How We Pay for Publishing Page: 1
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How We Pay for Publishing, Page 1
How We Pay for Publishing
Kevin S. Hawkins
University of North Texas Libraries
How did we get into this mess?
Higher education administrators, funding bodies, and librarians are unhappy with
the cost to acquire and access scholarly literature, especially subscription-based
journals from commercial publishers, whose price increases far outstrip the growth
in library budgets. An outsider might ask how it can cost so much to get access to
many leading scholarly publications in an age when it costs so little to produce
copies of documents. After all, the retail prices of print books have been largely flat,
despite inflation, and Amazon and Apple have driven down the prices for digital
books and music.
Readers and authors are increasingly feeling the system's dysfunction as well,
finding that they are unable to get access through their institution to the
publications that they need for their work and that acquiring their own copy is
ridiculously expensive. While the problem has been created by commercial
publishers skimming the cream of academic publications and then charging
handsomely for access to these prestige brands, it has been difficult to effect change
in the system because scholars are the consumers of the content but only rarely the
purchasers of it; as with health care and prescription drugs, the true costs of market
consolidation and intellectual property protection are not borne by the consumers
of the services and products.
How might we get out?
Many stakeholders in scholarly publishing want not only to see a more efficient
market but also to make scholarly literature free to read and reproduce at the same
time. The argument for this is strongest in the case of government-funded research,
whether produced with support from a research grant or simply by virtue of the
author's employment at a publicly supported or mission-driven non-profit
institution (such as a state or private university, respectively)-which frankly
covers nearly all authors of scholarly publications.
Proposed interventions in the system aimed at increasing open access to scholarly
literature are, broadly speaking, of two types:
a) Publishers claim that if they made their publications free to read, their sales or
subscriptions would no longer cover their costs. Therefore, the academy could find
money to give subsidies to the publishers beyond what they already pay for
subscriptions to cover the "first copy" costs (what it costs the publisher to select,
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Hawkins, Kevin S. How We Pay for Publishing, article, November 22, 2014; [Charleston, South Carolina]. (https://digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc461693/m1/2/: accessed June 7, 2023), University of North Texas Libraries, UNT Digital Library, https://digital.library.unt.edu; .