Harnad, Stevan and Hemus, Matt
All Or None: No Stable Hybrid or Half-Way Solutions for Launching the Learned Periodical Literature into the PostGutenberg Galaxy.
Butterworth, I. (eds.)
The Impact of Electronic Publishing on theAcademic Community
The publishers of learned paper journals have contemplated or already implemented the following hybrid scenario for the transition from paper to electronic publishing: Produce both versions, paper and electronic, and offer paper-plus-electronic subscriptions for slightly more than paper-only, and electronic-only subscriptions for slightly less. This allows supply and demand to decide which version is preferred, and offers a seamless transition to electronic-only if and when its time comes. Variants of this scenario include site-licensing or pay-per-view in place of subscriptions, but without exception all these scenarios continue to regard learned articles as a trade commodity, to be sold to readers and protected from "theft" by copyright laws. This trade model entails and has always entailed, a conflict of interest between the publisher and the nontrade researcher/author. In the Gutenberg era, when print-on-paper was the only option, the conflict was rightly resolved in favour of the publisher, whose real costs and a fair profit could only be recovered by restricting access to those who paid (whereas the author would have preferred that everyone everywhere have access for free). We have dubbed this the "Faustian Bargain" (which is rather like advertisers being forced to make potential clients pay to see their adverts!). The PostGutenberg era of "Scholarly Skywriting" -- networked electronic publication, free for all -- has at last made it possible for nontrade authors (those who ask and receive no royalties, and whose readership is a small population of fellow researchers) to free themselves from the Faustian Bargain. They can archive their unrefereed preprints on the Net and can substitute for them the refereed, published reprint after peer review, editing, and mark-up. This is the gist of our "Subversive Proposal." The only problem is that the cost of implementing peer review, editing and mark-up is still being borne by paper journal publishers, who continue to cling to the trade model, and whose subscription revenues are at risk if the Net becomes the preferred means of access. These costs are medium-independent and low enough to make it more productive to recover them on the authors' end (as page charges, covered by the grant that funded the research itself and/or from authors' institutions' savings on cancelled paper journal subscriptions). Paper publishers will have to scale down to the reduced costs of electronic-only publication or their editorial boards will defect and reconstitute themselves with new electronic-only publishers who are prepared to adopt the nontrade, page-charge model, yielding free access to the learned periodical literature for everyone.
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