Cost and Return of Electronic Scholarly Journals Stevan Harnad 08 Dec 1991 19:46 UTC
A. Ralph Papakhian <PAPAKHI@IUBVM.BITNET> wrote:
> It is unlikely that electronic scholarly periodicals/distributions will
> be via either LISTSERV or USENET as we know them now. Just in the past
> month or so OCLC has announced the availability of a medical journal via
> the internet. But it is by paid subscription and the avenue of
> distribution is neither LISTSERV nor USENET.
> Harnad's efforts at free distribution are certainly laudable (from my
> old Trotskyist attitudes anyway), but unlikely to continue as the claws
> of capitalism and the free market grab on to the bitnet/internet.
> [Re: The individual-subscription/Listserv model vs. the
> public-library/Usenet model]:
> THE FIRST MIGHT COST MONEY AS IT NOW DOES (MONEY DIRECTLY AS IN
> WRITING A CHECK), THE SECOND COSTS MONEY AS IN SOME ONE OR SOME BODY
> PICKING UP THE OVERHEAD. BOTH BECOME INTERESTING AS E-JOURNAL
> DISTRIBUTION BECOMES COMMERCIAL!!!
I am not arguing for free distribution. The TRUE costs (and fair
return) of producing electronic scholarly-journals should certainly be
recovered (i.e., the costs of the editorial office, the costs of disk
storage, and the costs of sending/receiving email -- if, heaven
forefend, the wrong-headed national/international decision is made to
charge individual scholars for each use of this priceless intellectual
highway, as if they were commercial producers and consumers). What
should be resisted is artificially inflated prices, based on slavish
(or slave-masterly) imitation of irrelevant features of the obsolete
If and when the American Psychological Association elects to charge for
each individual subscription to PSYCOLOQUY, my estimate is that (if the
highways continue to be free) it will cost each subscriber about 5 cents
a year (based on the current Listserv subscribership of 2500 --
and a good deal less if we use the Usenet "library subscriber" figure
of 15,000). What much larger costs and return the AAAS/OCLC are
recovering with their projected price of $105.00 per subscriber for
their future journal, I leave as a puzzle for the reader.