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Naturally, there are going to be problems with any change in business
model.  There are risks associated with the transition from
subscription-based access to open access.  My hope is that the transition
model minimises the risks and makes it more attractive to publishers to
make the change.  We are already seeing this with, for example, the
Company of Biologists, the American Physiological Society, and Oxford
University Press, who are all experimenting with variations of the model.

Publishers are going to be able to make educated estimates on the
proportion of authors taking up the open access option and use these
estimates to decide on subscription prices.  The odd pricing cycle for
journals means that they have to make estimates of subscribers and costs
well in advance, this will be one more variable to factor in.  My advice
(for what it is worth) is for the publishers to be conservative with their
estimates of author-uptake.

Regarding realistic costs, BioMedCentral and PLoS would argue that they
have set their prices at sustainable levels - time will tell.  For the
transition publishers, the Company of Biologists have a charge which looks
to me as if it could be sustainable.

As an aside, there is an interesting gap in this discussion.  Those
society publishers who have publicly expressed doubts about the open
access model appear to have no doubts about the current system.  The risks
of a move to open access are compared to the stability of
subscription-based access.  But surely the current system is not risk
free.  We have not (as far as I am aware) seen any publishers give us
their vision of the future based on subscription access - is it really
business as usual?  When major customers (such as UC) describe the current
model as 'unsustainable' don't the society publisher get concerned?  
Perhaps Mr Watkinson could give us his prediction of what the environment
for society publishers will be like in five or ten years time as the
amount of material to be published continues to increase, library budgets
continue to be squeezed, and ever increasing proportions of those budgets
go to a small number of big deals.

David C Prosser PhD
SPARC Europe

E-mail:	david.prosser@bodley.ox.ac.uk
Tel:	+44 (0) 1865 284 451
Mobile:	+44 (0) 7974 673 888

-----Original Message-----
From: owner-liblicense-l@lists.yale.edu
[mailto:owner-liblicense-l@lists.yale.edu] On Behalf Of Anthony Watkinson
Sent: 26 February 2004 23:01
Subject: Re: PLoS

I wonder how many of the readers of this list have actually read David
Prosser's transition proposal. It is available at
http://www.arl.org/sparc/core/index.asp?page=g29#4. He sets out the
disadvantages of the gradual method very cogently and it is these
disadvantages of the transition which, it is my impression, weigh heavily
on learned society publishers who cannot afford to take the leap of faith.

It is possible to extend his analysis of the problems. He proposes that,
for example, success in attracting author payment in 2004 should enable a
concomitant reduction of the subscription rate in 2005 but subscription
rates are not set at the end of the year. They should be set before the
end of July as libraries and their intermediaries know very well.

Mr. Prosser also advocates an author charge which reflects true costs. I
am not aware of any publisher that currently proposes a sustainable charge
based on such costs.

Anthony Watkinson.