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Open access business models

I've been following the thoughtful discussions in this group and I've
noticed a lack of comments on open access business models by participants
with a knowledge of publishing. Here are some of my concerns:

1. Is the author-pays approach a pyramid scheme? Cash flow depends
entirely on fees from new articles. New article fees cover current
expenses. But if new article submissions slow, will the open access model
crash? Should open access providers be required to set aside a portion of
their revenues to fund a reserve for future expenses?

2. Many participants in these discussions show a profound lack of
understanding of the ongoing costs involved in providing online content.
The often-stated assumption is that the major costs of publishing end once
an article is published. We publish subscription newsletters in the
healthcare field and we spend a substantial amount of time and resources
on maintaining our online content, including customer support, technical,
regulatory, and access issues. Assuming that the cost of providing online
access is infinitesimal is like assuming that a library shouldn't incur
labor costs because it's just a building full of books and journals.

3. BioMed Central is often discussed as an example of a company devoted to
open access. Who owns BioMed Central? Who provides their financial
backing? Is their business model realistic? Do they produce a profit? If
their author-pays approach doesn't work, who will continue to provide
access? Will authors be left to fend for themselves? Will they be required
to pay additional fees for their articles to appear elsewhere? The Web
site states that the board should consider guarantees of continued open
access "if and when a change of ownership should be considered," but
continued open access through this service is not a certainty.

Dean H. Anderson

COR Health
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