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Re: Open Access and "Membership Costs"

I think that J.F. Rowland is missing my point. Whether we are dealing
with a reader's market (subscription model), or an author's model
(membership model) was not my argument. I was attempting to illustrate
that that shifting from a market model that involves *individual costs*,
to one that involves *institutional costs* is problematic. Most
publishers use a price-discriminatory model whereby institutional
subscription prices eclipse individual subscription prices by many times. We also know that an individual subscription model is price elastic
(individuals are not tolerant of large price increases), while an
institutional subscription model is price inelastic (libraries
unfortunately are very tolerant of price increases). Libraries have been
tolerant of paying exorbitant journal prices because we act as purchasing
agents for our consumers, and consumers in this model are unaware and
uninterested in containing costs -- this is well-documented in both the
economics and library literature. So whether we are discussing a reader's
market, or an author's market is beside the point. A move to an
institutional membership fee can be economically disadvantageous,
especially if this model is controlled by a price-maximizing entity, of
which BioMed Central is one.

Phil Davis

Philip Davis, Life Sciences Bibliographer
Mann Library, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853
(607) 255-7192 ; (607) 255-0318 fax


At 05:27 PM 7/8/2003 -0400, J.F.Rowland@lboro.ac.uk wrote:
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.