Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Is it snowing yet?

Steve Foerster, The Demise of Old-Fashioned Scholarly Journals?  iCommons, July 30, 2007.  Excerpt:

Recently I attended a debate called Intellectual Property Rights: Wrong for Developing Countries?" at the National Academies in Washington, D.C. The two speakers were Bruce Lehman, Chairman of the International Intellectual Property Institute, and John Wilbanks, Vice President of Science Commons….

Both, at one point or another, referred to scholarly journals as "content providers"….

Well, as someone working in higher education, I don't really think of scholarly journals as content providers. I think of the academics that research and write the articles as content producers, and the journals merely as distribution channels. Thus, if academics are passing articles around using the Internet, it's because the Internet is a superior distribution channel to the journals themselves -- even when those journals are themselves online unless they also offer open access….

There is one important aspect of subscription based scholarly journals that isn't addressed by simply replacing them with online open access alternatives, and that is the relative prestige that publication in different journals offers….At the same time, however, given the advantages of open access and online distribution, how long can this save subscription based journals?

In fairness to John Wilbanks, he was a passionate proponent of increasing access to knowledge, and he did remark that it seems like journal publishers are among those industries that have done a poor job finding new business models that work when faced with the Internet. But I wonder if it's merely a failure of their imagination. I'm hard pressed to think of a way they can add value when every aspect of scholarly articles from concept to peer review to distribution can now be handled without them. Could it be that they're simply dinosaurs in a world where it has begun to snow?