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Re: OA economics & libraries

I introduced the costs study as a data point.  It's interesting 
and maybe tells us something in addition to list participants 
stating their opinions.  Of course, when such studies reinforce 
our prejudices we cite them; when they don't, we invent charming 
analogies to show why they can't possibly be true.

I introduced 'flexibility' in response to the comments in the 
first paragraph of Sandy's post.  (I think I was quite clear 
about that.)  Sandy spoke of publishers being 'quick on their 
feet'.  'Flexible' isn't an exact synonym, but not far off.  And 
of course I wasn't suggesting that the only sign of flexibility 
for a commercial publisher is to go down an OA route.  All I was 
doing was responding to Sandy's contention that large commercial 
publishers - who he suggested were fleet of foot when adopting 
new models - are rushing to embrace gold OA.  I think that the 
evidence is that they are doing it slowly, if at all, and 
generally in such a way to try to replicate current revenue 
levels rather the way than BMC or PLoS One did.  As Joe reminds 
us, this is classic Christensen territory.  I would suggest that 
what we are witnessing at the moment better reflects 
Christensen's view of the commercial world than Sandy's.

In a cheekily entitled blog post 
(http://www.michaeleisen.org/blog/?p=686) Michael Eisen listed 
the PLoS One clones launched in the past year.  I don't know if 
the list is exhaustive, I don't spot any obvious omissions, but 
the list is split pretty much half-and-half society/commercial 
publishers, with only one from the very biggest of the 
commercials.  Again, I don't see any evidence that in this case 
commercial entities are any more 'quick on their feet' than the 
non-profit sector.  But as Sandy speaks to many more commercial 
publishers than I do perhaps he can provide the evidence.


On 26 Oct 2011, at 23:44, Joseph Esposito wrote:

> David,
> It is highly improbable that the study suggesting that Gold OA
> would cost less than conventional publishing is correct; or if it
> proves to be correct, then it will be for reasons that are not
> anticipated in the study.  The problem with studies like this
> (this is not the only one, and this applies to many kinds of
> modelling) is that in order to make certain extrapolations, you
> have to hold a number of figures as constants, when in fact they
> are variable.  An analogy:  you are driving a car on a large
> highway.  You wish to go faster than the other cars and you are
> confident that you can change lanes repeatedly to pass the
> others.  So you assume all the other cars will stay in their
> lanes while you zigzag in and out.  And you succeed:  you go
> faster than the others.  The catch (which could be fatal) is if
> one of the other drivers decides to change lanes.  Then your
> extrapolations get you into serious trouble.  To assume that
> scholarly communications would look pretty much the way it does
> today EXCEPT for the change in the payment model is naive.  You
> can change one gene and change the entire organism.
> This is not the only naive bit of modelling to be found.  Large
> commercial firms do this all the time.  Remember when CD ROM was
> going to become a billion-dollar business?  A computer
> spreadsheet can be a deadly enemy in the hands of arrogant
> management.
> I don't know how the discussion of flexibility crept into this
> discussion.  From your example, it would appear that the only way
> a company can be flexible is to go OA.  That's plain silly.
> Companies are more or less flexible depending on the business
> opportunities before them.  They are flexible in pursuing a
> higher return on capital, inflexible otherwise.  They stick to
> mature models too long; they usually innovate too late.  All
> their "flexibility" (call it management, which is the proper
> term) goes into optimizing the return on capital.  That's what
> they are about.  They should not be romanticized, and they should
> not be demonized.  Every day the managers are making the same
> kind of decisions that we all do with the money we have placed in
> our retirement funds.  I don't know anyone who is flexible about
> pursuing a lower return on savings.
> Gold OA is under strain right now.  Partly this is because of the
> entry into this business of the likes of Wiley and Sage (neither
> of which you mention), but it is also because of competition from
> other not-for-profits, which are going to drive prices down.
> Gold OA will look increasingly like PLOS One (lighter editorial
> review), and then degrade over time as pressure on costs becomes
> stiffer.  This does not mean that traditional publishing will
> emerge triumphant.  It simply means that over time, all economic
> activity will adjust itself to accommodate changes in the
> environment.
> I happen to agree with you that no 30% company will chase a 20%
> opportunity.  I see we have all read Clayton Christensen.
> Another question, which Christensen can't help us with, is what
> happens when a 1% company finds itself operating a -10% business.
> If you are Springer or Wiley, the decision is easy.  If you are
> the Wellcome Trust, I don't know what will happen.
> Joe Esposito