Thursday, 13 September 2012

ALPSP Conference Day 3: Giving away the farm


'Giving away the farm' was the penultimate session from this morning's programme. Chaired by Catherine Candea from OECD, the panel reflect on the pressure scholarly publishers are under to give away content. 

With six month embargoes being demanded and some publishers moving fully to giving away their output as soon as it’s published, what effect is this going to have on the industry?

Wim van der Stelt from Springer provided an relatively upbeat assessment of where they are at. It’s good that the Finch group recommended the gold OA route and acknowledged that content needs to be paid for. Meanwhile, Europe, as always, took the wrong decision and have come down on the side of green with a 6 months embargo or gold, but with the funding still insecure. 

Springer pioneered the hybrid journal and now have price adjustments for selected hybrid journals every year. They moved into real/full open access when they bought BioMed Central in 2008. Not only did it provide them with an open access portfolio, but also helped their systems and processes to be author oriented. Most importantly, they bought in the new culture enabling them to shift from legacy culture. Oh, and it also makes money.

Springer Open now has over 405 members in 46 countries. Their Open Access journals are in all area including economics, social sciences, humanities, etc and 15% of all their articles are already open access. Springer Open now includes books! 

His advice to publishers on what they can do included:
  • provide hybrid option
  • start full open access
  • transfer subscription journals to open access
  • look at sister journals
  • sponsored journals
  • new journals
  • be creative with financial models for society journals
But don’t forget... open access is just a business model so keep on providing the service of validation, structuring and dissemination and don’t forget to develop new services.

Jose de Buerba from the World Bank took us through their transition from charging for publications to making everything free. They are the largest Development Agency worldwide with $35.2 billions in projects approved during FY12. With 10,000+ staff and 120 field offices (mostly in developing countries) their annual publishing outputs in 2011 were: 367 journal articles (75% published externally), 438 working papers, 146 books, 500+ other pieces of analytical work very diverse subjects.

The World Bank mission is to help generate a world free of poverty, but their conflict was between: mission or money. They have embraced green OA so they can be open about what they know (data and knowledge), what they do (operations and results), about how they work (partnerships for openness), and have open government (transparency, accountability).

This video puts it neatly:


The new currency is for development impact and their Open Knowledge Repository has had 140,000 downloads since September. The business model comprises: budget from the institution, publishing service fee, revenues from commercial activity from value added products.

Xavier Cazin from Immateriel.fr considered paid content vs paid comfort. They are one of the four ebook distributors in France. Distribution is still pertinent for their ebook market and it involves seeing all kinds of publishing offers based on the same content.

The certainties of print costs have gone and with digital content it has become difficult to understand what people are expecting on pricing. One trend they’ve seen as a distributor is that of people making a business out of refurbishing public domain content. Why does it sell? And why at that price?

He considered what customers are willing to pay for: 
  • ease of access (where they are now)
  • handy (readable with my current device/app)
  • easy navigation through the content
And what are the reading rewards? A rich and well designed environment, content/curation appropriate to current needs and sharing functionalities. In his view, the product unit price should work to equation of ease of access + reading rewards = value. For the reader, content quality + authors reputation = content reputation. Based on this, the total revenue should be: product unit price x number of customers/readers with the former related to reading comfort and the latter to content reputation.

For anyone not clear on definitions of OA there’s an overview on wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Open_access

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