Re: Cost and Return of Electronic Scholarly Journals HUESMANN@UWLAX.BITNET 09 Dec 1991 18:17 UTC

Ken Laws has some good points about the true costs of e-journals, but he
overstates his case and makes several flaws in his reasoning.  Flaw 1 - a
free e-journal doesn't have the costs he referred to as "advertising,
billing, address changes, renewals, and all the hassels that attend a
commercial operation." - no advertising, no billing, and address changes/
renewals are done remotely by the subscribers.  Flaw 2 - "Then there's the
notion of fair profit, which is necessary if you want people to take the risk
of setting up new services like this." - If this were mandatory, then there
wouldn't be free e-journals like PSYCHOLOQUY and others, which have been the
leaders in "setting up new services like this"; in fact, most of the e-journals
I know of ARE free!  Flaw 3 - Yes, people and computers cost money, and the
notion of e-journals as relying completely on hobbyists and volunteers would
be unrealistic.  However, there are people and institutions out there who
already consider "service", such as editing a journal, as part of their job
descriptions (i.e. faculty).  If each institution of higher education
supported the costs of two or three e-journals as part of a cooperative
organization, the costs for acquiring the information supplied by the
cooperative would be far less than current subscription costs!

        I frankly have my doubts about whether this model would fly, and I
am certain that there will be room for commercial e-journals.  However, I
do believe that free e-journals will flourish - discussion on ESPORA-L, a
listserv on the history of the Iberian penisula, recently talked about
"how easy and inexpensiv it would be" (paraphrased, I'm going from memory on
this one) to set up free e-journals in sub-disciplines that could never
financially support their own journals previously (the one mentioned being
a e-journal on Angolan History).  If THAT dream of journal proliferation
takes hold, our current levels of information overload will soon seem minimal
in comparison!

James Huesmann
Currently Serials Librarian, UW-La Crosse
As of Jan. 1, Librarian for Automated Systems, Linda Hall Library,
Kansas City, MO

(And my comments are my own, not the opinions of either institution)