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Re: Looking an open access gift horse in the mouth

In responding to Jill Emery and Ann Okerson's thoughtful posts simultaneously,

I don't see a difference between institutional membership and
institutional subscriptions, from the viewpoint of a librarian. Both are
stated fees paid in advance by a third-party for a promised service. Both also continue to keep authors and readers insensitive to publishing
costs. While the cost of the Open Access may be a cheaper form of
publishing (this point is still under debate), these costs (as Ann Okerson
inferred), will be greatly concentrated among the large research
organizations that publish the vast majority of scientific articles. For
smaller non-research intensive schools, and industry (a great consumer of
scientific information), OA is a great deal. In addition, we may be
confronting a Tragedy of the Commons, where the interests of publishers,
librarians and authors are not in line with what is in the best interest
of the common good. I see no way around this problem in that the agents
that have the power to change the system are reluctant (or do not have the
incentive) to do so. An open access model (as David Posser, SPARC Europe,
and Jan Velterop, BioMedCentral argue), may create a more true and
competitive market than what we have at this moment. An author-payment
will theoretically sensitize authors to the cost of publishing. Unfortunately, institutional memberships may only move us from one
price-insensitive model to another.

--Phil Davis

At 05:56 PM 1/15/2004 -0500, you wrote:
In agreement with Phil Davis' post from last week concerning EMBO and
SPARC Europe and as a reaction to the latest post regarding PLoS and the
institution of member fees, I pose the following questions which make me
feel somewhat like another member of the equine family but nonetheless,
here they are...

How do most libraries differentiate between institutional membership fees
and subscription fees? Do you feel the need to make this distinction at
all? Can or should membership fees be paid through subscription agents?

As a group, do we feel that these fees are sustainable at the levels at
which they are being instituted or will we begin to see increases as the
realities of electronic scholarly publishing and maintenance take hold and
as the grant funding presently underwriting some of these endeavors dries

It is a much more agreeable matter for an academic institution to support
BioMedCentral or Public Library of Science than some commercial
enterprises, however, bearing in mind both the understanding that instead
of buying back published research from the commercial sector, libraries
are now underwriting the publication of research and that the current
pricing structures and models do not seem sustainable at their current
levels, are libraries better off with the membership fee model? It has
been said that $1500 does not go very far in the creation and support of
one to two electronic articles much less a whole electronic sphere of

Have libraries been able to benefit at a greater extent from the research
dollars garnered by their parent institutions if libraries are
facilitating the publishing of this research?

Basically all of these questions lead to the same bottom line: are most
libraries just accepting that open access membership fees are a feasible
model and that future price increases can be absorbed?

Cordially submitted,

Jill Emery