A fair pricing model for open access – Research Professional News

“The average research grant in South Africa, excluding strategic and infrastructure investments, is approximately 146,000 rand (€8,500). In 2021, the average charge for publishing an open-access research paper was nearly €1,600. High-impact journals charge far more: €9,500 at Nature, for example.

Here, in a nutshell, is the inequity of the financial model of open-access publishing. As currently constituted, publishing charges are stifling research capability and progress, as well as the career progression of researchers in low- and middle-income countries, and preventing a full transition to open research.

We need to move towards a globally agreed payment system for academic publishing services that is fair, equitable, transparent, and does not require the author to pay. In this article, we sketch the outline of such an alternative payment system….

It is unclear why APCs and transformative agreements are not priced as a function of what local markets can bear. The consequence, however, is stark: for the most part, researchers and institutions based in lower- and middle-income countries simply cannot afford either of these pay-per-article models. While some of these countries have negotiated cost-neutral transformative agreements, it is not clear whether these are equitable in terms of local purchasing power.

In much of the world, the money is not there to pay APCs geared to the richest nations—especially as APCs have consistently risen faster than inflation. Countries in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development spend an average of 2.2 per cent of gross domestic product on R&D. For the United States, the figure is 3.5 per cent. In Latin America and the Caribbean, in contrast, the average is 0.7 per cent, while South Africa’s figure of 0.75 per cent is well above the continent’s average of just 0.4 per cent.

Admittedly, some researchers may apply for publishing fees to be waived, but there is no globally agreed way for publishers to handle waivers, and researchers working in middle-income countries tend not to be eligible for such support. Moreover, waivers are often perceived as patronising and neocolonial. They are an in-or-out mechanism unilaterally controlled by the publisher, denying any agency to recipients.

Asking for a waiver imposes significant effort on authors. Waivers are also a financial risk to publishers who are understandably reluctant to award them. A submission to a 2020 consultation by the UK foreign ministry calculated that 57 per cent of hybrid journals from major publishers, which offer both subscriptions and open access, and 70 per cent of open-access journals published by small independent or university presses, did not offer fee waivers or discounts. The most visible global initiative delivering waivers, Research4Life, reports that, while effective, usage of its resources remains limited and has declined.

The system for meeting the costs of academic publishing is globally inequitable. This was underscored by the landmark United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (Unesco) Recommendation on Open Science of November 2021, which insisted that scholarly communication adopt “the principles of open, transparent and equitable access”. The recent memorandum from the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, setting out a plan for open access to federally funded research from 2026, adds ‘equitable’ as a third condition to the more familiar requirements for ‘free’ and ‘immediate’ access. Equitable open access has therefore assumed a particular urgency….”

A Fair Pricing Model for Open Access

“A pay-per-article publishing model raises issues of regional and global equity. In Europe, the implied price per article in transformative agreements varies from one country to another, based on no rationale other than historical subscription spending. Globally, APCs for individual open-access articles are identical for customers from Norway to India, irrespective of their income levels.

This is a peculiar and possibly unique global pricing model. The local prices of products and services with a global reach—think of medication, soft drinks or cinema tickets—typically vary with local purchasing power. They cost what the market can bear. Even old-fashioned subscriptions take local purchasing power into account, leading to differentiated prices for the same service.

It is unclear why APCs and transformative agreements are not priced as a function of what local markets can bear. The consequence, however, is stark: for the most part, researchers and institutions based in lower- and middle-income countries simply cannot afford either of these pay-per-article models. While some of these countries have negotiated cost-neutral transformative agreements, it is not clear whether these are equitable in terms of local purchasing power.

In much of the world, the money is not there to pay APCs geared to the richest nations—especially as APCs have consistently risen faster than inflation. Countries in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development spend an average of 2.2 per cent of gross domestic product on R&D. For the United States, the figure is 3.5 per cent. In Latin America and the Caribbean, in contrast, the average is 0.7 per cent, while South Africa’s figure of 0.75 per cent is well above the continent’s average of just 0.4 per cent….”

The Book Costs How Much??? Textbook Cost & OER Awareness in Political Science | Journal of Political Science Education

Shawna M. Brandle (2022) The Book Costs How Much??? Textbook Cost & OER Awareness in Political Science, Journal of Political Science Education, DOI: 10.1080/15512169.2022.2104164

 

Abstract

Introductory level political science courses are a near-universal experience for undergraduate students in the US. Despite the wide occurrence of introductory courses, and the increasing attention paid to student loan debt, the cost of the teaching materials for introductory courses has largely been ignored in political science. This paper brings together several data sources to show how political science has not been attentive to textbook costs and highlight one possible solution, Open Educational Resources (OER), which has the potential to increase access to political science for all students.

 

Rodríguez: Alternatives to paying for pricey textbooks – San José Spotlight

“The high cost of textbooks affects more than just a student’s bank account, however. Their learning outcomes and ability to succeed in classes are also impacted, as recent studies show nearly two-thirds of students skip purchasing a textbook because of cost—despite concerns that not having the materials will negatively impact their grade. Additionally, students experiencing food insecurity report forgoing buying course materials at even higher rates, with more than 80% of food-insecure students not buying required textbooks due to cost.

For community colleges students, who disproportionately come from low-income households, the high price of textbooks presents a significant barrier to academic success and degree completion. Most students rely on their financial aid in order to be able to afford textbooks. But due to the financial aid disbursement schedule, they often do not have access to funds prior to the start of classes. By the time students have access to their financial aid and are able to order and receive textbooks, they are often already behind in their classes and struggle to catch up once they have their books in hand.

Possible solutions to the high cost of textbooks include Open Educational Resources (OER) and Zero Textbook Cost (ZTC) degrees….”

Absolutely Terrible Textbook Publishing Giant Pearson Wants To Make Everything Even Worse With NFTs

Pretty much everyone who has ever gone to college hates educational publishers. There’s an oligopoly of just five giant publishers, and they long ago learned that they are in the best market ever: the buyers of their textbooks (the students) have no choice and are forced to buy the books if their professors assign them — and more such books will get sold every semester that the professor requires it. Therefore, textbook prices are insane by any imaginable standard. And, for decades, they kept getting highermassively outpacing tons of other goods. For unclear reasons, the never ending march upwards in book pricing finally seemed to hit a ceiling around 2016, and prices seem to have somewhat leveled out since then. This chart from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics is really pretty striking:

And, while publishers claim that the shift to digital textbooks (partially accelerating by remote learning during the pandemic) has resulted in a decline in student spending over the last five years, the College Board’s latest estimates are still that students will spend an average of $1240 per year on textbooks and supplies. That’s… a lot.

While there are some considerate professors out there who take into account the cost of textbooks (and a very rare few who will only require open access textbooks), most don’t seem to much care. They assign the books they want, the students are required to buy them, and so the publishers just keep raising the prices. Of course, the other way that students try to save money is by buying used textbooks. The savings are not always that significant, but when you’re talking about such large numbers, it can still make a huge difference.

Pearson, the largest of the Big 5 textbook publishers, also has a longstanding reputation for being particularly evil and uncaring. A decade ago, we wrote about how it had sent a single DMCA notice that resulted in 1.5 million teacher and student blogs being deleted. The company also was a key plaintiff in suing a startup that tried to offer free alternatives to super expensive textbooks (the lawsuit was eventually settled with the startup shifting business models, before it was acquired and its cheaper textbooks were shut down).

But, the most evil thing we’ve seen Pearson do was, back in 2019, when it announced it was so annoyed by the used textbook market digging into its never ending profits, and that it was going to switch all its textbooks to non-resalable digital textbooks. For the books it did print, it was going to try to shift to a rental only system. You pay for the textbook for a semester and then you return it. To Pearson. Who can resell it.

Since then, digital scarcity in the form of NFTs has come and gone as the new hotness. And while I still think there’s something interesting about NFTs (and am still working on a big paper about the pros and cons of NFTs), Pearson, in a manner only it could find reasonable, is embracing NFTs… to fuck over students even more.

The print editions of Pearson’s titles — such as “Fundamentals of Nursing,” which sells new for £57.99 ($70.88) — can be resold several times to other students without making the London-based education group any money. As more textbooks move to digital, CEO Andy Bird wants to change that. 

“In the analogue world, a Pearson textbook was resold up to seven times, and we would only participate in the first sale,” he told reporters following the London-based company’s interim results on Monday, talking about technological opportunities for the company. 

“The move to digital helps diminish the secondary market, and technology like blockchain and NFTs allows us to participate in every sale of that particular item as it goes through its life,” by tracking the material’s unique identifier on the ledger from “owner A to owner B to owner C,” said Bird, a former Disney executive.

I mean, I kinda have to hand it to Mr. Bird, the former Disney exec. Usually, these kinds of execs at least try to hide how fucking evil and greedy they are. Andy Bird doesn’t give a shit.

So, here’s the thing. The power of NFTs to track resales and allow the content creator to participate in later sales is often touted as a benefit of NFTs. But, the reason it’s seen that way is because when done for digital artwork it benefits the artist, who sometimes has to sell their works pretty cheaply upfront.

This, is not that.

This is a company that already has jacked up prices to ridiculous levels on a captive market that is effectively forced to purchase at whatever price the publisher sets — and now wanting to “diminish the secondary market” and to track and take a cut of any future sale.

That’s not the power of blockchains and NFTs. When people talk about the useful aspects of those technologies (to the extent there are useful aspects) it’s to enable greater ownership, not less. It’s to enable greater independence from giant corporations, not more. The reason NFT resale bounties work is because everyone feels that it’s fair, and it creates a seamless way to further compensate an artist who most buyers want to support. Not to funnel more cash to a giant, greedy, evil company that is already sucking students dry.

What Pearson is looking to do is to make everyone hate Pearson that much more.

Pearson says NFT textbooks will let it profit off secondhand sales – The Verge

“It’s not clear how, when, or if NFTs might show up in Pearson’s catalog. But they could mark a new stage in a long-standing publishing war. Thanks to legal concepts like the first-sale doctrine, physical book buyers typically own the media they’ve purchased outright, and they’re allowed to sell it without the original publishers making money. But ebooks have complicated that calculus. Any digital transfer creates a new “copy” of the work, and third-party secondhand ebook sales (along with other secondhand digital media sales) have faced serious legal challenges as a result….

Nothing prevents Pearson or any other major publisher from letting people sell ebook licenses using non-crypto DRM. In fact, third-party sellers like Tom Kabinet and ReDigi have been trying to create digital secondhand markets for years. But publishers have been generally hesitant to open the door to digital resales, especially as they’re trialing methods that give book buyers even less control, including subscription services like Pearson Plus — which Bird described glowingly during the earnings call.

So what’s changed? Possibly nothing. Pearson hasn’t committed to NFT textbooks, and Bird doesn’t lose anything by spitballing about the future value of a buzzy (if recently flatlined) new technology. A cut of a resold textbook is probably still less lucrative for Pearson than the subscription model it currently favors. But NFTs do seem to have a psychological effect — they make people feel like they own something, even if the ownership is fairly abstract. Textbook makers might see this as an opportunity to push digital markets in a new direction.

This might be a mixed bag for students. On one hand, some resale opportunity is better than none — which is what people often get with ebooks. On the other, a publisher-controlled resale market will almost certainly be tilted to favor the publisher. Library ebooks have self-destruct conditions that require buying new copies after a certain number of checkouts, for instance, and an NFT ebook could have a similarly limited number of resales. On a more abstract level, it short-circuits a real legal debate over whether people should have the right to control their digital purchases. And it adds yet another incentive for publishers to make buying physical textbooks as unpleasant and difficult as possible because, from their perspective, they’re just losing money on them….”

 

Pearson plans to sell its textbooks as NFTs | Publishing | The Guardian

“Textbook publisher Pearson plans to profit from secondhand sales by turning its titles into non-fungible tokens (NFTs), its chief executive has said.

Educational books are often sold more than once, since students sell study resources they no longer require. Publishers have not previously been able to make any money from secondhand sales, but the rise of digital textbooks has created an opportunity for companies to benefit….”

Pearson planning blockchain, NFTs for educational books to earn on resales – Ledger Insights – blockchain for enterprise

“During an earnings call this morning, Andy Bird, the CEO of learning company Pearson said it’s looking at non-fungible tokens (NFTs) as a way of earning additional revenues on the sale of second-hand books. A Pearson textbook can be re-sold up to seven times.

“Technology like blockchain and the NFTs allows us to pass through every sale of that particular item as it goes through its life,” said Bird. He mentioned the possibility of participating in downstream revenues.

That’s because many creators of art and sports NFTs take a small cut of the re-sale price, often around 5%. While NBA Top Shot sales of NFTs may have surpassed $1 billion, the vast majority of that money went to individual NFT holders in re-sales. But Dapper Labs, the NBA Top Shot rightsholder, made money on initial NFT sales and every re-sale.

However, re-selling NFTs in a purpose-built app differs from physical textbooks sold locally. The transfer cost is built into the NFT’s smart contract in the digital world, so it’s almost impossible to sidestep. In real life, one can sell a book without scanning a barcode with the embedded NFT. And students are naturally penny-pinching, so they might be keen to sidestep a 5% tax….”

Pearson (LON:PSON) Sees NFT, Blockchain Helping Making Money From E-Books Sales – Bloomberg

“The chief executive officer of Pearson Plc, one of the world’s largest textbook publishers, said he hopes technology like non-fungible tokens and the blockchain could help the company take a cut from secondhand sales of its materials as more books go online. …

“In the analogue world, a Pearson textbook was resold up to seven times, and we would only participate in the first sale,” he told reporters following the London-based company’s interim results on Monday, talking about technological opportunities for the company. 

 

“The move to digital helps diminish the secondary market, and technology like blockchain and NFTs allows us to participate in every sale of that particular item as it goes through its life,” by tracking the material’s unique identifier on the ledger from “owner A to owner B to owner C,” said Bird, a former Disney executive….”

Inflationary adjustment to Frontiers’ Article Processing Charges – Science & research news | Frontiers

“At Frontiers, APCs are paid in US dollars, the value of which has recently been under strong inflationary pressure.  Against international cost-of-living indicators, the dollar has lost 13% of its value since the last time we adjusted APCs at the end of 2017.  

Unlike other publishers, we have not made annual adjustments to the costs of our services during that period.

As of August 2022, we will raise APCs by 9.32% to help partially offset the recent inflationary losses to the value of the dollar. This will allow us to continue to reinvest in our operations while offering the highest quality, sustainable publishing services. We employ an international team of over 1,700 publishing professionals, who provide the expertise and technology skills to maintain and expand our editorial program and help make more science, open science….”

Paying to publish in Open Access journals: Is all that glitters gold? – World leading higher education information and services

“The gold magazines are mostly in the hands of commercial publishers. Here open access is paid for by authors who pay what are known as article processing charges (APC), that is, article processing costs.

In this case, they are companies whose main and legitimate objective is to make money by publishing scientific journals.

What is striking when comparing APC price lists is the extraordinary diversity (in Elsevier from €170 to €8,500, in Springer-Nature from €505 to €9,500, in Taylor & Francis from €570 to €4,560). , in MDPI from €400 to €2,080) for products with similar fixed costs. But, above all, the marked differences between journals of the same nature and discipline are striking: publishing in a Philosophy journal can cost from €800 (MDPI) to €2,390 (Springer-Nature) or €2,870 (Elsevier)….”

Transformative? | Clarke & Esposito

“cOAlition S has released a report analyzing the first year of the Transformative Journal (TJ) program. As a reminder, TJs (not to be confused with TAs, or Transformative Agreements) are individual hybrid journals that have agreed to (try to) show an “annual increase in the proportion of open access (OA) research content of at least 5% points in absolute terms, and at least 15% in relative terms, year-on-year.” The journal must also publicly agree to flip to OA when 75% of its research content is published OA. These promises allow the hybrid journal to be considered compliant with Plan S and eligible for article processing charge (APC) funds.

 
The report shows that more than half (56%) of the 2,304 journals in the program did not meet their first-year OA targets. The coalition has extended its requirements another year, keeping all TJs in the program (although they must meet year 2 targets calculated as if the journal had met its year 1 numbers). 
 
Removing 56% of the journals would result in 1,290 fewer publication venues for Plan S-funded researchers, which is perhaps part of the reason for the extension. 

Notably, many of the TJs have failed to meet another cOAlition S requirement: a public statement showing how the presence of OA articles has reduced the subscription price of the journal. Elsevier and Springer Nature (182 and 1,714 TJs, respectively) instead have offered “a more generic, anti-double dipping statement,” which apparently has been accepted for 2021, but will not fly for 2022. This raises the question of how a publisher would practically be able to show such a metric. …”

 

We need a clean break from commercial publishers | Times Higher Education (THE)

“There are three reasons why academia’s relationships with for-profit publishers must finally be severed.

First, the peer review system is broken. In the old days, the most accomplished experts usually agreed to evaluate papers. Now, editors report sending 15 or more requests to find two warm bodies to offer an opinion.

Second, academics often can’t afford those high open access fees – especially faculty outside the sciences, the wealthier institutions and the developed world. This makes it more likely that journals will fill their pages with papers by authors who have money, as opposed to authors who have good ideas. Pay to play is simply the wrong model for academia.

Third, publishers have resisted repeated attempts to make their contracts with universities more transparent. A 2014 analysis showed that the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor paid Elsevier $2.16 million (£1.77 million) for the exact same package of journals sold to the University of Wisconsin, Madison for $1.22 million. Yale, with about 12,500 students, paid Springer $711,564 for the same package that the University of Texas, Austin, with more than 50,000 students, purchased for $481,932….”

Full article: Unsub in Real Life: Using Unsub as Part of Serials Decisions and Negotiations

Abstract:  This presentation introduced attendees to the benefits and limitations of Unsub, a data analysis tool designed by OurResearch. In this presentation, OurResearch co-founder, Heather Piwowar, demonstrated the use of Unsub for analyzing usage and cost data on a library’s “Big Deal.” The other two presenters, Jessica Harris of the University of Chicago, and Eric Schares of Iowa State University, discussed how they used the tool at their libraries to make collection development decisions for their libraries’ journal subscriptions.

Plan S Journal Comparison Service: open for publishers to register and deposit price and service data | Plan S

cOAlition S is excited to release today the Journal Comparison Service (JCS), a secure, free and long-anticipated digital service, that aims to shed light on publishing fees and services.

Starting from today, publishers can register with the JCS publisher portal. After signing a service agreement, publishers can share information, at journal level, highlighting the services they provide and the prices they charge in line with one of the Plan S approved price and service transparency frameworks. These data are then made available to librarians via a secure online system.  Examples of data that will be made available through the service include information about the publication frequency, the peer review process, times from submission to acceptance, the range of list prices for APCs, subscription prices, and how the price is allocated over a defined set of services.