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Re: Future of the "subscription model?"

I will not try to question whether what Rick says about journal 
articles being published only based on quality, not relevance or 
importance, is correct--I suspect there is some truth to this, 
but believe that even in that sphere it is an exaggeration--but 
it is hardly the case for scholarly book publishing, And here 
again i will refer to the unique nature of the decisionmaking 
process for books, which involves a complex dynamic interplay of 
the perspectives of staff editors, external reviewers, and 
faculty editorial boards.

In this tripartite process, only the external reviewers are 
concerned mainly (if not only) about quality; that is what they 
are asked to do, and presses depend on them to make that kind of 
professional assessment. The staff editors and the members of the 
faculty editorial boards, however, do NOT function as "experts" 
in this process, but rather have a broader point of view, where 
issues of relevance and importance to the wider community of 
scholars )outside the narrow speciality of the book) and beyond 
to readers outside academe very much come into play. Indeed, if 
anything, I worry that the "market" in this broader sense has 
played TOO large a role in presses' decisions about what to 
publish in recent years, making quality pure and simple less of a 
decisive criterion than it used to be in earlier days. Rick may 
not know this, but presses do turn a lot of books down on market 
grounds, because they do not think they are relevant or important 
enough to interest a wider audience.

Sandy Thatcher

P.S. If librarians are worried about publishing based just on 
quality alone, then why are they so excited about PLoS ONE, which 
narrows the criteria even further, to just methodological 
soundness, not even assessing articles on the basis of 
substantive contribution?

At 7:25 PM -0400 10/27/11, Rick Anderson wrote:
> >Do the publishers take on the responsibility for determining
>>value and only publishing articles THEY expect to be the "best"
>>or most valuable to academics?
>This is exactly what publishers do now under the current system,
>isn't it?
>>Do libraries determine value by only buying the individual
>>articles THEY believe will be used by their patrons?
>What I propose is not a system whereby librarians try to guess
>what their patrons will find valuable -- that's what we do now
>(with both books and journal subscriptions) and we're very
>frequently wrong. What I think would make more sense is a system
>whereby we make documents _findable_ by our patrons, but we don't
>pay for them unless they're actually used.
>>My concern, I suppose, would be if the article based approach to
>>purchasing content resulted in a significant reduction in how
>>much research actually gets published.  What impact might this
>>have on the ability of faculty to get published and on research
>>as a whole?
>Hob brings up what I think is a fundamental problem for the
>scholarly communication system. Over the past several centuries,
>the entire scholarly communication system has been built on what
>seems to me a very shaky foundation: publishers make articles and
>monographs available based on their quality (not their relevance
>or usefulness, which are much more difficult to determine), and
>then they get paid for doing so based on librarians' speculations
>about the future interests and needs of their patrons
>(speculations which, all studies seem to indicate, are wrong
>about 40% of the time). The result has been the publication of
>great numbers of high-quality, low-interest books and articles,
>all of which get bought by libraries on a "just in case" basis
>and many of which never get used by their intended audiences. In
>other words, I would argue, the current system consistently
>rewards publishers for publishing the wrong materials.
>Here are the very difficult questions that I think the current
>economic crisis is quickly forcing us, at long last, to face:
>*Do all high-quality articles and books "deserve" to be
>published, regardless of whether there is any demand for them?
>*If so, what entity should underwrite their publication, and why?
>One problem with trying to answer that first question is that
>it's impossible to say whether an apparently low-interest book or
>article is going to be of interest to someone in the future. But
>obviously, the whole tradition of library collecting is based on
>trying to guess exactly that. We need a better system, and the
>current fiscal crisis in libraries (which can be summarized as
>flat or declining budgets combined with frequently-extortionate
>journal pricing) is finally forcing us to try to find one. Hence
>all the interest in patron-driven acquisition models, which may
>not save us any money on a per-unit basis but do at least
>minimize the likelihood of wasted money.
>Of course, there will be casualties of a more rational system.
>One will be those publishers who (whether intentionally or not)
>have benefitted from the wastefulness of the old system by
>successfully selling copies of documents no one actually wanted.
>Another casualty will be scholars who have greater difficulty
>finding publishing outlets for their high-quality, low-interest
>scholarly products. Both of these outcomes strike me as genuinely
>regrettable, but probably inevitable -- because the only
>alternative is for libraries to continue buying documents that no
>one wants to use, and we simply can't afford to do that anymore.
>Rick Anderson
>Assoc. Dean for Scholarly Resources & Collections
>J. Willard Marriott Library
>University of Utah