McCabe: "Can Author Fees Revive Competition in STM?"

From: Steve Hitchcock <>
Date: Thu, 4 Dec 2003 12:13:15 +0000

Mark McCabe has produced some excellent and thorough reports on journal
publisher monopolies that are best read in detail. I'm sure his study on
open access models vs subscription-based models will be just as essential
reading. The preview below, however, leaves some gaps that I hope will be
filled by his report.

Notably, there is no mention of institutional and author self-archiving.
Two key words in the analysis will be efficiency and competition. In my
view, it is institutional archiving that will 'reintroduce' efficiency in
the journal publishing process because the free, author self-archived
version will be the baseline from which journal value-added will then be

Competition for publishing authors will be between open access and
subscription journals, but then there has always been competition for
authors between journals. But all authors, in the scenario I envisage, will
make their versions of published papers freely available in open access

It is claimed in the report below that author-pays open access 'offers more
market efficiency because it reintroduces faculty to the costs of
disseminating research in their academic field'. But what is the impact in
this respect of the institutional, even national, author licences that we
have seen? If seen in isolation from author self-archiving, is this not
another way of distancing authors from the costs of publication, which
ultimately affects access?

In the longer term will the emergence of open access reduce journal
publisher monopolies and the effects of monopolies identified in McCabe's
earlier reports? Those studies had historical data to work with. The new
report, because author-pays open access journals and institutional archives
are relatively new, may necessarily be more speculative. What, for example,
is the scenario if a large publisher were to adopt the author-pays model?
It may not be completely fanciful:

"One thing I do know is that a number of major commercial publishers are
involved in contingency planning if open access reaches the 'tipping point'
at which the whole industry switches business models. Open access will not
lead to the demise of the large commercial publisher. If anything, they
might well pick up the idea and run with it while the rest of the community
continues its debates."

What is clear is that these questions cannot be answered unless proper
weight is given to author self-archiving in any open access scenario. I
look forward to the report's detailed findings on these issues.

Steve Hitchcock
IAM Group, School of Electronics and Computer Science
University of Southampton SO17 1BJ, UK
Tel: +44 (0)23 8059 3256 Fax: +44 (0)23 8059 2865

At 14:18 03/12/03 -0500, you wrote:
>[Forwarding to
with permission from the Library Journal Academic
>Newswire. --Peter Suber.]
>Library Journal Academic Newswire (TM)
>December 2, 2003
>Researchers and academic librarians may be increasingly disillusioned
>about the marketplace for e-journals, but the emerging open access
>movement in STM publishing may help change that, says Georgia Tech
>economist Mark McCabe. In a conversation with the LJ Academic Newswire,
>McCabe, an expert on the evolving STM marketplace, said that open access
>has made a strong first step toward success--and may offer the only
>"socially sensible" solution to reversing STM inflation. McCabe is
>currently in the early stages of an Open Society Institute-funded study
>that will analyze various open access models vs. subscription-based
>models. He said that open access can succeed in STM publishing because it
>restores a concept to the STM market that has diminished in recent years:
>Under the open access model, journals charge authors a fee to cover the
>cost of publication, while access for users is free. This offers more
>market efficiency, he says, because it reintroduces faculty to the costs
>of disseminating research in their academic field. The current practice--
>libraries purchasing site licenses--in contrast divorces faculty members
>from the costs of publishing. With author fees instead of subscriptions,
>McCabe says, journals will compete with each other for authors--and their
>fees. To do that, they can offer financial incentives such as lower (or
>waived) author fees, or quicker peer-review and publication, or the
>promise of more readers or prestige. McCabe's analysis is seconded by open
>access publisher BioMed Central's Pritpal Tamber. Tamber recently wrote in
>The LANCET that article processing charges "create the potential for the
>proper operation of market forces." Tamber posited that the range of
>author fees, from BioMed Central's $500 per article to the Public Library
>of Science's $1500, "show that market forces are already at work."
Received on Thu Dec 04 2003 - 12:13:15 GMT

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