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Re: Open Access and "Membership Costs"

Phil really is wrong about this.  Anyone can access Biomed Central
journals for nothing.  The payment is for authors in an institution to
publish in Biomed Central journals.  The institution may (either by
deliberate decision, or by a misunderstanding) make this payment from
library funds.  But it isn't the same thing as a journal subscription.

As to whether the price will go up over time, only time will tell.  I have
no connection with Biomed Central, and I am not a fan of commercial
publishers in scholarly publishing.  I would certainly be most unhappy if
Biomed Central were taken over by one of the big boys.  Like Phil, I
favour learned society publishing, having worked in it for half of my
career.  I do think, though, that the Biomed Central model is one that
offers real hope for a better-value and more sustainable scholarly
publishing system.  It would be unfortunate if librarians perpetuate
misunderstandings about this model, and condemn it when it has hardly
started.  They should be explaining the difference between this model and
the conventional one carefully to the academics in their institutions,

Fytton Rowland, Department of Information Science, Loughborough
University, UK.

Quoting Phil Davis <pmd8@cornell.edu>:

> Ann Okerson hit the nail squarely on the head about who will be paying
> for open access -- libraries will.  Despite the name "institutional
> membership", these are in essence library subscription fees designed to
> extract rents from the institution.  Because authors are adverse to 
> paying to publish, an institutional membership model is in the author's 
> and publisher's best interest.  But it is in the best interest of the
> institution?
> Institutions will pay more money in this model than the sum of all 
> author payments in the initial model.  Because we are dealing with a
> for-profit publisher (i.e. BioMedCentral), it is completely rational 
> that institutions will see their membership fees rise precipitously if 
> this product and its journals become prestigious.  We have seen this for
> all other commercial publisher products, and shouldn't believe 
> otherwise. 
> Individual authors will push for the library to continue its 
> subscription despite a clear price discrimination model being in effect.  
> In effect, we find ourselves in the same inelastic price model we 
> currently have in the traditional model.  The additional problem with 
> the membership fee is that it "bundles"  all open-access journals 
> together from a publisher.
> The only economic model where institutional-membership fees might work
> is if the publisher is a non-profit society or association, whereby the
> prices charged to the institution will reflect the actual cost of
> publishing and not the price the market will bear.
> Respectfully submitted,
> Phil Davis, Cornell University