Publishers can’t be blamed for clinging to the golden goose
peter.suber's bookmarks 2023-05-16
"In the old pre-digital days of [scholarly] publishing, the true costs of providing print-on-paper to would-be users required the services of another profession for the production and delivery. But (let’s cut to the quick) those days are over, forever. Online publication is not altogether cost-free, but the costs are so ridiculously low that all an S&S author needs pay for is a blog service-provider, rather like a phone or email service provider.
In this world, the idea of paying a £2,700 (US$3,400) per article fee to publish is as grotesque as it is gratuitous....
So, you should ask, with online publishing costs near zero, and quality control provided gratis by peer reviewers, what could possibly explain, let alone justify, levying a fee on S&S authors trying to publish their give-away articles to report their give-away findings?
The answer is not as complicated as you may be imagining, but the answer is shocking: the culprits are not the publishers but the S&S authors, their institutions and their funders! The publishers are just businessmen trying to make a buck. In fact, £2,700 is the same amount they were making per article before the online-access era, in the Gutenberg era of print-on-paper....
The publishers’ golden goose had been successfully converted to ‘Fool’s-Gold OA’ (open access), meaning continuing to pay the obsolete costs at the same price, but as author-end fees for publication instead of user-end subscription fees for access. (‘Fair-Gold OA’ would have been to charge only the tiny fee for managing the peer review.)
The publishers are to be congratulated for successfully pulling off this scam, with the obsolete 40% mark-up of £2,700 per article in exchange for next to nothing suspended above by a skyhook, gloating, like the Cheshire Cat’s smile. It is not as if the S&S community had no other choice. ‘Green OA’ self-archiving had been offered to them as an alternative, with the University of Southampton providing the free software for creating Green OA institutional repositories as well as the model for institutional and funder mandates that would require all university researchers and all recipients of research funding to self-archive their refereed research therein, immediately upon acceptance for publication (‘or perish’)....
That policy would have forced the publishers to downsize to the minimal remaining costs of managing peer review. But superstition (and habit, and digital laziness – of the fingers) prevailed, and the publishers are still laughing all the way to the bank."