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RE: Question about open access and print

National Academies Press' has claimed since 2001 that providing 
free online versions of their books has had a positive impact on 
print sales. As far as I know there haven't been any definitive 
economic impact studies on the issue though.

>From the issue dated September 14, 2001

Academic Press Gives Away Its Secret of Success

It's been a bad year financially for nonprofit publishers, 
according to most reports. High returns from inventory by 
booksellers closing their doors or trimming their stock, combined 
with sagging sales of what are considered discretionary products 
in a slowing economy, have forced many nonprofit publishers to 
rethink their plans and budgets. Even some of the largest and 
most well-known university presses are whispering about deficits.

So it's almost embarrassing when I tell colleagues that the 
National Academy Press is on track for a record year in book 
sales. And it dumbfounds them when I mention that we make every 
page we publish in print available online -- free.

-----Original Message-----
[mailto:owner-liblicense-l@lists.yale.edu] On Behalf Of Joseph J. Esposito
Sent: Thursday, March 02, 2006 3:39 PM
To: liblicense-l@lists.yale.edu
Subject: Re: Question about open access and print

David's reply is from the point of view of the librarian.  The 
publisher's perspective is different, but the outcome is not 
necessarily at odds with the librarian's.

For a publisher (or the vendor of any product or service) the 
term of art is "channel conflict."  This conflict occurs when the 
sale of something in one form or venue undermines its sale in 
another. Sometimes multiple channels and forms can be mutually 
supportive, sometimes not.  The classic case of this is the fear 
of yesteryear on the part of book publishers, who believed that 
feature films would undercut the sale of a book; of course we now 
know the opposite to be true for these particular channels and 
forms.  On the other hand, tickets for theatrical releases now 
appear to be declining because of the widespread availability of 
DVDs and wide-screen TVs.  So there is an art to determining when 
channel conflict will occur, and vendors don't always get this 
right.  Some publishers continue to license journals to 
aggregators like EBSCO and Gale, but there have been some 
high-profile defections recently, which were likely driven by 
channel conflict.

This can indeed have large implications for Open Access.  To the 
originating publisher (that is, the organization that financed 
the creation of the intellectual property--the Elseviers, the 
Wileys of the world) OA is simply another channel.  It can in 
some instances enhance the sale of toll-based publications (which 
is probably mostly the case today in the STM journals world), and 
it can in some instances cannibalize those sales (in my view the 
inevitable outcome of OA, for which reason no publisher with 
financial responsibility should support OA in any form or to any 
degree, as its cumulative effect is pernicious).  But, again, 
this is an art, and not everyone will share Richard Feinman's 
publisher's judgment.

Some will criticize Richard Feinman's publisher for being 
short-sighted and mercenary, but, romantic that I am, I prefer to 
think of this publisher as visionary and mercenary.  Like the 
individual who declines to purchase an SUV to safeguard future 
generations from global warming, this publisher is working to 
ensure the capital base for scholarly communications.

Joe Esposito