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Re: ALPSP statement on e-publishing.

Chuck's comments are even more applicable when one realizes the decreasing
cost of computers and their accessories.  This is of course just Moore's
law, and it applies to all computer hardware, though storage is the most
dramatic example. This naturally is most dramatically shown in the
decreasing cost of storage. The one thing about cost that any publisher
can predict, is that the cost for storage of the material, and the
computers that host them, will decrease in the future. This is probably
not true for any other element of cost in their business.  Therefore, to
the extent that electronic publication replaces print, it will decrease
publishers costs. To the extent it supplements print, the extra expense
will continually decrease

And it should be remembered that about 80 to 90% of the cost of a journal
occurs independently of the printing or distributions since the conversion
into reproducible format is now generally done in common for both means of
distribution. This is the cost of reviewing, editing, and conversion into
reproducible format, all important and necessary functions. It also covers
the costs of sales, advertising, promotion, executive and support
salaries, and so forth, which are of a somewhat lesser degree of

Therefore, electronic publication does not affect at least 80% of the
cost, and decreases the other 20%.

What is expensive is the reliance upon outside consultants and vendors of
computer services; this becomes particularly expensive when the provider
fails to supply adequate service and must be replaced. This is an
indication that the publisher has not made competent plans; that it has
invested in obsolete rather the current equipment, and trained staff
knowledgeable in obsolete rather than current techniques. (I would say the
same of any library that outsourced basic computer functions.)

It is therefore particularly disappointing to read the arguments that
Chuck mentioned, which have been proven false quite a few years ago.

There are real problems in the publication industry. There are many areas
where libraries and publishers need to understand each other better. There
is potential for cooperation, and most of us are eager to do so. But when
I read a statement like this, I wonder whether it really is possible. If
this is representative, either the publishers have not yet learned enough
to understand, or they take us to be fools.

David Goodman
Princeton University

>Chuck Hamaker wrote:
> I read with interest the executive summary of the new ALPSP report on
> authors and electronic publishers.
> I have a question about an assertion in the article "Electronic Publishing
> and Learned Societies" - http://www.alpsp.org/epub_learnsoc.pdf an ALPSP
> paper for the Research Support Libraries Group ..a [PDF]pdf file on the
> ALPSP site
> Here's the statement I'm interested in:
> "However, electronic publishing has been found to bring substantial (and
> continuing) new costs; the creation and maintenance of an appropriate
> system to hold and provide access to content is an expensive business. We
> know, too, that the costs of long-term preservation will be substantial
> and are likely to impact everyone in the information chain. For most
> learned journals, with circulations of under 1000, the savings on
> manufacturing, materials and distribution costs form a negligible
> percentage of total costs. Additional costs are incurred for as long as
> customers require both print and electronic versions; we are lobbying to
> remove the VAT problem which contributes to libraries' reluctance to
> abandon print, but insecurity about long-term access and preservation, and
> users' own preferences, are also factors."
> Does ALPSP have documentation for the "substantial(and continuing) new
> costs"statement?
> PC's and servers, it seems to me are a part of the normal cost of doing
> business for many businesses in the current era. Has someone teased out
> the costs for new initiatives in electronic publishing as opposed to the
> ongoing investment for new technology that would be normal? And has that
> new investment that is distinct from the ongoing costs of doing
> business,-the statement seems to suggest- resulted in substantial cost
> that indeed is on top of the ongoing costs of the "old" system? What does
> substantial mean? Most western businesses and institutions have made the
> leap from typewritters to pcs on staff desks, and though they cost more,
> and have to be upgraded regularly, they are a cost of doing business, not
> a "new cost" for new product, except it's easier to create "new products"
> than it had been with typewriters.  So, how has ALPSP or its members
> accounted for these costs. Are we talking about investments that had to be
> made even to maintain the "old" way of doing business? What can actually
> be imputed to the "new" products. Publishers are famous for assinging
> costs of various things to their titles, so I wonder if there is real
> evidence that these expenses have to do with new products, as opposed to
> what had to be done to keep the paper flowing.
> I suspect the situation is a bit murkier than the sentence suggests,does
> ALPSP have hard data on this assertion, and has it been shared, published,
> etc.?
> I'm just not sure that the new processess didn't have to be gone into just
> to survive, even if there were no electronic product in the end.
> thank you, Chuck Hamaker