Thursday, December 18, 2008

RE: Should university presses adopt an OA model

As originally posted to Liblicense-L

In brief, the point of this post is that there is a very great
range in efficiencies of existing publishers. There are
top-quality journals produced by the not-for-profits (society and
professional associations, university presses) at minimal cost.
For a healthy scholarly communication system into the future,
libraries should support these affordable options.

Irving Rockwood (CHOICE) wrote:

...would not some of the energy we seem to be so committed to
putting into making scholarly publishing costs go away, be better
put into finding ways to ensure that we, as a society, can and do
adequately fund things like education (including higher

Comment: I couldn't agree more. In my opinion, everyone
involved in scholarship and higher education - scholars,
librarians, university administrators, students, and publishers -
should be working together to help everyone to understand the
importance of higher education and research, particularly in this
pivotal time as we are going through so many transitions - to a
global world and economy, a knowledge economy / society, and
towards an environmentally sustainable economy. All of these
require significant and rapid advances in our knowledge, and many
highly educated people with the skills for the work of the

As for seeking efficiencies in scholarly publishing, as we have
seen from recent discussion there is a very great range in cost-
effectiveness of existing publishers. There are quite efficient
publishers providing high quality at low costs, to publishers
providing basically the same quality at much higher costs.

CHOICE, as a monthly publication and a premiere source of
reviews, at $315 US for a subscription, is below-average IN COST
for an LIS title, and above-average in frequency and quality.
The opportunities for efficiencies with such a journal are,
obviously, a great deal less than with some other journals.

As a journal of reviews, CHOICE is of course different from peer-
reviewed journals. What about a peer-reviewed journal from the
publisher of CHOICE, ACRL? I did some analysis for a forthcoming
book, and found that ACRL's College and Research Libraries is an
incredible bargain - with a low subscription cost and substantial
contents, the subscription cost on a peer-reviewed article basis
is about $2.50 per article. This is a very great deal less than
other journals, even in LIS. Another commercial journal with a
comparable level of quality averaged about a hundred times more
than College and Research Libraries.

For librarians, this is very important. Keeping a high-cost
option may mean cancelling dozens, even a hundred low-cost (but
often high- quality) options. This is one of the reasons why we
need to take a more wholistic view of scholarly communication, to
think about what kind of journal and monograph publishing options
are in the best interests of scholarship in the medium-to-long
term, and not just how to cope with the latest budget crisis.

What is in the best interests of scholarly communication? A
healthy and substantial not-for-profit sector: society and
professional journals, and university presses. Competition in
the commercial sector - missing from the subscriptions picture,
but a real possibility with open access as authors, departments
research funders actually see what they are paying for publishing
services. Open access, of course.

This post is part of the Essential Efficiencies Series.