Fat Cat Publishers <br>Breaking the System
- By Catherine Candee
Out-of-control costs for scholarly publications have fueled new digital repository
The scholarly publishing system is broken. At research universities everywhere,
scholarly work—in the form of articles, books, editing, reviewing of manuscripts—is
handed over to commercial publishers, only to be bought back by the libraries
at huge cost. Libraries scramble to judiciously stretch shrinking budgets for
growing runs of books and journals—books and journals that are critical
to the research and teaching activities of the university’s faculty who,
as authors and editors, contribute so generously to the publishers who sell
them. The arrangement is bankrupting research library budgets and swelling the
profit margins of commercial publishers.
Sadly, commercial publishing threatens the very system it exists to support.
When expensive commercially published materials cannot be bought, when university
presses cannot afford to publish monographs for junior faculty, everyone suffers.
Students and scientists cannot gain access to badly needed materials; scholars
cannot get tenure for lack of that first published monograph. The modern university,
modeled on the ideal of the Greek temple where thinkers and learners pursued
knowledge so that society could reap its benefits, is losing ground to crass
commercialism. At risk is the very culture of the academy.
Universities are committed to safeguarding the treasures created and used by
their communities. Most started years ago to explore digital technologies that
could extend institutional capacity, through libraries and academic computing
departments, to support their core mission—teaching and research. After
decades of eroded purchasing power, most university libraries ran out of tricks
and faculty and researchers began to feel the pinch. Now, universities are acting
in concert to develop a sustainable system that would enable all institutions
of higher education to meet the challenge of 21st century learning and scholarship.
One of these is the University of California (UC).
Enter the California Digital Library
UC charged onto the scene in 1997 with the formation of its California Digital
Library (CDL), which has become one of the largest digital libraries in the
world. CDL’s mission is to support the assembly and creative use of the
world’s scholarship by harnessing technology and innovation, and by leveraging
the intellectual and cultural resources of the University of California.
eScholarship, CDL’s programmatic vehicle for experimentation in scholarly
publishing, got cracking in response to faculty need for dissemination and publishing
tools and services. The wildly popular eScholarship Repository, an open access
system at the heart of the initiative, offers UC faculty a central, online location
for everything from technical reports to peer-reviewed journals and edited volumes.
In slightly less than two years, the repository has seen almost 500,000 full-text
downloads, i.e., downloads of entire papers or articles.
The program seeks to demonstrate a reliable and sustainable model as part of
the effort to improve all areas of scholarly communication—creation, peer
review, management, dissemination, and preservation.
A System Based on Faculty Need
The eScholarship program began with the notion of “scholar-led innovations
in scholarly communication.” We at the CDL spent two years investigating,
exploring, and mapping the expressed needs of UC faculty, students, and researchers
and we struggled to reconcile contradictory needs: short-term (“I need
it now, no matter the cost!”) and long-term (“We must invest in
a sustainable publishing system”). We learned that change would need to
come on many fronts—policy, organizational, technical, behavioral, and
attitudinal—and that UC’s efforts must span them all.
We also realized that, though many faculty were interested in the possibilities
for change, most were not as ready for true innovation as we had hoped…and
they were all very busy. The most universal concerns turned out to be quality,
i.e., peer review, recognition, permanence, and time.
In order to at least replicate the range of possibilities in the current print-based
paradigm, we focused first on acquiring and building a digital infrastructure
to support several modes of publication, including non-peer-reviewed papers
(e.g., working papers and technical reports), peer-reviewed papers, and book
and journal publication. The eScholarship program supports two basic formats:
Adobe Acrobat (PDF) and XML. After some experimentation with assorted technical
and organizational approaches, the current eScholarship Initiative coalesced
in early 2002, with infrastructure components that span the range of faculty
and researcher needs.
Working Papers and Research Reports. The
eScholarship Repository provides UC departments, centers, and research units
direct control over creation and dissemination of the full range of scholarly
output, from pre-publication materials through journals and peer-reviewed series,
and—beginning in May 2004—posting of legally available UC author’s
digital copy of commercially published articles.
About the California Digital Library
The California Digital Library (CDL) supports the assembly and creative use
of scholarship for the University of California Libraries and the communities
they serve. Established in 1997 as a UC library, the CDL has become one of
the largest digital libraries in the world. http://www.cdlib.org/
eScholarship is a project of the California Digital Library at the University
of California’s Office of the President . It was launched to facilitate innovation
and support experimentation in the production and dissemination of scholarship.
The repository, which debuted in April 2002, enables easy upload of papers
into a centralized, managed location that makes the content freely available.
UC faculty units are responsible for the review, selection, and deposit of the
content, including editorial support for journals and peer-reviewed series;
CDL is responsible for maintenance of the digital record.
The eScholarship Repository is extremely easy for contributors and readers
alike. The technical expertise required to upload and publish papers is minimal.
Documents can be provided in a variety of formats (Word, RTF or PDF) and associated
materials such as pictures, data sets, and PowerPoint presentations can be posted
with the article.
Each program or department has its own uniquely branded site complete with
logo and links. Web search engines such as Google can easily crawl and index
information about the papers, since each paper is represented by a static Web
page with the relevant descriptive information. This information is also available
for harvesting through the Open Archives Initiative Protocol for Metadata Harvesting
(OAI-PMH), to enable discovery services such as OAIster (www.oaister.org) to
provide one-stop searching of hundreds of similar repositories.
Journals and Peer-Reviewed Series. With the eScholarship Repository’s
new peer-review capability, UC faculty now have an alternative to publishing
their research in for-profit journals, whose rising costs have become such a
burden to universities and libraries with shrinking budgets. UC faculty in all
disciplines can use the eScholarship Repository to provide free, open access
to peer-reviewed journals online.
Breaking the Bank:
The High Costs of Scholarly Publishing
Scholarly communication has become an international, multi-billion-dollar
business. Statistics and facts compiled by the CDL support the case that publishers
are ‘breaking the system’ with pricey pubs and practices that don’t properly
recognize contributions on the academic side of the equation.
From 1986–2000 the Consumer Price Index rose 57 percent, serial prices rose
227 percent, and book prices rose 65 percent. (Assoc. of Research Libraries).
From 1989–1999 the number of journal titles published increased 58 percent and library journal expenditures increased 170 percent, but the number of titles typically acquired declined 6 percent (source: Assoc. of Research Libraries).
The CDL expects the number of peer-reviewed papers and journals to grow substantially
in coming months, with the addition of scientific monographs and other content
from the University of California Press, as well as new journals sponsored by
departments at several UC campuses, including InterActions: UCLA Journal
of Education and Information Studies. Additionally, Comitatus, a 34-year-old
journal sponsored by the UCLA Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies, will
be migrating to the eScholarship Repository this spring.
As UC faculty and others have joined the movement speaking out against the
high cost of many scholarly journals, the eScholarship Repository has seen its
numbers grow to nearly 2,800 papers and over half a million paper downloads
(not Web hits) since its inception. The repository typically sees download rates
well in excess of 10,000 paper downloads per week (with a high of more than
14,000 downloads in one week). Although a few papers tend to be quite popular,
usage is spread fairly evenly across the repository, with about 75 percent seeing
at least one download in any given week. A UC institute director has noted that
“many papers are getting more readers from this source than we would expect
them to get in the best professional journals.”
Post-Prints. Faculty members at UC are virtually up in arms over the
runaway costs of commercial publishing. UC is trying to meet their frustration
and their enthusiasm for change with policy suggestions and real publishing
alternatives. A new service is being launched in response to the recent liberalization
of publishing policies regarding the posting of electronic “reprints.”
A section of the eScholarship Repository has been designated specifically for
deposit of previously published articles. These articles will be searchable
and browseable alone or in association with other eScholarship Repository papers,
and will be fully discoverable alongside their commercially published twins.
Several institutions are working on a prototype discovery service for post-prints
that could point readers to a publicly available article version if one is available.
Such a service requires thorough and accurate descriptive information (metadata)
to enable discovery of a post-print that is an exact replica of a commercially
available article as well as to differentiate pre-prints from post-prints.
Books. Books are central to the scholarly enterprise and form the
core of UC library collections. In keeping with our mission to support the research
and instructional activities of the university, eScholarship is also engaged
in a suite of digital book projects that build on the enormously productive
collaboration between CDL’s eScholarship program and the University of
California Press. The partnership was forged with the launch of eScholarship
Editions, an XML-based service for publishing books that currently includes
1,500 University of California Press monographs and 500 additional books in
One such effort is the Mark Twain Digital Project, a collaboration of CDL,
UC Press and the Mark Twain Project at the University of California-Berkeley,
that seeks to deliver all of Twain’s work online. The National Endowment
for the Humanities (NEH) is funding the costs for original digital publishing
of Twain’s works; CDL and UC Press are working to bring the previously
published print works online. The entire project is pushing forward standards
and best practices for publishing critical editions and archival manuscript
collections in the humanities and will result in a digital publishing infrastructure
of enormous consequence.
Digital books present a natural tie-in with our endeavors in shared print collections
and services—both new and emerging—for reading, teaching, and printing
book content. Efficient production and delivery of digital books is critical
to a long-term solution to the scholarly communication crisis because they lend
support to the university’s mandate for efficient system-wide management
of print collections.
Matching Infrastructure to Opportunity
The UC Press eScholarship Editions
have been greeted enthusiastically
by faculty, librarians, and the public, and CDL now has an opportunity to leverage
the investment made in developing a robust infrastructure by acquiring other digital
book collections and extending our technical and service capabilities. We are
exploring eCommerce models and the idea of licensed access to an expanded package
of offerings. Such a package might include monographs from other university presses
or groups within the university who currently publish their own monographs but
could gain both prestige and efficiency by joining our efforts.
But UC’s recent negotiations with Elsevier Publishing, which attracted
international attention, have animated UC faculty as never before. The faculty’s
corresponding interest in alternative publishing venues has alerted us to the
need to be flexible about where and how to deploy our services to best serve
those needs. We are experimenting with new applications of existing projects.
An example is UC Press Monographic series, which has just migrated to the eScholarship
Repository platform. This is a departure from the usual digital publishing path
for UC Press monographs, yet it seems a perfect use of the streamlined publishing
process of the open access platform.
UC’s digital publishing efforts are looking increasingly to the future
rather than the past, to publishing what needs to be published (including what
hasn’t heretofore been getting published) rather than re-formatting what
has already been published. And work is underway between CDL and UC Press to
develop an all-XML workflow, which will support growing dependence from outsourced
compositor/mark-up/conversion services and thus move us closer to sustainability.
Changing the Paradigm
Although CDL has never strayed from its original mission, we now have infrastructure
in place that allows us to focus on creating systemic change in the way authors
and readers work. We have technologies that allow broader, freer, more creative
uses of text and data and we can begin to fashion badly needed services for
the classroom, office, and lab.
Increasingly, we respond to the needs of research and teaching, i.e., the needs
of individual faculty for publication and dissemination, and the needs of the
composite university faculty for access to and preservation of the scholarly
record. And, increasingly, we glimpse the possibilities of a world in which
the institutions of higher learning regain control of the levers of scholarly
Ultimately, we hope for more alliances of digital libraries, university presses,
and scholarly societies—the keepers of the scholarly record within the
academy—so as to broaden the effort to serve and preserve the world’s
knowledge for all humanity. For now, we are thrilled to be part of the awakening.
The Academic Community Fights Back
Faculty, researchers, and librarians have long griped about the high cost of scholarly publishing and the resulting limitations imposed on scholarly communications. Now, they are doing something about it. Below are comments from academics about the recent eScholarship initiatives.
“A free society's support for research universities rests on the assumption
that the output of those universities will benefit the society. It follows
that the research results must be readily available. And yet, we are participating
in a scholarly publishing system that is dominated by commercial publishers
who return large profits to shareholders. The price increases and pricing
structures imposed by these publishers have the effect of narrowing the selection
of information sources in both rich and poor institutions. To change this
system will require broad, cumulative change. There is encouraging evidence
that this change is beginning.”
From 1989–1999 the number of journal titles published increased 58 percent
and library journal expenditures increased 170 percent, but the number of
titles typically acquired declined 6 percent (source: Assoc. of Research Libraries).
— Carol Fleishauer, associate director for Collection Services, MIT
“The eScholarship Repository opens new publishing opportunities—the
publication process is cheap, and we can get working papers out more quickly
than we would with hard copy.”
—Ben Crow, associate professor at UC Santa Cruz
“Participating in the respository has increased our visibility and
contributed to the exchange of research in the social sciences. I am especially
grateful for the archival benefits. Because the scholarly materials we contribute
will be maintained by the CDL for the long-term future, we can better support
our faculty affiliates.”
—David O. Sears, director of the Institute for Social Science Research
and a professor of psychology and political science at UCLA