Why the price of scholarly publishing is so much higher than the cost | Sauropod Vertebra Picture of the Week

“In an efficient market, competing providers of a good will each try to undercut each other until the prices they charge approach the cost. If, for example, Elsevier and Springer-Nature were competing in a healthy free market, they would each be charging prices around one third of what they are charging now, for fear of being outcompeted by their lower-priced competitor. (Half of those price-cuts would be absorbed just by decreasing the huge profit margins; the rest would have to come from streamlining business processes, in particular things like the costs of maintaining paywalls and the means of passing through them.)

So why doesn’t the Invisible Hand operate on scholarly publishers? Because they are not really in competition. Subscriptions are not substitutable goods because each published article is unique. If I need to read an article in an Elsevier journal then it’s no good my buying a lower-priced Springer-Nature subscription instead: it won’t give me access to the article I need.

(This is one of the reasons why the APC-based model — despite its very real drawbacks — is better than the subscription model: because the editorial-and-publication services offered by Elsevier and Springer-Nature are substitutable. If one offers the service for $3000 and the other for $2000, I can go to the better-value provider. And if some other publisher offers it for $1000 or $500, I can go there instead.)…

Björn Brembs has been writing for years about the fact that every market has a luxury segment: you can buy a perfectly functional wristwatch for $10, yet people spend thousands on high-end watches. He’s long been concerned that if scholarly publishing goes APC-only, then people will be queuing up to pay the €9,500 APC for Nature in what would become a straightforward pay-for-prestige deal. And he’s right: given the outstandingly stupid way we evaluate reseachers for jobs, promotion and tenure, lots of people will pay a 10x markup for the “I was published in Nature” badge even though Nature papers are an objectively bad way to communicate research.

But it feels like something stranger is happening here. It’s almost as though the whole darned market is a luxury segment….

How can funders fix this, and get APCs down to levels that approximate publishing cost? I see at least three possibilities.

First, they could stop paying APCs for their grantees. Instead, they could add a fixed sum onto all grants they make — $1,500, say — and leave it up to the researchers whether to spend more on a legacy publisher (supplementing the $1,500 from other sources of their own) or to spend less on a cheaper born-OA publisher and redistribute the excess elsewhere.

Second, funders could simply publish the papes themselves. To be fair several big funders are doing this now, so we have Wellcome Open Research, Gates Open Research, etc. But doesn’t it seem a bit silly to silo research according to what body awarded the grant that funded it? And what about authors who don’t have a grant from one of these bodies, or indeed any grant at all?

That’s why I think the third solution is best. I would like to see funders stop paying APCs and stop building their own publishing solutions, and instead collaborate to build and maintain a global publishing solution that all researchers could use irrespective of grant-recipient status. I have much to say on what such a solution should look like, but that is for another time.”

Springer Nature and the Council of Australian University Librarians (CAUL) Announce New Partnership

Following Springer Nature’s successful transformative agreements (TAs) in Europe and North America, the company is pleased to announce its first TA in the Asia-Pacific region. The agreement with the Council of Australian University Librarians (CAUL) will give members of the CAUL consortium the ability to publish their research open access (OA) in over 2000 journals[1], making it CAUL’s largest TA to date.

Making Open Access Book Funding Work Fairly: The Emergence of Library Membership Funding Models for OA Monographs | National Acquisitions Group

Covid-19 has thrown many aspects of university research culture into acute relief. As the reality of the virus dawned and campuses worldwide went into lockdown, publishers rushed to open their publications by removing paywalls. Physical collections became inaccessible and demand for openly accessible research skyrocketed. Many publishers made topical works and more general material openly available, through their own sites or collective platforms. Researchers, libraries and students worldwide keenly felt the benefits of such open access. However, the challenge now is to cement these open publication practices with sustainable business models.

In late 2020, COPIM, an Arcadia and Research England funded project, announced an innovative model to sustainably fund open access (OA) monographs, Opening the Future. This initiative is an attempt to use the window of opportunity opened by Covid and is designed to be part of a new infrastructure that will facilitate a more open future for scholarly comms.

The model harnesses the power of collective library funding: increasing collections through special access to highly-regarded backlists, and expanding the global shared OA collection while providing a less risky path for smaller publishers to make frontlist monographs OA. We introduced this model at UKSG and RLUK in 2021 but this is no ‘story so far’ conference presentation proposal. Since Opening the Future launched, we’ve seen several other collective library funding models emerge in quick succession, including MIT’s Direct 2 Open, Michigan’s Fund to Mission, and Cambridge University Press’ Flip it Open. In the same year, UKRI’s new policy was announced and it included OA requirements for
monographs. The landscape is changing rapidly – in this presentation we will appraise our model in the context of the changing environment.

The programme has had success since its launch. Within a few months the first publisher to adopt the model, CEU Press, had accrued enough library support to fund their first three OA monographs. Soon thereafter the initiative was recognised by the publishing community and nominated for an ALPSP Award for Innovation in Publishing. And in June a second well-respected publisher, Liverpool University Press, launched with Opening the Future. COPIM has now begun to turn its focus to the thorny problem of scaling up. But herein lies a tension.

OA monograph publishing needs to be sustainable not just for publishers, but also for libraries. Opening the Future was designed to be low-cost and simple, slotting into acquisitions budgets and existing library purchasing workflows. However, as we bring the programme to more university presses and libraries, how do we ensure we are not just adding to the OA labyrinth that libraries are attempting to navigate? How do we scale without increasing the administrative burden already on collections and scholarly communications teams, who are already picking through a tangle of transformative agreements, pay-to-publish deals, author affiliations, and legacy subscriptions?

In this session, we will engage the audience through these questions, as well as discuss the role of the programme in the wider policy landscape and how it is positioned alongside other emerging OA collective funding initiatives.

Our speaker:

Martin has appeared before the UK House of Commons Select Committee BIS Inquiry into Open Access, and been a steering-group member of the OAPEN-UK project, the Jisc National Monograph Strategy Group, the SCONUL Strategy Group on Academic Content and Communications, and the HEFCE Open Access Monographs Expert Reference Panel (2014), and the Universities UK OA Monographs Working Group (2016-). Martin is also an Executive Board Officer for punctum books, a Plan S Ambassador, and he co-founded the Open Library of Humanities.

@COPIMproject @Martin_Eve

Part of NAG Webinar Week 2021 #NAGWebinarWeek

Next steps for the Open Book Collective

“Over the course of the COPIM project, Work Package 2 has been in the process of developing a new online infrastructural intermediary that can sit between scholarly libraries and OA publishers and other initiatives, to deliver new and more sustainable sources of revenue. As mentioned in our last report, the organisation that will support this intermediary now has a name: Open Book Collective (OBC).

The OBC will respond to the need for new forms of collaborative interaction between publishers, researchers, universities, and scholarly libraries by offering a contextual platform that supports the promotion of open access publishing activities and facilitates collective funding support. OBC will be a non-profit incorporated entity legally founded in the UK and we expect soon to be able to confirm its precise organisational form….”

Funding OA Book Publishing: New Initiatives at Cambridge, Michigan, and MIT

“Finding sustainable ways to fund open access scholarly book publishing is not easy. Over the last few years, university presses have been experimenting with different business models which would enable them to publish monographs without charging authors thousands of dollars in processing charges. This panel brings together representatives from three well known university presses – Cambridge, Michigan, and MIT – which have each launched such an innovative initiative. While each of the three models has its own unique features, they share the strategy of utilizing library collection budgets to fund OA book publishing. Please join us to learn more about them and the future of openly published scholarly monographs.”

Cambridge University Press and CAUL Strike Major Uncapped Transformative Open Access Agreement in Australia & New Zealand

Cambridge University Press and the Council of Australian University Librarians (CAUL) have reached a transformative agreement to support Open Access (OA) publishing in Cambridge Journals for 2022.  It is one of the first major uncapped transformative agreements reached with CAUL by a publisher of significant size in Australia and New Zealand.

A Frankfurt Masterclass: PLOS, CCC, and How Open Is Open Access?

“The program looks at the nonprofit open-access publisher  Public Library of Science, better known in the acronym-laden world of scholarly publishing as PLOS.

As the program’s promotional descriptive material puts it, the center of PLOS’ approach is its “community action publishing” model, called CAP, which “relies on a flexible, sophisticated workflow that enables authors to publish open access easily, with or without funding under a formal PLOS publishing agreement.” …

“We really need to think about the missing voices,” says [Niamh O’Connor]. “Research is a global, collaborative enterprise. And we really need, as we transition to an open science future, to keep asking ourselves, open for whom? Because openness in itself, while valuable, doesn’t tackle all of the inequality in scholarly communications. It doesn’t increase inclusion, and the need for universal and equitable access to scientific knowledge and education is super-important.” …”

Do ‘Inclusive Access’ Textbook Programs Save Students Money? A New Site Urges Everyone to Read the Fine Print

““Inclusive access,” a textbook-sales model touted as a way to ensure that students without deep pockets can afford books, doesn’t always deliver on that promise, according to a leading open-access advocacy organization. So the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition and its partners have launched a website they hope will encourage a healthy skepticism, and deeper research, into the increasingly popular model.

Inclusive access programs weave the cost of digital course materials into a student’s tuition and fees, and are marketed as a heavily discounted alternative to traditional print textbooks. More than 950 college campuses have adopted related programs since 2015, when a Department of Education regulation enabled institutions to include books and supplies in their tuition or fees.

But advocates of open educational resources like Nicole Allen, Sparc’s director of open education, worry that colleges — clamoring for low-cost textbook options — are buying into the model without knowing for sure whether it’s actually saving their students money, considering the breadth of used-book and rental options available….”

Humanities Commons Receives $971,000 Mellon Grant to Support Its Expansion – College of Arts & Letters

“Humanities Commons, which is hosted and sustained by Michigan State University and led by Kathleen Fitzpatrick, Director of Digital Humanities for MSU’s College of Arts & Letters, was awarded a $971,000, 5-year grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to support a multi-year restructuring of its business model.

An online open-source platform, Humanities Commons facilitates communication and collaboration among scholars and practitioners across the humanities and around the world. It enables users to engage in discussions across humanities disciplines and to share articles, presentations, and other scholarly materials with their peers and the public. Members also create online professional profiles to help connect with others and to share their work more broadly. …”

Briefing for library directors: Publishers and the textbook market in the higher education sector – publishers-and-the-textbook-market-in-he-library-directors-briefing.pdf

Yhis briefing paper created by the Jisc Learning Content Group provides an overview of the current e-textbook  licensing landscape within higher education institutions. It outlines current practices and their impact on the library and suggests ways in which the sector can exert influence on publishers to change their pricing and access models

Thank you to the early adopters of arXiv’s new membership model! | arXiv.org blog

“We’re pleased to announce that Caltech, CERN, Georgia Institute of Technology, and MIT have pledged to become “arXiv champions of open science” for 2022. Each of these institutions has chosen to contribute $10,000 each — and this support will have a significant impact on arXiv’s ability to serve researchers. Thank you for leading the global research community towards truly open science!…”

An open chat with…Stuart Ferguson – Wright – – FEBS Open Bio – Wiley Online Library

“[Q] What is your opinion on Open Access versus the traditional subscription publishing model?

[A] I start with the observation that there was not one traditional publishing model. On the one hand, there are commercial publishers such as Elsevier but also Nature, Cell Press, etc., who published a whole range of journals from the very prestigious to the not so prominent and made their money by charging often high fees to libraries and in some cases individual subscribers. These attracted increasing disapproval because they were publishing work that had been funded by public bodies and/or charities who were interested in discoveries and not publications/publishers’ profits. On the other hand, there are journals published by learned societies such as the Biochemical Journal (UK) and the Journal of Biological Chemistry. Here, the income, again mainly from libraries, was used to support the scholarly activities of the sponsoring societies, but even here there was variation; some journals such as the Journal of Biological Chemistry charged their authors’ page charges, whereas others, such as the Biochemical Journal, did not. In general, those that did not impose page charges charged higher prices to libraries. A third model was that of FEBS who have always worked with commercial publishers to generate revenue for FEBS from their journals. All these journals made additional money from the sale of reprints. Most of the content of these journals was available only to subscribers, of which the majority were affiliated to institutional or company subscribers. The idea that all publicly funded knowledge should be available to all was given impetus by the move to online publication when it became feasible for an individual, almost anywhere in the world and without institutional or company connection, to gain access to all publications provided there was no paywall. I have always questioned how many such individuals exist, but to make publications truly open access, the costs of publication have had to shift to investigators and their institutions. At my own institution, the large sums allocated for this purpose were exhausted before the financial year was complete, thus leading to delays in publication. It is now understood that spending large sums of money this way instead of on research is unsustainable. The dream, of course, is deposition of papers on the internet at close to zero cost, but then who would organize review and proper presentation? Some will argue that we don’t need review—rubbish will sink ignored—but then how would we know about papers hosted only on an institutional website? Overall, I am inclined to think the traditional model had much to recommend it and it is not clear to me how the scientific community can stop profit-driven commercial publishing, an original aim of open access, other than boycotting of certain journals….”

CO-CREATING A HEALTHY AND DIVERSE OPEN ACCESS MARKET: WORKSHOP REPORT

“Recognising the importance of a healthy and diverse OA market, in early 2021, OASPA sought to develop a better understanding of ‘the open access market’. It was understood that this needed to include an assessment of the roles of different actors in shaping the market and an acknowledgement that open access publishing is not always delivered through market mechanisms. The work aimed to identify influential factors and drivers to bring about positive change in this area.

Research Consulting was commissioned to assist in this work, in collaboration with a small steering group of OASPA members. An Issue Brief was developed to review the current state of the open access market and in July 2021 a range of stakeholder representatives were engaged via two workshops.

This report acts as a companion document to the Issue Brief, and summarises the key points discussed during the stakeholder workshops. To better contextualise the issues discussed in this report it is recommended that the Issue Brief is read first. Whilst there were two separate workshops, this report presents a combined view from all participants. Anonymised quotes from participants are included throughout this report to illustrate the points discussed….”

Developing a healthy and diverse OA market: Reflections – OASPA

“Earlier in the year we announced that OASPA was undertaking some work with a wider group of stakeholders to explore the nature of the open access market and the perspectives of different stakeholder groups, with a view to gaining a better understanding of the forces in play and a potential role for OASPA as an organisation in supporting a key area of our mission.

In early July 2021 OASPA and Research Consulting ran two workshops for a broad range of stakeholder representatives on developing a healthy and diverse open access (OA) market. 

We created an ‘issue brief’ which was sent to all workshop participants in preparation and we openly shared the issue brief and the slides used at the workshops on our blog at the same time.  

We now are pleased to release a report detailing the outcome of the two workshops.  This report is a summary of the discussions that took place, together with our subsequent conclusions and reflections.”