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RE: Monopolies in publishing

You've made some good points regarding authors' desire for wide
distribution. Authors have a legitimate concern that the commercial model
limits access to their work. And their concern eventually may help fuel a
shift away from commercial publishers if subscribership continues to

On the other hand, publishing academic research is costly, regardless of
who the publisher is.  Whether the cost is explicitly recognized or buried
in the overhead of a nonprofit institution, someone will have to make a
decision as to whether the value of the information is worth the cost. And
someone will have to come up with the money.

In the present commercial model, it's largely a market-based decision.
Institutions subscribe to publications that are in high demand and drop
subscriptions to publications that are seldom accessed. Is this fair or
desirable? The answer is beyond the scope of this thread. In any case,
someone has to fund the publication of a research article. Whoever funds
publication will necessarily have a considerable degree of power over both
authors and the content that gets published. The question then becomes,
should that power be diffused over hundreds or thousands of paying
subscribers or should funding decisions be concentrated in the hands of
academic committees, sponsors, or institutional benefactors? Both
alternatives have obvious benefits and pitfalls.

Dean H. Anderson

COR Health
Insight ... not just news

-----Original Message-----
From: owner-liblicense-l@lists.yale.edu
Sent: Wednesday, July 16, 2003 11:34 AM
To: liblicense-l@lists.yale.edu
Subject: RE: Monopolies in publishing

"Unless journal publishers can achieve breakthrough cost reductions, many
academic journals will cease to exist, thereby reducing the number of
outlets for publishing research work."

While you're right that academic journals are under greater pressure to
succeed, it's not due to the search for breakthrough cost reductions. It's
due to the increasing outlets for publishing academic research.  As
already discussed on the list, new publishing ventures, preprint servers,
author self-publishing, institutional repositories, and other innovative
publishing outlets are growing rapidly and their use by, and acceptance
by, academic researchers is growing as rapidly.

Authors are becoming much more aware of the financial limitations of their
institutional libraries and are choosing more fiscally responsible outlets
for publishing their work.  Authors of scientific research want their work
to be as accessible and as widely distributed as possible, and are less
accepting of the bad pricing policies of the large monopolistic publishing

The cessation of low quality journals produced by commercial publishers is
a good thing.  Authors still publishing in those journals were poorly
served by the publishers in the first place and will seek other avenues
where they can publish their research.

John McDonald
Acquisitions Librarian
California Institute of Technology