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Re: ALPSP statement on e-publishing.

At 6:04 PM -0400 4/29/02, Evan Owens wrote:
>At 4/28/02 09:14 PM, Eric Hellman wrote:
>>I have previously observed that journal publishing is now a technology
>>business, and like all other technology businesses will experience an
>>exponential decline in cost of production. The chip industry has been on a
>>curve of 100% improvement every 18 months; for the steel industry the rate
>>has been much smaller, but constant nonetheless.
>>My estimates are that per-article cost of production in journal publishing
>>will decline by about 10% per year for the forseeable future. Producers
>>that exceed this rate will do well, producers that lag will not do well.
>The cost reductions that the industry has seen in the last 10 years have
>been in parts of the process that are manufacturing (printing and binding)
>or in areas where it has been possible to move the work to low-wage areas
>of the world (typesetting and redaction).  Moving work to e.g., India,
>however, is a one-time reduction, not a 10% per year decline thereafter.
>I don't quite see that publishing is comparable to chip manufacturing; it
>seems to me that a better analogy is a professional services industry like
>law. Most of the costs are human costs (editorial office staff, production
>and copy editing, marketing, etc.) and although technology does help, it
>is hard to imagine 10% per year reductions in of total costs.  Unless we
>give up reading and thinking and interacting with the content entirely,
>the human costs won't diminish quickly . . . and never completely.

Evan, your reaction suggests you are perhaps not familiar with the chip
industry. (And perhaps envious of legal salaries)

In the early stages of the chip industry, skilled labor and professional
services were the largest factors in the costs of production. In the 70's,
much of the production went offshore to save on labor costs. Chip making
has gradually become an extremely capital intensive industry, with new
fabs costing several billions of dollars, and much of the work that went
off shore came back.

I have worked as an engineer in a chip fab. You would be astounded at how
much the job ticket for a batch of wafers looks like the routing for a
manuscript in a editing/publishing process.

Chip design has always required highly skilled engineering talent;
today's designers use automated design tools to help them manage millions
of transistors, while in the 70's, photomasks were designed on rubylith
cut by hand with knives. But when you come right down to it, chips are
still designed by people, thinking and interacting with "content".

As an exercise, take your budget for the last 3 years, adjust for
inflation, and divide by the number of articles published each year.
Tell us the results. Maybe it's not 10% per year; maybe it's 5% per year.
Whatever it is, you get better at it every year. Of course you don't
improve as fast as the chip industry, but you improve, year after year.

Journal publishing is technology now.

Eric Hellman

Openly Informatics, Inc.
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