Techdirt has published several posts recently about the growing anger among scholars over the way their work is exploited by academic publishers. But there's another angle to the story, that of the academic institutions who have to pay for the journals needed by their professors and students. Via a number of people, we learn that the scholars' revolt has spread there, too:
We write to communicate an untenable situation facing the Harvard Library. Many large journal publishers have made the scholarly communication environment fiscally unsustainable and academically restrictive. This situation is exacerbated by efforts of certain publishers (called "providers") to acquire, bundle, and increase the pricing on journals.
Harvard’s annual cost for journals from these providers now approaches $3.75M. In 2010, the comparable amount accounted for more than 20% of all periodical subscription costs and just under 10% of all collection costs for everything the Library acquires. Some journals cost as much as $40,000 per year, others in the tens of thousands. Prices for online content from two providers have increased by about 145% over the past six years, which far exceeds not only the consumer price index, but also the higher education and the library price indices.
As a result, Harvard's Faculty Advisory Council has come to the following conclusion:
major periodical subscriptions, especially to electronic journals published by historically key providers, cannot be sustained: continuing these subscriptions on their current footing is financially untenable. Doing so would seriously erode collection efforts in many other areas, already compromised.
So what's the solution? Open access, of course. Here are the Faculty Advisory Council's suggestions for how to promote it:
1. Make sure that all of your own papers are accessible by submitting them to DASH [Digital Access to Scholarship at Harvard] in accordance with the faculty-initiated open-access policies.
2. Consider submitting articles to open-access journals, or to ones that have reasonable, sustainable subscription costs; move prestige to open access.
3. If on the editorial board of a journal involved, determine if it can be published as open access material, or independently from publishers that practice pricing described above. If not, consider resigning.
If one of the world's top and presumably wealthiest universities says the current approach to academic publishing "cannot be sustained", you know that something is seriously wrong with that system. Coupled with the more than 10,000 academics who have now joined the Elsevier Boycott, this latest turn of events suggests that the tipping point for open access is close.
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