Tuesday, January 10, 2012 - 04:11
Many of you may remember a time when music-stealing was rampant on the internet. Apple changed this situation by establishing a new kind of marketplace.
Now people pay for music and download it from iTunes.
What if there were a third party group, with an iTunes-like model, where scientific publishers would make papers available for purchase? Could this kind of model work?
Two arguments support this idea.
1. Volume sales
2. The cost of creation
Volume sales work like this. Let's say a publisher sells 10 papers at $30 each. This brings in $300.
That same publisher could also bring in $300 by selling 100 papers at $3 each.
They could earn the same of money but get materials out to more people.
Will the volume be there? The experiment hasn't been tried.
The cost of creation
Many people have noted that most of the cost of creating a scientific publication is funded by taxpayers through government grants. The recording industry lacks that support, yet it seems to have survived the iTunes pricing model.
I made a table below that compares some aspects of the recording industry with scientific publishing (you can click the image to see a larger version).
Granted recording artists and scientists, and their funding sources have different goals. In the case of the scientific research the goal is to advance knowledge. One would assume that access to knowledge is an important part of making this work.
One of our commenters noted that paying $30 a paper, is hardship for many. Not only does this obstacle discourage students from using scientific literature, it prevents the public from accessing peer-reviewed work. It does seem that the taxpayers who fund most of this work should get a better return on their investment.
Another commenter volunteered that journal pricing practices aren't a problem because he could use his MIT and Harvard logins to get papers.
Certainly, a system where small companies and individuals rely on friends with library subscriptions is one way to get papers, but wouldn't a system that's less dishonest be a better one?