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Re: The silver lining--and the still looming black cloud

Sandy Thatcher expressed very well the fear that self-archivingcould lead to a "tipping point" which could cause massivedisruption to the scholarly publishing system. Sandy suggeststhat, even without cancellations, it is possible that highlyprofitable publishers could still decide to leave the business. If even a few of the large players were to leave the system, Sandy argues, journals would have no where to go, as university presses such as Penn State do not have the resources to pick upall these journals.
Nor do even the largest presses on the scale I'm hypothesizing.

The silver lining in this scenario: if even a few of the large,highly profitable publishers were to suddenly decide to go intoanother business - then libraries and universities would haveplenty of cash left over from subscription budgets they could nolonger spend , and this cash would then be available to helpscholars transition their journals, some through newly resourceduniversity presses.
Ah, but that assumes that universities could react quickly and deploy resources differently in a short period of time-a huge assumption! One major difference between universities (even those that try to models themselves after corporations) and real corporations is that the latter can move on a dime, whereas the latter rarely move faster than a snail's pace. Consider, for example, how many decades it has taken to move the tenure-and-promotion system even one inch to adapt to major changes in the system! My worry if that, even with major resources freed up, universities are not well organized enough to make the changes needed to avoid major disruption to the system, in the short term. And even large subscription budgets couldn't come close to paying the bills needed to construct the kind of very sophisticated technological infrastructure that well-heeled corporations have been able to build. So, watch that you don't throw out the baby with the bath water!

It is always possible, of course, that the few very highlyprofitable publishers, continuing to enjoy high profits, wouldnot exodus the scholarly publishing system en masse after all.
But of course my hypothesis is based precisely on the assumption that the big publishers will-in the face of FRPAA or something like it-calculate that they can NOT sustain those high profit margins, or even margins high enough to meet their corporate goals, and will divert their capital resources away from STM publishing towards other types of publishing or into another type of business altogether.

I am also assuming that society publishers will not have capital resources sufficient to fill the void quickly either. After all, their main sources of revenue now come from membership dues and journal subscriptions. Dues cannot be jacked up steeply without causing membership defection, and journal subscription revenues will be just as affected by FRPAA as commercial publishers' revenues will.

And when is the last time you saw a university make ANY major investment in its press?

For more detail, please see my blogpost, Transitioning to
OpenAccess:  Beyond Fear of Change, at: http://tinyurl.com/ygyspt

Sandy Thatcher's original post to Liblicense:
Sanford G. Thatcher, Director
Penn State University Press
University Park, PA 16802-1003