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RE: Future of the "subscription model?"

Actually, moral outrage is very powerful at moving how people 
make purchasing decisions -- think tuna, grapes, cigarettes, 
coffee, bank card fees etc. -- so I think those advocates have 
chosen an approach that has some advantages.  In this case, 
because of the particularities of this problem (product 
monopolies and captive markets), moral outrage alone was not 
enough -- but you can bet that if not for the problem of the 
captive market, many of your favorite titles and publishers would 
be gone already, or seriously revisioned.  In any case, the 
arguments have never stopped with moral outrage alone, but have 
led to much innovative heavy lifting, so moral outrage has 
already proven effective even in this situation.

Of course, moral outrage isn't going to go away, because it tends 
to be renewed and reinforced every year.  When there is a captive 
market which faces inflation at rates higher than cost of living 
year-in, year-out, and that market happens to be not for profit 
for the most part, supported by individuals, some of whom are 
actually motivated to serve the greater good, you're bound to 
create moral outrage.  If you really haven't thought it through, 
you might want to think about the analogy to war profiteering, 
where similar moral outrage is inspired.  One stance seems to be 
that the only sensible approach to business is that a business 
should attempt to profit as much as possible at any cost and 
always with a short term perspective -- but in my experience, 
successful businesses don't work this way and wouldn't last long 
in their respective markets if they tried it.  I think publishing 
is quite anomalous.

I don't think it is defensible to claim that anyone needs to 
understand the economics at work, they just need to build 
something better.  If one wanted to argue the point, I suppose 
one could, but the exceptions out in the real world of new 
products re-shaping markets clearly overwhelm that rule.  Of 
course, any new system or set of systems will no doubt turn out 
to have problems, but prognostications about ultimate destruction 
under new systems are just plain silly and ignore the more 
pressing problems at hand.  Sounds like, "Let's not save someone 
from drowning, because they'll die of something else!"  Of 
course, we want words of caution and prudence, as appropriate, 
but thanks for calling on us to also be real about the prospects 
of both OA and business as usual.

The OA Joe mentions is one flavor among many.  Author-pays might 
continue to succeed for something like plos one, but author-pays 
was common to medical research before OA came along, at least as 
reported by our plos one panel expert for OA week.  I'll be 
curious to see if author-pays can really take hold in other 
disciplinary areas.  Since other OA approaches have been proving 
very successful, I don't think author-pays is going to get the 
traction Joe might think it will.  I expect OA development to 
continue patchwork-like for some time yet.


-----Original Message-----
From: owner-liblicense-l@lists.yale.edu
[mailto:owner-liblicense-l@lists.yale.edu] On Behalf Of Joseph Esposito
Sent: Friday, November 11, 2011 6:45 PM
To: liblicense-l@lists.yale.edu
Subject: Re: Future of the "subscription model?"

I don't agree that open access is a train wreck waiting to 
happen. There are good and bad OA services.  Some will survive, 
some will not.  This is true of traditional publishing models as 

I want to repeat a remark I made earlier on this thread. I am not 
defending the situation; I am trying to explain it.  Changing the 
"system" (how can anything so diverse, so disorganized, be called 
a "system"?) requires an understanding of the economics at work. 
Many of the tactics used to effect change are pointless, the 
expression of moral outrage among them.  OA, whatever its many 
virtues, does not support libraries, though it does open up a new 
revenue stream from authors, thereby expanding the market for 
scholarly materials and potentially increasing the profitability 
of the sector.  I would be surprised if that is the goal 
expressed by many OA advocates.

Joe Esposito

On Thu, Nov 10, 2011 at 4:46 PM,  <bill@multi-science.co.uk>

> Fred is quite right that the bigger publishers so dominate the 
> library market that smaller publishers are always being 
> squeezed. I have lost count of the times librarians have said 
> to me they would love to buy a journal of ours but because so 
> much of their funds are going to a certain publisher, there 
> simply isn't anything left over. Libraries need to grasp that 
> the more Big Publishing dominates the market, the more 
> demanding it will become, and for that reason it is in the 
> interests of libraries to do what they can to support smaller 
> publishers, to encourage diversity in the supplier base. 
> Moreover, smaller publishers, having to be nimble to survive in 
> lop-sided markets, are the people who are more likely to come 
> up with innovative titles, to quickly latch on to developments 
> in technology which merit the starting of a new journal: 
> another good reason for libraries to give their support.
> I would wholly agree with Fred's remark that smaller 
> subscription publishers offer titles of high academic value and 
> are not getting their fair share of the cake, but I would 
> disagree with his inclusion of OA publishers. My prediction is 
> that OA is a train wreck waiting to happen, that the scholarly 
> communications landscape in 25 years time will be littered with 
> broken links, journals that lasted only a couple of years 
> before the amateur publishers got fed up with an unrelenting 
> and unrewarding exercise: unretrievable research. Will our 
> successors thank us for that? Is that any answer to the problem 
> Big Publishing has created for both libraries and small 
> publishers?
> Bill Hughes
> Director
> Multi-Science Publishing
> www.multi-science.co.uk