Arnold Kling  

De-fund College Libraries

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Joshua Gans writes


This is disappointing on a number of fronts. First, BE Press never informed us. They did send out a letter to paying subscribers but not to authors or to people who serve on their editorial boards; both of whom happen to describe me. So I found out because the links to BE Press journals on my website were now broken too (I've since repaired them to provide access again). So much for the great lasting value of online journals -- the ability to preserve links.

He is reporting on an electronic journal that sold to a traditional publisher, so that the online version essentially got priced out of existence.

I think that the main problem here is that journals are funded by subscriptions from college libraries. If college libraries were de-funded, the journals would have to find revenue models that are consistent with 21st-century technology and economics.

Take away the money that now goes to college library journal subscription fees. Instead, use those funds to create an online repository of published academic work. I'll bet that the result would provide better access to research at less total cost.



COMMENTS (10 to date)
Daniel Lemire writes:

I agree. Alas, people are tempted instead to seek help from the government in terms of new regulations.


I made the same point to yours earlier this week: Should you boycott academic publishers?

Curt Doolittle writes:

I agree. We are granting the journal publishers an exclusive market using public funds. A central repository will be far more useful. Or, for that matter, a dozen of them.

Mike Huben writes:

You are thinking small and inefficient.

Instead, simply require that research based on public grants be published with open electronic access.

Redefine fair use to include digital distribution from libraries that own paper copies.

Reduce copyright lengths to a few years. The vast majority of earnings from copyrights is in the first few years.

Or are you instead just thinking of ways to stick it to public universities?

Stuart Mackenzie writes:

Open publishing is a fine concept, but how do you organise - and fund - effective peer-reviews of research prior to publishing online?

Claire Stewart writes:

Why won't this just shift publishers to a micropayment/pay-per-view model, where readers must individually pay to read? And probably at a much higher per article rate?

To paraphrase a line from one of my favorite films*, to defeat a dictator, you have to cut off her resources. Library subscription $ is only part of the picture. Publishers have this leverage and can charge what they like because researchers are willing to surrender their rights in order to get published. That is the real source of the problem and the culture that needs to change.

*Mean Girls

GW writes:

Stuart Mackenzie wrote:

"Open publishing is a fine concept, but how do you organise - and fund - effective peer-reviews of research prior to publishing online?"

Peer-reviewing for commercially-owned is now largely organized and funded by "voluntary" labor, essentially a subsidy of the journals by Universities through their support of their employees in serving as reviewers and editors. Moves to electronic, non-profit formats can be accomplished by by relatively minimal start-up, data storage and labor costs (especially when the latter is done by faculty with such service expectations and their grad students) and, when sponsored by University departments or publishers, the net savings in subscription costs to libraries would more than pay for the enterprise.

Don writes:

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Dan writes:

I assume you mean de-funding only the library budget line items that go to journals. De-funding the entire library removes a university's ability to provide in-person reference services, local and state archives, teaching and training with instruction tailored to individual needs, and many other items that have nothing to do with public funds going to private publishers.

Maximum Liberty writes:

As a lawyer, I had always assumed that academics had some kind of services like LexisNexis and Westlaw, to allow searching of academic journals for a variety of price-points, depending on the access desired. Monthly flat rates for specified sets of resources, or per-search prices, or per article on lookup, etc. It sounds like that is not the case.

To me, the big problem with library purchases is that they subsidize the research agendas and perspectives of the status quo, making it harder for alternatives to compete. I would think that a system where libraries do not subscribe directly to the journals, but instead to a chosen electronic intermediary, would be a better approach. I imagine that the intermediary, being a commercial body, would behave a bit like the cable companies do for channels in different packages. But we don’t really have to know how the intermediary would behave because there would be competition at that level. We would have some reason to believe that the market would tend to correct intermediaries who fail to understand their consumers’ needs.

Max

efp writes:

I've been preaching this for decades. You need to start with something established, like arxiv.org, and 1) organize it according to PACS system instead of their own classifications, 2) bring the peer review process into it. Create communities by specialty, moderated by elected experts, wiki-ize summaries, archive raw data, generate metrics that can be used by tenure committees that account for other forms of participation, etc. Still won't happen.

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