Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Thursday, April 19, 2007

The future for journal publishers

Charlie Rapple has blogged some notes on a talk by John Cox (unclear when or where --probably the UKSG meeting in Warwick).  Excerpt:

...One consequence of online publishing is the hunger for Open Access - an unproven business model which has not yet shown itself to be sustainable, says Cox....[T]he world's 850 institutional repositories may currently be scantly populated...but they are being supported by a number of major funding agencies, and may yet grow sufficiently to change the current landscape....

The future for publishers, therefore, is in the functionality within which they wrap their content. If the research itself is freely available - and easily discoverable - elsewhere, publishers have to differentiate themselves with truly useful features (e.g. supporting datasets, taxonomies, community facilities). Cox praises OECD's SourceOECD for using the capabilities of online to add massive value over the print, and Alexander Street Press for building communities in the humanities - demonstrating the value across different sectors.

Web 2.0 "will bring further changes", of which user-generated content and folksonomies have most relevance to scholarly publishing. They represent the value-adds which can differentiate publisher platforms from institutional repositories - if publishers are willing or able to make the necessary investment in technology, and to make the transition to being service providers rather than manufacturers.

Comment.  OA is a kind of access, not a kind of business model.  It's not only compatible with many different business models, but it's already supported by many different business models.  However, Cox is otherwise right --if I may paraphrase him this way-- that the future for publishers lies in adding value to OA content.   OA is not going away and the OA percentage of peer-reviewed journal literature will only keep growing.  Some publishers will offer OA themselves and recover their costs from sources other than readers.  Others will charge readers for access to enhanced versions of the OA literature.  Some of these enhancements will themselves be OA, but some will be unavailable gratis and worth paying for.  For those publishers who want to charge for access, as opposed to another kind of service, the new struggle will be to stay ahead of the creeping gift economy that will find ways to make each new enhancement available to end users free of charge.

Update. Also see Rapple's notes on Sally Morris' talk at the same conference.