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Re: Open Access and "Membership Costs"

A move to an institutional membership fee can also kill the competition in
academic publishing. Every institute will pay one or very few "Open
Access" publishers the membership fee. There will be no incentive for any
institute to pay a second publisher (in the same discipline) a duplicate
fee to get their papers published (since they already have a place to
publish their papers with the first publisher). However, the truth is:
this chosen publisher will have to raise the membership fee as more papers
come from this institute. At the end, it becomes an extreme monopoly.

What will BioMed Central do if they get 20 papers to publish from an
institute that paid them the $1,500 membership fee? May be they will
publish them for $75 each, but next year they have to multiply the
membership fee for that institute by a large factor. Keep going like this,
and that institute will be a locked customer for BMC (unless it decides to
switch to another open access publisher -- which will be then the only
publisher for them).

A membership fee is like the publisher saying "all your papers or none." It is even worse than the current practice of journal bundling (which makes it very difficult for new less-expensive journals from smaller publishers to break into the market -- which can put more priced journals under pressure).

--Ahmed Hindawi

At 7/10/2003, you wrote:
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