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Re: BioMed Central/SPARC Press release

Who cannot fail to be impressed by the way BioMed Central is handling its
enterprise? Mr. Tracz is a truly innovative publisher. In some circles it
is axiomatic that commercial enterprises cannot innovate, but in the STM
area much innovation has come from commercial houses, including Elsevier
e.g. the Trends journals.

My reading of this is as follows. Every learned society, with whom I have
spoken, agrees that the fee to acepted authors is too low to be viable.
Private conversations with BMC staff suggests that the enterprise will
work if and only if they achieve a really huge throughput of papers
leading to economies of scale kicking in and (crucially) advertising and
sponsorship revenue flowing in because of the numbers visiting the site. I
would be interested to learn if this understanding is incorrect.

The problem, as I see it, is that we are again producing models like the
Big Deal (remember a joint invention of librarians and publishers), which
is for the big players. If is difficult for smaller players to get
together to produce an offering of real interest to library consortia.
With the exception of BioOne I cannot think of any such collaboration.

In the Open Access case, the smaller players e.g. those supported by SPARC
need to charge more to authors and even then lose money. They will not be
able to get the economies of scale and unless they are in biomedicine they
will not get advertising support even if they got the critical mass.

This is a concise view. It is offered tentatively. Is it wrong?

Anthony Watkinson
14, Park Street,
England OX20 1RW
phone +44 1993 811561 and fax +44 1993  810067

----- Original Message -----
From: "Rick Johnson" <rick@arl.org>
To: <liblicense-l@lists.yale.edu>
Sent: Saturday, May 18, 2002 1:21 AM
Subject: RE: BioMed Central/SPARC Press release

> It may be helpful to mention that SPARC's written understanding with
> independently owned BioMed Central contains a promise by BMC to "ensure
> that its commitment to open access remains in effect in perpetuity,
> irrespective of the BMC's status as a corporate entity.  BMC's commitment
> to open access precludes it from selling its assets to any publisher that
> does not share its commitment to keeping all the BMC open access journals
> available both retrospectively and prospectively."
> Additionally, as part of our announcement, Vitek Tracz stated, "SPARC
> members and affiliates can remain confident that BioMed Central's
> permanent commitment to open access will ensure that all BMC journals will
> remain available both retrospectively and prospectively in all
> eventualities, including any future changes in ownership."
> Because BMC is a large-scale, visible, and innovative experiment in open
> access, SPARC concluded it should do its part to give BMC a shot at
> succeeding. I think BMC is a useful vehicle for exploring whether/how
> private investment, if directed at business models with the potential to
> lower systemic costs, can play a role in finding scholarly communication
> solutions. Of course, no one can yet guarantee initiatives such as BMC
> will indeed lower costs, or even that they can obtain broad support. But
> unless we deploy experiments such as BMC we'll never know. If BMC and
> other open access experiments demonstrate successful models, then perhaps
> societies will adopt these in order to enhance their own role in the
> marketplace.
> Rick Johnson
> >BioMedNet is owned by Elsevier. It was started by Vitek Tracz. Mr. Tracz
> >is the same individual that started BioMed Central, which I do not
> >is owned by Elsevier.
> >
> >Cara S. Kaufman
> >Partner, Kaufman-Wills Group, LLC
> >Publishing Consultant
> >24 Aintree Road
> >Baltimore, MD 21286
> >ckaufman@bellatlantic.net