Re: Napster: stealing another's vs. giving away one's own

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Tue, 13 Jan 2004 18:59:21 +0000

        Consumer Rip-Offs versus Author Give-Aways

                Stevan harnad

In the Montreal Gazette today, William Watson (Economics, McGill
unearthed this old chestnut again:

> [Providing and Using self-archived articles is like] Napster
> for nerds. That would be great if the journals and other
> distribution services charging for research were performing
> no useful function. But, in fact, they are providing a crucial
> function: intellectual triage... If everyone free-rode... how
> would these editors be compensated?

Authors self-archiving their own peer-reviewed journal articles on the
web is not "napster for nerds" for the simple reason that napster is a
consumer rip-off whereas author self-archiving is a producer give-away.

William Watson asks how the peer review could be paid for if everyone
could access the articles for free and no one paid the access-tolls any
more? The answer was in my article.

Peer-review costs $500 per article. The journals earn $1500 per article
right now from access-tolls. That pays for peer-review plus a lot of
extras (such as the print version, digital markup, archiving, etc.).

If and when institutions no longer want to pay tolls for those extras
because they are happy with just the plain-vanilla self-archived
open-access versions instead, they will have saved 100% of their annual
toll-access expenses.

Institutions can then use 33% of those annual windfall savings to pay
journals to cover the peer review costs directly, for each outgoing
paper their own authors publish, instead of through access-tolls to buy
in the articles published by other institutions.

There are already 1000 "open-access" journals, recovering their costs this
But there are still 23,000 toll-access journals. So self-archiving must
come first. It will provide open access for sure. Whether or when it
induces a transition from toll-access to open-access publishing remains
to be seen.

Stevan Harnad

Thread begins:

    "Napster: stealing another's vs. giving away one's own"

See also:
    "Not Napster for Science" (by Peter Suber)

NOTE: A complete archive of the ongoing discussion of providing open
access to the peer-reviewed research literature online (1998-2004)
is available at the American Scientist Open Access Forum:
        To join the Forum:
        Post discussion to:
        Hypermail Archive:

Unified Dual Open-Access-Provision Policy:
    BOAI-2 ("gold"): Publish your article in a suitable open-access
            journal whenever one exists.
    BOAI-1 ("green"): Otherwise, publish your article in a suitable
            toll-access journal and also self-archive it.
Received on Tue Jan 13 2004 - 18:59:21 GMT

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