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Sunday, January 29, 2012

Academic Publishing is a Good Gig if You Can Get It - And a Rip Off for Creators

The Elsevier's academic publishing model is about to Sink into Oblivion - the way all basically dishonest biz models should.

Academic publishers have a captive audience of writers who must write and publish in order to keep their jobs and/or advance AND they don't have to pay them! In fact, I suspect the writers/contributors/researchers pay the publishers at times to publish their works (or at least they should):)

Tim Worstall reports this for Forbes online:

Elsevier's Publishing Model Might be About to Go Up in Smoke

Academic publishing is a very good game indeed if you can manage to get into it. As the publisher the work is created at the expense of others, for free to you. There are no advances, no royalties, to pay. The editing, the checking, the decisions about whether to publish, these are all also done for free to you. And the market, that’s every college libarary in the world and they’re very price insensitive indeed.

Back when physical, paper, copies of the journals were an essential part of any scientists’ life the cost structure could, perhaps, be justified. It is expensive to typeset, proofread, complex texts and then print them in numbers of hundreds or perhaps low thousands. However, now that everything is moving/has moved online then the amounts charged for access to the journals seems less defensible. More like the exploitation of a monopoly position in fact.

No, there isn’t a monopoly on scientific journal publishing: but there is on the last 50 to 60 years’ worth of papers that have been published and are now copyright of said publisher. This is leveraged into the power to make college libraries pay eyewatering amounts for subscriptions.

There’s not much new about this analysis and investors in Reed Elsevier, the owners of Elsevier, either do or should know all of this.

However, there’s something hapening that might change this, for Reed Elsevier shareholders, quite delightful position. That is, a revolt of the academics who provide both the papers and the readership.

A start was made by British mathematician Tim Gowers, in a blog post here. That wasn’t the very start, but it looks like one of those pebbles that starts the avalanche rather than the one that just tumbles down the hillside. And there’s a great deal to be said for a scientific post which references Spike Milligan‘s superb book, Adolf Hitler, My Part in his Downfall.

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