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Re: Monopolies in publishing

Quoting "Joseph J. Esposito" <espositoj@worldnet.att.net>:

> It is noteworthy that the expenses detailed in Mr. Robinson's post are
> of the kind that lend themselves to scale.  That is, it is relatively
> expensive to handle all these items for a single publication, but it is
> a trivial cost if you are managing 800 or more.  This is one (only one)
> of the factors that has fueled the consolidation in the academic 
> journals market.  At least from an economic point of view, big 
> publishers simply do a better job.

Quite the converse.  A very small journal can probably be run completely
voluntarily, and piggy-back its (small) IT requirements on the much larger
functions of a university, as a covert but small subsidy.  But a large
journal, or a large stable of journals, has admin costs that are (roughly)
proportional to the number of papers processed per annum.  Beyond the
first growth phase I doubt if there is much in the way of economies of
scale, and the large head- office-cost overheads of a big company
represent a diseconomy of scale.

If the big publishers do a better job, why are their products more
expensive than those from smaller publishers?  The consolidation of the
industry is more likely due to the fact that smaller companies quoted on
the stock exchange can be taken over, and will be, if they are seen to be
a "good buy" by virtue of their profitability.  Closely owned family
companies, learned societies and university presses, on the other hand,
are not subject to the vagaries of the stock exchange and takeover bids,
and many small scholarly publishers (as well as some bigger ones) fall in
these categories.

Fytton Rowland