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RE: AAUP Statement on Open Access

You're exactly right, Mary. Economists call this the "free rider" problem, and it exists because of the characteristic of "nonexcludability" that Colin talks about in his paper.

The classic work on this topic was Mancur Olson's THE LOGIC OF COLLECTIVE ACTION, published by our sister press Harvard in 1965. For a brief summary, see this entry from Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Logic_of_Collective_Action. (I became very familiar with this theory when publishing a book for some of his students and colleagues in 1971 at Princeton U.P.: POLITICAL LEADERSHIP AND COLLECTIVE GOODS by Norman Frohlich, Joe Oppenheimer, and Oran Young.)

Your point was rightly emphasized long ago in the Report of the National Enquiry into Scholarly Communication (Johns Hopkins, 1979). Its eighth recommendation reads: "To broaden support for scholarly publishing, we recommend that universities without presses become active participants in the publishing process as sponsors of work produced on their campuses." The discussion in this section (pp. 24-26) is motivated by the "free rider" problem, as you'll see if you read it, and it is no accident that the technical director and chief writer of the Report, Nazir Bhagat, was a trained economist.

Though dated in some ways, there is still much of value in this Report for today's discussions. I got to know it intimately because the offices of the people working on the project were located upstairs at Princeton U.P. where I was an editor at the time. And the press's director then, Herb Bailey, was a prime mover in getting this project (supported by the NEH and the Ford, Mellon, and Rockefeller foundations) started.

I am also a long time fan of Colin Day's work. There is a problem in the discussion of University libraries and presses, however. While the libraries of all colleges and universities consume the books and journals published by university presses to some degree, only a small share of the colleges and universities provide the services of university presses to the scholarly community. This is particularly important as these services tend to be subsidized by the institutions which provide them. Thus there is a need for analysis of who provides how much to the institution of scholarly communication, but there is likely to be a 'free loader' aspect to this world as well as a 'public good' aspect. How to provide the proper balance of providing broad access to scholarly works and funding for them is a problem we have not yet resolved.

Mary Summerfield
Director, Business Development
Journals Division
University of Chicago Press
Chicago, IL 60637
E-mail: msummerfield@press.uchicago.edu
Net: www.journals.uchicago.edu

-----Original Message-----
[mailto:owner-liblicense-l@lists.yale.edu] On Behalf Of Sandy Thatcher
Sent: Monday, March 12, 2007 8:45 PM
To: liblicense-l@lists.yale.edu
Subject: re: AAUP Statement on Open Access

[I have just posted the following to the AAUP directors'
listserv, but thought it would be of interest to this list as
well, given the subject matter.]

In thinking further about OA, I have come across an article by
Colin Day that I recommend highly to all of you:
("Economics of Electronic Publishing"). It appears in the
open-access Journal of Electronic Publishing that he founded at
Michigan when he was director there.

I have always found Colin's writing about our industry among the
most insightful and stimulating. I frequently cite his JEP paper
(originally delivered at an AAUP/ARL/ACLS conference in 1997)
comparing the costs of electronic and print publishing as the
best answer to those Pollyannas who see e-publishing as vastly
cheaper than traditional publishing:

In this even earlier paper, Colin as usual proved himself way
ahead of the curve in analyzing our business. As probably the
only trained economist among university press directors, he can
help us all with insights from economic theory, and here he
particularly zeroes in on the theory of public goods, which is a
framework that the recent ACLS Report on cyberinfrastructure also
invoked (without providing as illuminating a discussion as Colin
provides in this article). His paper compares how presses and
libraries each have a role in adding value to the system of
scholarly communication in the different but complementary ways
they perform the functions of gathering, selecting, enhancing,
and informing. Toward the end he raises a question that is on
many of our minds today: just how might presses and libraries
fruitfully collaborate, along with faculty, to confront the
challenges we all face today?

I quote a few remarks to tantalize you and spur you to reading
the full article:

"...whether making decisions based purely on market criteria is
wise for intellectual and culturally important services and
goods. Subsidization of music and theater by both government and
private donors certainly suggests a pervasive belief (but sadly
not universal) that some things are too central to our culture to
be left to the Darwinian struggle of the market place.... First I
should return to the basic problem: one entity is worried about
cost recovery [university presses], while another entity is
worried about the impact of increasing prices on its budget
[libraries]. In most cases of this general kind, the two entities
are distinct and distant, we therefore need a solution that works
through a market-type mechanism to a solution that ensures, at
least viability for each entity and moves us to a position that
minimizes social costs and maximizes social benefits. Amazingly
one can in many instances devise solutions that approximate to
those objectives.

"However, in the particular situation that we are considering and
in which we are involved, we can cut through many of those
complications: the main participants are already under common
ownership. University presses and libraries and the faculty they
both serve are all part of the same institution -- the
university. Yet a model has become established in which presses
relate very much at arms length with libraries. The prevailing
mindset is a customer-supplier one. In other words we have mutual
ownership but seek none of the benefits that mutual ownership
should give us....

"I am not going to provide a full solution here. It is something
that needs more thought and discussion, indeed mutual discussion,
to define suitable arrangements but the essential first step is
that libraries and presses on individual campuses begin to think
about their problems in a system-wide way. Individual pursuit of
solutions to problems perceived in the narrow can combine to
perverse solutions. Those of you who read The Fifth Discipline by
Peter Senge will recognize a point that he makes and makes most
persuasively: one must think of the whole system and not separate
units of the system."

That last is a sentiment I wholeheartedly endorse. Indeed, at the
same 1997 conference where Colin presented the other paper I have
cited above, I gave a talk titled "Thinking Systematically about
Scholarly Communication." One of the points I raised there-the
tension that exists between librarians' "rational" decisions not
to buy revised dissertations and promotion-and-tenure committees'
"rational" decision to require one or two books of junior faculty
as a basis for tenure-is still very much with us and, though
briefly noted in the recent MLA Report, still cries out for a
system-wide solution.

P.S. On Colin's article, I would also note that he wrote it in a
pre-Google era. Thus, what he says about the "gathering" function
would need to be suitably qualified.

Sanford G. Thatcher, Director
Penn State University Press