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Re: Study Identifies Factors That Could Lead to Cancelled Subscriptions

I am inclined to think that Professor Harnad has "the question" wrong. It is not to seek evidence that is irrelevant; it is for the managers to pursue the interests of the ownership of their publications. The evidence is irrelevant because (a) decisions will be made (have to be made) before the evidence comes in, which is why we associate the word "risk" with investment; and (b) even if the evidence unequivocally demonstrated that OA does not result in a decline of subscriptions, the management of a publication may determine that OA is still not in the interest of their ownership. For example, the publisher may begin to market back issues separately for an incremental fee. There is in fact no situation that I can think of where a toll-access publication can ever benefit from any form of OA beyond limited product-sampling. Thus for the publisher of such a journal to have some portion of the publication become OA is a breach of fiduciary duty.

There are, however, circumstances that are wholly appropriate for OA. Examples of these are BioMedCentral and the Public Library of Science, which have established revenue models that absolutely require that their publications be OA. Whether these models will be sustainable long-term remains to be seen, but I for one am rooting for them. For these models the principal beneficiary of a publication is the author (who thus pays), not the reader (hence OA). It is my view that the long-term future of academic research publishing will be a sophisticated extension of what BMC is doing today. (BMC may or may not make it to that future point, but it is showing the way.)

The one form of OA that benefits no one and should not be supported by any responsible individual is so-called self-archiving, which I prefer to call informal publishing. The problem with informal publishing is that it cheats: it wants the infrastructure of the formal publication without the attendant costs and responsibilities. If the formal publication were to disappear, could the informal publication (that is, an editorially similar, if not identical, version of the formally published article) exist? I think not. This is parasitic publishing.

Unfortunately, this form of OA adds to costs in the form of institutional repositories (an emerging budget item for more and more libraries) and in evolving services whose objective is to identify the authorized version of an article when a multitude may be strewn across the Internet.

So, OA, yes; toll-access, yes; but self-archiving, no.

Joe Esposito

On 12/11/06, Stevan Harnad <harnad@ecs.soton.ac.uk> wrote:
On Sun, 10 Dec 2006, Sally Morris (Chief Executive) wrote:

As I hoped, a publisher has come up with some real figures about
the effect of going OA after a short embargo.  See below from
PNAS (forwarded with Diane's permission).
Dear Sally:

Let's keep our eye on the ball: The question is and has always
been: Is there any evidence that self-archiving (green) causes

Answer is still: No.

The PNAS report below is about making the journal freely
accessible (gold). That makes all of its contents, publisher's
version, at the publisher's website, free for all (gold) (within
a month).

I, for one, have never doubted that *that* could cause
cancellations. But anarchic author self-archiving, of each
author's postprints, in each author's own IR, in uncertain
proportions and at uncertain rates, are another story.

(But if/when mandated self-archiving should ever prove to cause
cancellations after all, publishing can and will adapt; research
should certainly not renounce its impact in order to insure
journals' current modus operandi against all risk from the new


I wonder whether there are other publishers on this list who
have statistics they could share?
Let's hope that if they do, their stats will be to the point
(green), rather than off-topic (gold)!

Chrs, Stevan

Sally Morris, Chief Executive
Association of Learned and Professional Society Publishers
Email: sally.morris@alpsp.org
Website:  www.alpsp.org

----- Original Message -----
From: "Sullenberger, Diane" <DSullenb@nas.edu>
To: "Sally Morris (Chief Executive)" <sally.morris@alpsp.org>
Sent: Monday, December 04, 2006 5:32 PM
Subject: RE: Study Identifies Factors That Could Lead to Cancelled

Hi Sally,

In 2000, we were free after one month. We lost 11% of our paid
subscribers in 2001, higher than the industry average, and we
switched to 6 months in 2002. The move did not stem the loss in
subscribers but it was reduced to 9% in 2002. We do not have hard
data to show a causal effect of our one month policy, but the
correlation certainly motivated a change.