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Re: Wellcome Trust report

Thank you for this clarification. Never had I seen the fundamental
divergence between the academic agenda and the commercial publishers
exposed so clearly and yet so pithily.

The point about capitalism is not that capitalism does not have a place in
our societies; it is that it does not and cannot occupy all of the social
space.  Scholarly and scientific communication are not served by being
integrated to capitalism. Making capitalism look "natural" in the context
of scholarly publishing is not a reality or a truth; it is a claim or, at
best, a thesis.

Once you note that commercial publishers may be eminently "out of place"
in scholarly communication, it all becomes very clear: the only reason we
deal with them is that they command an all too real power position in
academic publishing. In the end, it all comes down to (economic) power.

Nothing new here, except that it might be worthwhile to reassert that
capitalism is not a natural state of affairs and that it did not emerge on
the 8th day of creation. Neither does it enjoy universal validity.

Jean-Claude Gu�don

On Thu June 3 2004 01:11 am, Joseph J. Esposito wrote:
> There are parts of Mr. Friend's conclusion (stated rhetorically) that are
> correct, namely, that commercial publishers, like all other commercial
> vendors do not pass on cost-savings to their customers unless there are
> compelling marketing reasons to do so.  Who would imagine that it would be
> otherwise?  Furthermore, for companies organized under certain state laws,
> it could be construed by some as illegal. (A Delaware corporation exists
> solely for the benefit of the shareholders, a California corporation
> exists "primarily" for the benefit of the shareholders.  Lawyers, please
> jump in.) Nor would many of us, in our role as teeny owners of shares of
> publicly traded stock held in retirement mutual funds, want managers to
> look out for their customers first, shareholders second.  But this is not
> publishing we are talking about, but capitalism itself.  For people who
> want to fight that battle, no comment.
> When might cost-savings be passed on to customers?  Not-for-profit
> publishers don't have the same economic requirements as commercial
> publishers and may not choose a "price-optimization" strategy.  Or any
> publisher may see more profit in greater volume at lower prices, but this
> rarely applies in the academic research market, which is notoriously
> inelastic (How many new universities are being built today?).  Or there is
> the "loss-leader" strategy, where one product is underpriced in order to
> sell other, even more profitable products (also rare in commercial
> research publishing, though perhaps this underlies in part the business
> rationale for the Big Deal).
> The moral case for lower pricing falls on deaf ears precisely because the
> ears are paid to be deaf.
> Joe Esposito