Pre-emptive cancellation costs far, far more than it saves

Bjorn Brembs: “What you’re saying here is that cancellations now are premature, because too few articles are actually available in green repositories? That libraries should hold off because otherwise we face access problems? If that is what you are saying here, then it may be worth spelling it out more clearly as for me that was not immediately obvious. Unintended consequences in publisher behavior (as you allude to above) aside, what is your opinion on using the funds of canceled subscriptions to improve repository functionality to improve green acess? This should only mean a brief interruption of service for much improved access shortly thereafter and a speeding up of the transition you envisage?”

1. Cancelling journals because their policies are Green — i.e., because they do not embargo Green OA self-archiving — is both absurd and destructive: It simply encourages journals to adopt embargoes.

2. Cancelling journals because (some of) their articles are Green is premature and self-defeating: Less than 20% of journal articles are unembargoed Green (i.e., immediate) OA today, and they are distributed randomly across all journals. Hence to cancel any particular journal because the proportion of its articles that is available Green today exceeds this global average is, again, just to penalize that journal, perversely (as well as jeopardizing the growth of Green OA itself, gratuitously).

The time to consider cancelling journals is once Green OA mandates and hence Green OA are at or near 100% globally, and hence the proportion of journal articles that are green OA is at or near 100%. At this point all journals will be at or near 100% and the global cancellation pressure will affect all of them, forcing them all to cut inessential costs, downsize, and convert to Fair Gold OA. (Then — and only then — is the time to redirect a fraction of each institution’s annual subscription cancellation windfall savings to pay the much-reduced Fair-Gold publication fees for the institution’s authors’ own annual article output, affordably and sustainably. Trying instead to start doing this now, pre-emptively — while percentage Green is still low, Green growth is still slow and unstable, subscriptions to core journals still have to be paid, and Fool’s Gold is still over-priced and double-paid (and double-dipped, if hybrid Fool’s-Gold) — would be a profound failure to think ahead.

In sum, to cancel journals now based on the percentage of their articles that are accessible as Green OA now would be as as short-sighted and futile as it would be counterproductive: Like the Finch Fiasco and , premature cancellation would only serve to delay the optimal and inevitable for yet another gratuitously lost decade.

(I begin to think that that might even serve as a fair punishment for all this seemingly endless readiness to run off in all directions but the right one, without troubling to think anything through even a few steps ahead!)