Re: Springer Open Choice uptake affects 2011 journal pricing

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Wed, 23 Jun 2010 13:04:53 +0100

On Tue, 22 Jun 2010, Jan Velterop wrote:

> The presumed linearity of the relationship between subscription
> price and OA uptake is problematic.
> Suppose the subscription price is $1500 and the OA fee $3000 per
> article. If an uptake of 10 articles coincides with the
> cancellation of 20 subscriptions, the net income difference for
> the publisher is nil (ignoring agents fees and discounts). So why
> would it then be justified to expect a reduction in subscription
> price?
> Jan Velterop

This is a strange calculation, Jan.

I was assuming -- since we are talking about hybrid Gold, where a journal
continues to be supported by subscriptions and some authors choose to
pay for gold OA on a single-article basis -- that under these conditions,
the quid pro quo would be: the higher the gold OA rate uptake, the lower
the subscription fee.

This would not be a matter of subscription cancellations at
all. Cancellations would be an entirely different matter, and would only
be expected for journals whose content is 100% Gold OA (i.e., the online
edition of all articles is immediately free for all), not hybrid Gold OA,
hovering at 6-8% of total content): Institutions can't cancel a journal
when they only get an arbitrary 8% of its content for free.

So I can't imagine what you had in mind, Jan, in this posting about
"linearity," except that the underlying mental calculation does sound
rather publisher-centered (my subscription revenue, my hybrid Gold revenue,
my cancellations, my total income). The trick would be to come up with a
formula (and, yes, a linear one) that gives authors and their institutions
(and funders) an incentive to pay for hybrid Gold OA today, in order to
have it translated into subscription price reductions tomorrow.

I don't think the trick can be done. From an institution's point of view, why
pay for hybrid Gold OA today? If the objective is to provide OA to the
institution's own article output, this can be done cost-free, through Green OA
self-archiving. And if the objective is to lower journal subscription prices,
paying, today, for hybrid Gold OA, today, would only yield a pittance
reduction for a much larger price outlay, over and above what is already being
paid for subscriptions.

So a much more sensible institutional strategy is to let subscriptions
(whichever the institution can afford today) keep paying for publication
today, mandate Green OA today, and wait till the percentage Green OA
approaches 100% globally, at which time the institution can cancel
subscriptions. The journals will then downsize, convert to full Gold OA
(not hybrid Gold OA) and not at the present pre-emptive asking price,
reckoned on the basis of preserving journals' current total revenues,
and continuing to co-bundle its all its current products and services,
along with their associated costs. Instead, journals will provide
the service of peer review alone, but at its much reduced price (no print
edition costs, no online edition costs, no access-provision costs,
no distribution/delivery costs, no archiving/storage costs) -- a price
that institutions will easily pay out of just a fraction of their annual
windfall subscription cancellation savings.

In contrast, Jan, you seem to be conflating subscription price reductions
in proportion to hybrid gold OA uptake revenue increases with subscription
cancellations, which are nowhere in sight as long as hybrid Gold OA
uptake is nowhere near 100%. Or are you conflating Springer "membership"
prices -- keep paying my big-deal subscription rates, and you can publish your
Gold OA articles with me for free -- with the question about how increased
Gold OA uptake can lower big-deal bundled subscription fees? That certainly
allows keeping all the quid-quo-pro opaque from the customer...

But if it's big-deal hybrid-Gold "memberships" you were thinking of, it has to
be recalled that (some) institutions can think too -- and will be able to
project ahead to see that annual institutional subscriptions to incoming
journals do not morph coherently into annual "memberships" to provide Gold OA
for outgoing institutional articles. There are 10,000 institutions, publishing
articles in 25,000 journals. Is each institution to become an annual "member" of
each journal?

The big-deal hybrid-gold membership only gives the illusion of making
sense when there is just one big publisher of multiple journals offering
it (and only for extremely short-sighted, cash-strapped and rather
gullible acquisitions librarians). Otherwise it is evident that the
"membership" model is neither scalable nor sustainable, hence as incoherent as
an Escher Drawing.


> On 22 Jun 2010, at 03:39, Stevan Harnad wrote:
>> I am not a library serials budget specialist, but it seems to me
>> reasonable to ask (especially in view of the OUP press release
>> about decline in the uptake of this option) (1) what was the
>> percentage uptake and (2) what was the resulting percentage
>> reduction?
>> Stevan
>> On 2010-06-18, at 12:07 PM, Peter Suber wrote:
>>> [Forwarding from Springer. --Peter Suber.]
>>> Springer Open Choice uptake affects 2011 journal pricing
>>> Heidelberg / Dordrecht / New York / London, 18 June 2010
>>> Springer has analyzed the uptake of its open access option Open
>> Choice for articles published in 2009 and is pleased to share its
>> impact on 2011 pricing.
>>> Springer Open Choice allows authors to publish their article
>> with open access in exchange for payment of a fee, for the
>> majority of its journals. The articles are then immediately
>> freely available and the copyright remains with the author, and
>> articles are published under the Creative Commons Attribution
>> Non-Commercial License. These articles can be self-archived with
>> immediate access.
>>> A detailed analysis of the Open Choice articles published in
>> 2009 showed that over 30 journals published a significant share
>> of paid open access articles in 2009. This will be reflected in
>> these journals' 2011 subscription prices.
>>> Wim van der Stelt, EVP Business Development at Springer, says:
>> 'We have always said that we would monitor the uptake of the Open
>> Choice offering closely. In 2010, we already adjusted
>> subscription prices for a small group of journals and the group
>> of journals with a significant number of paid Open Choice
>> articles has grown further. We are therefore pleased to reflect
>> this in the 2011 pricing. We believe that this emphasizes the
>> constructive attitude of Springer towards open access, which we
>> have shown previously by pioneering Open Choice in 2004 and
>> acquiring BioMed Central in 2008.'
>>> Springer Science+Business Media ( is a leading
>> global scientific publisher, delivering quality content through
>> innovative information products and services. The company is
>> also a trusted provider of local-language professional
>> publications in Europe, especially in Germany and the
>> Netherlands. In the science, technology and medicine (STM)
>> sector, the group publishes around 2,000 journals and more than
>> 6,500 new books a year, as well as the largest STM eBook
>> Collection worldwide. Springer has operations in about 20
>> countries in Europe, the USA, and Asia, and more than 5,000
>> employees. In 2009, it generated annual sales of around EUR 857
>> million.
Received on Wed Jun 23 2010 - 13:08:22 BST

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