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RE: Taking Our Academic Medicine

I am not a economist, but I am using the common sense Joe praises--to a
considerable extent, common sense as viewed by the two of us is similar.  (When
I speak of value, I speak of it only in the sense that journals are of value to
their readers. I am aware there are other and probably more important

The value of a journal has no connection with its cost to produce, or with its
price. The value of a journal is the sum of the scholarly value of its articles
to the ultimate users.

But for a moment discussing costs, the cost to produce is affected not only by
the expense of producing the journal's first copy, but by the number of copies
sold. Thus the familiar paradox that the least useful titles will inevitably be
the most expensive, as only libraries funded to achieve maximum completeness can
afford to buy them.

However, this sets a price target for other journals.  If the clearly useless
journal X can sell at $5000 a year, surely a more useful  journal could command
an equivalent price. Thus publishers have the incentive to ask prices for good
journals that are wildly in excess of the cost to produce each copy.  If they
charge only $4500, they expect their good intentions to be acknowledged.

In a free market, of course, no one would buy such overpriced material, and the
prices would decline to a competitive level. Since each journal is an
individual monopoly, and a library is not at liberty to buy or not, the
principles of a free market do not apply. It is thus not absurd to compare cost
to the publisher with the costto the library, if only as a reason for change.

The basic economics have already been discussed definitively in 2000 in the book
"Towards Electronic Journals" by Carol Tenopir and Donald King.

In judging this, most librarians in the past have be forced to use whatever
rating of value its primary constituents wish to provide.  If we define value
in terms of citation and use, these can now be used effectively, to provide the
university with the journals it will actually need and use, without guesswork.
Joe's discussion is within this model.

But an article might be immense use, but only to one individual in the world,
and it needs to be identified and seen by that individual. It may be of
use to those outside the academic world, and also identified and seen by them.
Hence the argument for providing universal access to all titles, and this can
only be accomplished by Open Access, which is now within our capabilities.

Dr. David Goodman
Associate Professor
Palmer School of Library and Information Science
Long Island University

-----Original Message-----
From: owner-liblicense-l@lists.yale.edu on behalf of Joseph J. Esposito
Sent: Sat 11/19/2005 1:04 AM
To: liblicense-l@lists.yale.edu
Subject: Re: Taking Our Academic Medicine

I am an admirer of BioMedCentral, but I must respectfully disagree with
Matthew Cockerill's view of the merits of revenue per page and other
metrics for value of research publications.  The problem simply is that no
revenue or page or cost or price exists in a vacuum; the figures have to
be anchored in a context.  And this is very, very hard to do.  Accounting
is a black art.  While the devil can quote scripture, accountants quote
the devil
Here is one example of why revenue per page doesn't mean anything.  A
publisher may try to start a dozen journals before finding one that works
in the marketplace.  The cost of starting those aborted journals gets
placed into the cost of the one journal that is successful.  Not fair,
someone might say.  On the other hand, this publisher is showing more
daring than the publisher who chances nothing.  The latter publisher may
have a lower revenue cost per page (because there are lower total costs to
recover), but is actually doing the community a disservice by failing to
take risks.

So let's go back to common sense.  Common sense tells us that there are
more desirable publications than many libraries have the money to
purchase.  That's the problem:  not cost per page or price per bit or
anything else.  Libraries therefore commonsensically attempt to lower
their costs.  And--this is fundamental--there is no such thing as a cost
that is low enough.  Librarians will support those vendors that further
their aims, which may include BMC, and will move away from vendors that do
not.  There is little reason to express moral outrage over any of this or
to attempt to document good guys and bad guys.  This is the marketplace at

Joe Esposito

----- Original Message -----
From: "Matthew Cockerill" <matt@biomedcentral.com>
To: <liblicense-l@lists.yale.edu>
Sent: Friday, November 18, 2005 11:19 AM
Subject: RE: Taking Our Academic Medicine

> Peter,
> Certainly www.journalprices.com provides the information about price per
> artice/price per page/price per citation, measured from the point of
> view of an individual institutional subscriber to the journal. One
> obvious limitation of that approach is that the cost-per-citation of OA
> journals according to that metric is zero. i.e. they offer infinite
> value!
> I was agreeing with Ahmed Hindawi that it is also relevant (in fact, I
> would say, much more relevant) to know the total cost per article to the
> whole scientific community.
> That is because, if you take a step back, what publishers do is provide
> a service to the scientific community, to disseminate articles.  You can
> argue that the cost to the community as a whole is the best measure of
> how to compare the value-for-money of the service being offered by
> different publishers to the scientific community.
> Publishers who take a small amount of money from the academic community,
> in return for each article publication, article download, or article
> access, are, other things being equal, offering better value as
> serviceproviders than publishers who extract a large amount of money
> from the academic community for an equivalent level of dissemination.
> To any individual library, the price may be reasonable, in terms of
> 'what is a reasonable price to pay for access to this excellent
> research'. But from a funders point of view, that's topsy turvy - its
> researchers did the research. The amount paid should be proportionate to
> the service of dissemination provided, not proportionate to how badly it
> needs access to the research.
> Article Processing Charges have the virtue of making completely clear
> how much is being charged for the service of publication and
> dissemination.
> Certainly, one of the tasks faced by any publisher is to make sure that
> their revenue will cover their costs. Since BioMed Central is a
> commercial organization, I think you can have confidence that we fully
> intend to achieve that. That doesn't alter the basic fact that if
> publisher A is charging $1300 to publish and disseminate an article, and
> publisher B is charging $5000 for an equivalent level of service,
> publisher A is offering a better deal.
> Matt