF itself! So it really could be
>quite risky to encourage authors to do that.

Perhaps it is even more risky to ignore the accelerating movement toward
free access and to allow subscription/license revenue to collapse with no
alternative revenue source established.

>On the other hand, not allowing the authors to do that (but allowing
>them to self-archive the preprint and the postprint) allows a certain
>empirical, economic test to take place, one whose outcome cannot be
>guessed in advance: If the refereed, revised, accepted final drafts
>(postprints) are freely accessible online (through author/institution
>self-archiving of eprints), but the publisher's PDFs continue to have
>to be paid for, will that be enough to sustain the subscription/license
>market, and hence to cover all costs (including the cost of the peer
>review, which is about $500 per paper in the case of the APS)?

I prefer a different empirical test. Should not professional societies
provide their authors (and the authors' funders) the opportunity to show if
they value free access enough to pay a fair price for it?

(Furthermore, sales of IFWA need not equate to sales of access to PDF
files. IFWA should free the access to the publisher-certified version of
the refereed article. That is unlikely to remain PDF once producing paper
issues is abandoned.)

>If the answer is yes, then the PDF and enhancements indeed represent an
>essential added value, as many journal publishers have been suggesting,
>one that those institutions that can afford it are willing to keep on
>paying for even when the vanilla postprints are openly accessible to
>all their own institutional users, as well as to the users at all other
>institutions that cannot afford the value-added edition. This would
>mean that there is no further reason to expect that the journal
>subscription/license market will not survive and prosper well on into
>the PostGutenberg era.
>[And I, for one, would be perfectly happy with that outcome: It would
>no longer be true that any researcher with access to the Web lacked
>access to any of the 2 million annual articles in the planet's 20,000
>annual peer-reviewed journals. It would no longer be true that any
>researcher had lost even an epsilon of the potential uptake, usage,
>citations and impact of his research because potential users had been
>denied access because their institutions could not afford the access
>tolls. And although available serials budgets would still continue to
>be spent, the situation could hardly continue to be called a "crisis."]
>But the other possible outcome would be that, as the 2 million annual
>articles in the 20,000 annual journals all become openly accessible to
>all would-be users, institutions will no longer find the value-added PDF
>worth paying for any more, and there will be growing
>subscription/license cancellations. Then the outcome would be that
>publishers would have to cut costs, phasing out the add-ons for which
>there was no longer a market, and downsizing to the provision of the
>essential service they would still be providing, namely, peer review
>(i.e., exactly what it is that transforms the preprint into the
>postprint). That special increment of added value is something that the
>APS is currently allowing to be given away for free by its authors,
>even though it is parasitic on the subscription/license revenues with
>which it is competing! For it is those revenues that are currently
>paying all the costs -- the essential ones as well as enhanced ones.
>Downsizing and phasing out everything that goes into the PDF would
>not only mean that refereed journal publishers would become peer-review
>service providers (and certifiers), but it would also mean that their
>"clients" were no longer the reader-institutions but the
>author-institutions, and they would have to start charging the $200-$500
>it takes to generate a refereed, accepted, certified postprint to those
>author-institutions -- which, fortunately, they will have more than
>enough windfall revenue to pay for, as those institutions will also be
>the reader-institutions who were now making all the annual
>subscription/license cancellation savings.
>Now what role might Tom Walker's author-purchased PDF offprints have
>in all this?

Please note (as stated above) that IFWA sales should be for free access to
the publisher-certified version. Access to PDF files currently fill that

>First, right now, it would confuse the issue a little, asking authors to
>pay for the PDF out of the same funds they would have used to pay for
>paper offprints (and for the same price). It is unclear what percentage
>of the authors of the 2 million annual papers in the 20,000 annual
>journals fit this model at all. (How many had the $200 to pay for
>offprints before, and want to spend it that way now? Many never had it.)
>But let us suppose that authors do have the $200-$500 for this.

$500 seems high for a current fair price. The most expensive IFWA purchase
by an ESA author in 200l was $267 (for a 32-page article). The average ESA
article in 2001 was 7.2 pages, which had an IFWA price of $90 in 2001. (The
price is $95 in 2002.)

[It is important to understand that ESA plans to increase its IFWA prices
as subscription/license revenues decline. It also plans to stop printing
paper issues when the revenues generated from paper subscriptions no longer
support such printing.]

>Now we have two parallel empirical/economic tests: As before, will
>institutions that were paying through subscription/license tolls for the paper
>and PDF want to continue paying for it, even when the vanilla postprint
>is accessible online for free for everyone? Will authors who were
>paying for paper offprints want to continue paying for them as
>PDFprints, even when they can make their self-archived vanilla
>postprint accessible for free for all -- for free for themselves? And
>an interaction: Will institutions want to keep paying the basic
>subscription/license fees when BOTH the vanilla postprints and the
>PDFprints are accessible free by other routes? (The paper add-on is a
>further complication here, but let's ignore it.)

The "self-archived vanilla postprint" is not the publisher-certified
version. It is the author's rendition of it. Surely good scholarship
requires that those who cite articles in the journal literature base their
evaluation of those articles on the publisher-certified
versions. Therefore it is in the authors' self interest to have those
versions conveniently accessible to all and to find funds from some source
to pay for making them so accessible. [Such funds are extraordinarily
modest compared to the costs of the research and of preparing the results
of research for publication.]

>Tom thinks that author-payment for the PDFprint is a temporary
>tide-over method for the eventual transition to open access. But
>written out in longhand like this, it looks more like an author-end
>reprieve for PDF, and a delay in the natural processes that would have
>to take place in the transition to a self-sustaining cost-recovery
>model for open access.

I view it as giving authors the opportunity to show how important it is to
them to have the publisher-certified versions freely and conveniently

>And it would be the PDF that would be artificially propped up by it
>all, at the author-end making it more difficult to arrive at the
>outcome of the empirical experiment of whether there would be a
>reader-end market for the PDF at all, if access to the vanilla
>postprint were free!
> > However, for a society that so clearly takes member interests into account,
> > I cannot understand why APS does not allow its authors to pay a fair price
> > to have the PDF versions of their articles freely available concurrent with
> > paper publication. If APS wants to serve its members and the cause of free
> > access, it should offer an immediate-free-web-access (IFWA) service. Such
> > a service would include posting the PDF versions on arXiv and allowing
> > authors to self-archive their APS formatted versions on any server.
>The effect of this would be to offload (some of) the PDF costs onto
>authors and leave subscription/license expenditures in place: A very
>odd sort of subsidy from authors who could just as easily self-archive
>their vanilla postprints instead, for free.

Authors who want to self archive can still do so. Authors who don't want
IFWA don't have to find the funds to buy it.

> > Offering an IFWA service would have minimal direct costs to APS, so a fair
> > but profit-making price should not exceed 75% of the cost of 100 paper
> > reprints (e.g., $269 x 0.75 = $202 for a 7-page article).
> >
> > The Entomological Society of America has offered an IFWA service for two
> > years, and in 2001 had a gross income of $31,259 from IFWA sales. [For
> > IFWA, ESA charges 75% of the cost of 100 paper reprints, but its prices for
> > paper reprints are less than half those of APS. ESA gets $95 for IFWA to a
> > 7-page article.]
>The real question is: What is the total revenue per article, how much of
>that is to pay for peer review, and how much to pay for paper/PDF/etc.?
>For the average article in the 20,000 journals, it is about $2000. So
>if $500 of that is peer review costs, what is the other $1500 paying
>for? (And what on earth does the $200 per article PDFprint charge cover,
>and what difference does it make?)

I view the real question as: Why should professional societies deny their
authors the chance to show how much they (the authors) value free access to
the publisher-certified versions of their articles.

>I gave average figures. Perhaps for the ESA journals and the APS journals
>the figures are slightly different, but you see my drift. The arithmetic
>does not work, as a strategy for making the transition to open access,
>paid for at the author-institution end.
> > Here are some advantages that would accrue if APS offered an IFWA service:
> >
> > APS authors could have the official version of their refereed articles
> > immediately and conveniently available to all.
>"Official" here merely means the PDF version. As far as science is
>concerned, the essential version is the refereed postprint.

Wrong! Official means that the publisher (not the author) has certified
the version--and it is currently PDF only because PDF files are products of
the same electronic files that produce the print version (whose days are

> > APS authors could avoid preparing corrigenda for their arXiv'd preprints.
>Well, yes, there's that...
> > Users of arXiv could avoid having to combine preprints with their
> > corrigenda [possible only if authors post corrigenda].
>True again....
> > And of course APS would have a revenue source that would help it transition
> > to universal free access.
>And what would those further transitional steps be, then?

As IFWA becomes more popular, subscription/license revenues drop thereby
increasing the fair price of IFWA and reducing the financial incentive to
continue the print version. Once authors are hooked on IFWA, they will do
whatever is necessary to continue it. If current publishers won't make it
attractive for authors (and their funders), other publishers will.

Tom Walker

Thomas J. Walker
Department of Entomology & Nematology
PO Box 110620 (or Natural Area Drive)
University of Florida, Gainesville, FL 32611-0620
E-mail: (or
FAX: (352)392-0190
Received on Mon Mar 04 2002 - 19:11:41 GMT

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