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Re: ALPSP statement on e-publishing.
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- Subject: Re: ALPSP statement on e-publishing.
- From: "Anthony Watkinson" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
- Date: Sun, 28 Apr 2002 13:14:42 EDT
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I always hesitate to reply to anything by David Goodman or for that matter Chuck Hamaker as they are both friends and I know that they understand information technology in general better than I do, but in this area David is wrong. He is not a publisher and has never worked for a publisher - as far as I know. He is ignoring what data there is about increased costs (see the ICSU workshop in Oxford or the work of Tenopir and King). What Sally Morris is writing in her trailer is a statement of fact. She is not writing about a survey of commercial publisher but of not-for-profits. The people who own these organisations are the people who are the patrons in the library context. It is reasonable enough for David to suggest that academics are incompetent or fools, but I am surprised, on the basis of my knowledge of him, that he should think so. I do not think that the competence of publishers in the IT area is dramatically lower than the competence of libraries who progressively spend more of their income on infrastructure and less on "materials". It is my view that the talk about "fools" in unwarranted. No commercial publisher is going to lay out all its costs for its competitors to see and also potentially suffer from downmarking by financial analysts. Maybe some of the learned societies, who have given information in public gatherings, could come into this debate with some hard information. I am thinking of the physics organisations in particular. I happened to be one of those who did project that e-only publishing, if one could get e-only publications accepted, would be definitely cheaper, but I now find that the costs of the systems that administer access is much higher than anyone had predicted and the costs of all the extra staff needed in the digital environment is much higher too. It is nothing to do with the cost of storage. David seems just to have discovered that these costs are going down. I remember as a publisher discovering this (to my relief) a decade ago. It seems to me a red herring. It is for me easier to focus on the latter costs. We do not need to look for the increased costs involved in employing IT specialists to maintain the systems, which are significant. These are different people from the staff engaged in handling subscriptions. But let us look at another sector.Let us look at the Big Deal for example. Whereas in the past publishers did not market journals to libraries except by sending out bits of paper and occasional booths at library conferences, now there is the very complex matter of dealing with library consortia. Whole new departments have sprung up in publishing companies, staffed by highly skilled people (not promotions assistants) who earn appropriate amounts of money and who spend a lot of their time travelling to be interviewed by committees of librarians - not once but several times. It is not surprising that smaller publisher cannot afford to make offers to consortia. I wonder how many people are inviolved directly or indirectly in Science Direct - essentially a sales vehicle. Some publishers break all these new costs out for the learned societies for whom they publish (also fools presumably) and they are not insignificant. It would be interesting to see if any of these people lay their cards on the table. As a publisher, you can see the extra costs clearly enough. You pay the bills. You set the budgets. Anthony Watkinson ----- Original Message ----- From: "David Goodman" <dgoodman@Princeton.EDU> To: <email@example.com> Sent: Sunday, April 28, 2002 2:09 AM Subject: 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 > importance. > > 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