23:3 (2008:09) 23rd Conference (2008): Strategy Session: Shifting Costs

August 25, 2008 at 5:20 pm | Posted in Strategy Sessions | Leave a comment

STRATEGY SESSION

Shifting Costs in the Journal Publishing World
Nawin Gupta, Informed Publishing Solutions; Chris Beckett, Atypon Systems; Barry Davis, Sheridan Press
Reported by Virginia A. Rumph

Nawin Gupta regards scholarly journal publishers as facilitators and supporters of research and communication.  The scholarly publishing process is an endless loop starting with research formulation, creation, and expression which circles around again to more research formulation, etc., continuing to grow and improve through time.  The steps in the process have not changed, but the tools and methods used have.  In an ever-changing world journal publishing must keep pace.  All of the stakeholders, from authors to librarians, have been impacted.  The speakers’ agenda encompassed examining how needs, requirements and costs have shifted for publishers and service-providers, as well as fostering a better understanding and dialog among stakeholders in the journal publishing business.

The total number of active, refereed, learned journals has nearly doubled to 24,000 from 1983 to 2008. These journals are produced by about 2,000 publishers.  The number of articles has also doubled to 1.5 million.  These figures closely parallel the growth of R&D workers in the U.S. As readership has grown between 1983 and 2008, information is being spread more widely and more quickly. Fixed costs are up due to improved technology, staff skills, and systems; variable costs are down; total costs are up.
Barry Davis spoke about shifting costs in preparation and production from his experience at Sheridan Press and Dartmouth Journal Services, which produce over 2,200 scholarly, peer-reviewed journals for a wide variety of publishers.  Services run from copy editing to printing, the core service.  The challenge is to integrate online journal preparation with print journal manufacturing.  Some tasks are the same as they were in 1983, but there are now new tasks, and those that remain have become more complex.  Staff qualifications have increased, as have equipment needs.  The evolution from a manufacturing company to a company adept in all journal preparation services has been dramatic.

Chris Beckett tackled factors that determine the costs of electronic publishing.  He cautioned against relying too much on predictions of future trends.  Desired capabilities of an electronic site largely determine the investment required, both initial and on-going.  Beckett quoted sources that estimate the cost as ranging from $509 for an open access bare bones site; to $5,000 for aggregators such as Ingenta; to $1 million for customized builders, per year.  The disparity results from differences in capability and scalability.  The four main cost areas are production, putting content into the system; marketing, customization, multimedia; discoverability, searching, alerts; and reports, COUNTER.  Publishers also want management tools on their desktops.  Scalability is necessary because of the exponential increase in science and technology articles, and accompanying data which is often more important that the related article.  Beckett asked where journals and articles fit in this new world of data.  Should we insist on a fixed “version of record,” or an evolving agglomeration of data, discussion and other relevant media?  Some changes have made it easier to do what we already do, as well as making it possible to do entirely new things.

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