Supplementary memorandum from the Association
of Learned and Professional Society Publishers
1a "According to the data you have collected,
how many of your members have already digitalised their back catalogues,
and how many have plans to do so?"
There are two types of digital back-files: those
which were created as a "by-product" of publishing in
electronic form, at little or no additional cost, and those which
have had to be specially retrodigitised from earlier years. A
growing number of publishers, particularly not-for-profit, make
the "by-product" archive freely available to all after
a short period (see, for example, the recent "ALPSP Principles"
at http://www.alpsp.org/2004pdfs/SFpub210104.pdf http://www.alpsp.org/2004pdfs/SFpub210104.pdf
and the "DC principles" at http://www.dcprinciples.org).
However, the very substantial cost of retrodigitising
a complete back-archive normally makes it necessary to charge
for access, in order to recoup the investment. Some journals,
such as those of the Royal Society, have been retrodigitised at
no cost to the publisher by J-Stor, a non-profit foundation originally
funded by Mellon, but now self-supporting; J-Stor recoups its
costs through library charges. Completely free access is only
possible in cases where the retrodigitisation has been externally
funded (eg by PubMed Central or the Wellcome Foundation).
In our survey in early 2003 of 149 publishers
(including all the major publishers, and covering members and
non-members, commercial and not-for-profit) we found that 85.2%
make back volumes available online, in the majority of cases from
1997 or 1998 (which is when they started e-publishing). However,
over 20% had an average start date earlier than 1995, and at least
10 had digitised from Vol 1 No 1 (for cost reasons, retrodigitisation
is often a gradual process and some have not yet gone all the
way back to the first issues). In the past year, we have seen
many further announcements of publishers carrying out total or
partial retrodigitisation of their journals (for example, the
Royal Society of Chemistry has gone right back to the first issues
in 1841; Taylor & Francis are working their way through their
journals, and have covered five so far).
1b "Can you supply an estimate of how
much this activity increases the publishing costs of a society
The one-off cost of creating a digital archive
is not a publishing cost except in a very general sense. "Publishing
costs", as examined by the Committee and covered in much
of the evidence, relate to the initial cost of publication (peer-review,
production, distribution, DOI registration, marketing etc). Retrodigitisation,
on the other hand, is a "re-purposing" of already published
content; most of those publishers which have articulated comprehensive
retrodigitisation plans have treated these direct costs as quite
separate from ongoing publishing, and indeed have priced the resulting
back volume collections quite separately from ongoing subscriptions.
This cost of retrodigitisation of the journal
archive depends entirely on the size of the back-file and the
kind of functionality to be incorporated into the electronic archive.
The print copies must not only be scanned (usually resulting in
destruction of the original) but also comprehensively indexed
so that the resultant files are retrievable; the archive then
needs to be hosted within a suitable system. At the very least,
most publishers also create XML header records for each article,
and most are planning to assign DOIs to them and deposit them
with CrossRef, at a cost of $1.00 per article. Full XML tagging
is much more expensive than creating a "static" PDF
file, and most publishers to date have tended towards the latter
option for this reason.
A typical scanning cost is 16-25 pence per page,
depending on complexity, illustrations etc; ALPSP members have
recently been quoted a preferential discount from Apex e-publishing
of at least 10% off this figure. Thus the scanning alone of a
journal consisting of 6 x 80-page issues per year would cost £70-120
per annual volume; however, the frequency (number of issues) and
extent (number of pages per issue), as well as the age of the
journal, varies greatly and thus it is impossible to give an average
figure per journal.
There will also be system costs in creating
a database in which to host the archive, and an access mechanism
for authorised users to search and retrieve content from it. The
staff and equipment costs are also very considerable. For example,
the Royal Society of Chemistry's recent complete digitisation
of back issues from 1841-1996, comprising 1.2 million pages, cost
approximately £500,000 for the actual digitisation, and a
further £300,000 for staff, equipment and other costs (67
pence a page in total); that of the Institute of Physics, going
back to 1874, comprising some 750,000 pages, cost approximately
£500,000 including internal costs (75 pence a page in total).
2a "How many of the societies you represent
have journals that are accessible via the Science Direct platform?"
Science Direct is the proprietary platform for
Elsevier's journals. It (or its sister platform MDConsult) includes
189 of the 219 society journals which Elsevier publishes under
contract (the remaining 30 remain offline at the societies' request);
it is also, in principle, open to other publishers and hosts another
67 journals (50 from one learned society publisher) on this basis.
In total Elsevier estimate that they work with over 150 societies.
2b "Through which other web-based platforms
do your members offer access to their journals?"
Many larger publishers have their own platform
(eg Wiley's InterScience, Springer's SpringerLink); the same is
true of some of the larger society publishers (eg Institute of
Physics, Royal Society of Chemistry, Institution of Electrical
Small and medium-sized publishers typically
work with third-party hosts, among which the largest are probably
Ingenta (which hosts 4,500 journals and provides access to a further
1,500, both commercial and not-for-profit) and MetaPress (1,800
journals, 40% society-owned; their largest client is Taylor &
Francis). Other hosts include Stanford University's HighWire (350
journals, all but five not-for-profit, and many offering free
access to back-files after a few months; clients include key players
such as Oxford University Press and British Medical Association),
BioOne (all not-for-profit), Johns Hopkins University's Project
Muse (all not-for-profit), Extenza (approx 300 journals, mixed)
and the services offered by larger societies to smaller ones such
as the American Institute of Physics and the Biochemical Society.
Access to the titles in BioOne and Project Muse can be licensed
as a complete package; however, journals on all the other platforms
mentioned above are licensed on a publisher-by-publisher basis,
both as individual titles and, in many cases, as a "bundle"
of that publisher's titles.
In the USA, some printers (eg Allen Press, Sheridan
Press) also offer online hosting services to their (mainly not-for-profit)
client publishers, although this is less common among UK printers
(Charlesworth is one which does so).
Access is also provided through the websites
of all the major subscription agents, although the content is
hosted elsewhere: EBSCOHost, SwetsWise, Harrasowitz, Minerva are
examples of such services.
In addition, aggregators sell collections of
content which has been sub-licensed by multiple publishers; these
provide good value for money, but the journal content is sometimes
provided after a time delay to protect subscriptions. The main
aggregators are EBSCO Publishing, Gale Group, ProQuest and Wilson.
Not-for-profit organisations such as ALPSP itself,
HighWire, BioOne, ProjectMuse and American Institute of Physics
all offer multi-publisher collections to simplify acquisition
and access by libraries. The ALPSP Learned Journals Collection
is the only instance, however, which does not include journals
hosting; the journals are accessed through a single portal (provided
by subscription agent Swets) but continue to be hosted on a variety
of platforms at the preference of the individual publisher.
A publisher's content is likely to be available
through a number of these different platforms; in addition, their
content is increasingly linked (using the Digital Object Identifier
standard and the CrossRef technology) both to and from citations
within the literature, and to and from bibliographic details and
abstracts in the numerous "abstracting and indexing"
databases which provide the preferred route for about half of
all journal usage.
3 "According to the data and views you
have collected, what proportion of your members would be adversely
affected by a move to the author-pays publishing model? What proportion
would benefit from such a change?
This question is impossible to answer because
there are so many variables, in particular the amount which it
is possible to charge authors (per accepted publication, submission,
or both) and how many of them are able and willing to pay; the
costs are also affected by the percentage of articles processed
but rejected by the peer-review system. Science publishers seem
to be more confident of adequate income from payments on behalf
of the author (rather than on behalf of the reader) than are those
in the arts, humanities and social sciences; in these subject
areas, research grants are small or non-existent and thus the
funding would simply not be available.
Responses so far to our current survey indicate
that 67% (20/30) of society publishers do make a surplus from
their publishing (we understand that the figure may be lower in
the USA); both those who publish on their own account and those
which contract out their publishing are highly dependent on the
payments from their publisher to subsidise their other activities.
By and large, it seems to be their expectation that they would
make a reduced surplus from Open Access publishing, even bearing
in mind the concomitant savings which could be realised if the
shift were combined with the abandonment of a print edition; one
estimate is that surpluses in excess of 12% would be likely to
be reduced. In the above survey, median surplus was 17%, representing
33% of society income. There would also be additional one-off
costs involved in the transition from the existing business model
to Open Access.
The effect of such a reduction in surplus would
be to reduce expenditure on various vital aspects of the societies'
mission. In our survey, 82% of respondents used part of the surplus
to support the general expenses of the society. 42% used some
for research grants and bursaries; 32% used some to subsidise
conference fees, and 29% used some for public education. Thus
any move which led to a substantial reduction in publishing surpluses
could damage or even destroy many learned societies; vulnerability
will to some extent depend on the range of other revenue streams
which the society has been able to develop.
We have just commissioned a major research project
from Kaufman-Wills Group LLC to analyse all the data which can
be made available to us from the wide variety of Open Access journal
experiments (under various models) currently being carried out.
This will enable us to arrive at some conclusions not just about
the financial effects of moving to OA, but also the effects on
author and reader behaviour. The results will be published in
the first half of 2005, and should provide publishers of all types
with a better basis on which to make informed decisions about
any change to their own business model, and to plan the transitionif
they decide to make the changein a way which minimises
any negative impact. We believe that such investigation will be
assisted by any recommendation to funding agencies to permit their
grants to be used for Open Access publishing charges; however,
we also believe that there is not yet enough information about
the effects of Open Access journals for it to be appropriate to
mandate grant recipients to publish under this model.
It may also be relevant to note an informal
survey being carried out by one of our members, asking fellow
societies about the extent of demand from their own members for
Open Access. So far the figure stands at 0/387,000 from 17 societiesresponses
are still coming in; however, the Physics societies do report
that many of their authors are also self-archiving (usually preprints,
rather than final versions of articles) in the ArXiv subject repository.
We do not, in fact, believe that a significant
reason why Open Access might damage learned societies is through
erosion of their main member benefitthe member's free or
cheap copy of the journal. Those societies for which the journal
is still the main or only benefit have already experienced this
erosion through site licences, which provide most of their members
with online access to the journal at their desktop, thus reducing
the requirement for a personal copy. The reaction has generally
been to concentrate on offering other attractive member services.
On behalf of its 280 members, ALPSP would like
to reiterate the following points:
The current system of journal publishing
has much that is of proven value, in particular the system of
peer review. Any evolution of publishing models needs to preserve
Learned society and other not-for-profit
publishers are of key importance. At least half of all journals
are published by or on behalf of learned societies, university
presses, non-governmental organisations, research foundations
and the like. Many studies have shown that their journals are
on average significantly less expensive, and of higher quality,
than commercially published journals.
Transition to electronic-only journals
would help to reduce libraries' funding problems, and would be
welcomed by publishers. However, there are two major obstacles
The absence of an assured system for long-term
archiving and preservation; the most coherent and cost-effective
approach is via our national library, rather than piecemeal by
individual publishers and libraries, and adequate funding for
this is essential.
Full-rate VAT is charged on electronic journals,
while print journals are zero-rated and combined subscriptions
fall somewhere in between; this makes electronic journals more
expensive to libraries, rather than less. We advocate exempting
the recipients (non-commercial educational and research establishments)
in the short term, and working within Europe to change the VAT
rules in the longer term.
Any measures taken in the UK alone
will be of relatively minor effect; the majority of UK authors
are published in non-UK journals, and the majority of UK journal
sales are to non-UK customers.
We believe that the market should
be allowed to evolve. Permitting recipients of grant funding to
use part of the money to pay publication costs would be helpful
in enabling realistic testing of the Open Access model. However,
we are concerned that the model may not be viable in all circumstances
and could, indeed, be damaging to some learned societies; we therefore
recommend a period of experimentation and research, and would
strongly advise against any mandatory action at this early stage.