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Dana Roth on Open Access Archives and STM

As commercial STM publishers continue to increase the subscription prices of their journals, and charge for backfile access, is it time for them to consider offering open access to their archives? Dana Roth of the Millikan Library at Caltech considers the benefits and consequences of such a move in this commentary:

Open Access Archives and STM Publishers - A Commentary by Dana Roth

One wonders ...

One wonders when commercial publishers might re-think their marketing strategies and recognize that their library subscribers deserve some compensation for years of annual price increases that far exceed inflation (for either CPI or pagination). The cumulative effect of decades of these often questionable price increases is exemplified by an analysis of the 2004 subscription costs, pagination, and cost/page.

Journal Title (publisher/volume) 2004 $ 2004 pp 2004 $/p
J. Electrochem. Soc. (ECS-v.151) $715 5825 $0.12
J. Solid State Electrochem. (Sp-v.9) $585 913 $0.64
Electrochimica Acta (P/Els-v.49) $4215 5260 $0.80
Electroanalysis (W/VCH-v.16) $2428 2094 $1.16
J. Applied Electrochem. (Kl-v.34) $2029 1291 $1.57
J. Electroanal. Chem. (Els-v.560-572) $9469 4267 $2.26

Factoring in the ISI Impact Factors (IP) and normalization of the cost/page/IP values for each commercial journal against the Journal of the Electrochemical Society (JES) produces some very startling results. These normalized values (2004N$/p/IP) are possibly a measure of the cost-effectiveness of each journal compared with JES.

Journal title - 2004 ISI/IP 2004$/p/IP 2004N$/p/IP
J. Electrochem. Soc. - 2.36 0.05 1.0
Electrochimica Acta - 2.34 0.34 6.8
Electroanalysis - 2.04 0.57 11.4
J. Solid State Electrochem. - 0.98 0.65 13.0
J. Electroanal. Chem. - 2.29 0.99 19.8
J. Applied Electrochem. - 0.98 1.60 32.0

While the Electrochemical Society's JES is somewhat unique in its very reasonable cost/page, they are certainly not publishing this journal at a loss. The normalized values of the 2004 cost/page/IP indicate that the J. Electrochem. Soc. is more cost effective than the J. Applied Electrochem. by a factor of 32. Alternatively, looking simply at the difference in the $cost/page data suggests that, if published by a society, J. Electroanal. Chem. could be priced at $512/year instead of $9649.

Given these presumably handsome profits, would it be unreasonable to suggest that commercial publishers consider making their online archives freely available thru an equivalent of PubMed Central?

One can only imagine the enormous positive public relations that the first commercial publisher will receive for this small token of appreciation to the library and research community ... and that this might encourage others to follow suit. This would also have the beneficial effect of freeing up funds for the learned society journal back files, which when their capital costs are met could also be made freely available. Thus, with a little publisher cooperation, an Open Access environment for virtually all journal articles published more than ten years ago would be a reality.

P.S. Publishers should also strongly consider offering RSS feeds, and MARC records for new online books in addition to currently offered e-mail announcements.

Dana L. Roth
Millikan Library / Caltech 1-32
1200 E. California Blvd. Pasadena, CA 91125
626-395-6423 fax 626-792-7540
dzrlib AT ibrary.caltech.edu

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