Is ALPSP Missing an Opportunity?

Learned Publishing will go OA — perhaps as a way for ALPSP to get more subscriptions . . .

OA publishing has lost a lot of its lustre over the past few years. This seemed inevitable, as the incentives to earn APCs via the Gold OA model create a massive conflict of interest (COI) that inverts everything — from quality to quantity, from reader-service to author-service, from community to commodity, from practitioner to researcher, and from truth-seeking to paper-seeking.

Gold OA, at its heart, replaces the journal:community model with a paper:payment model.

Into this unhealthy environment, Learned Publishing has entered, announcing it will be adopting the Gold OA model in 2025.

ALPSP may also be missing an opportunity with this approach . . .

In the press release, ALPSP pledges to cover the APC for any author who is an ALPSP member:

Learned Publishing has been hybrid OA for some years, with limited success — a sampling of recent issues showed about 25-45% of articles were published OA. In that model, Learned Publishing has had a relatively steep APC, and only a 25% discount for ALPSP member authors:

The APC when Learned Publishing goes fully OA is planned to be £1,730 for non-members, or 20% lower than the current hybrid APC.

It’s difficult to know what kind of revenues this might generate, because the approach creates a complicated model.

Given that ALPSP membership is a way to avoid paying an APC, ALPSP is explicitly tying membership and APCs — that is, a recurring revenue model with a one-time transactional model. As we know, recurring revenues are 10x more valuable generally than one-time transactions, so in a rational world, ALPSP would really want to have publication events result in new memberships.

If ALPSP were to include a free membership to authors making a non-member APC payment, they could effectively take a fixed one-time transaction and transmogrifying it into a recurring subscription via membership. I would wager that more than half would renew membership beyond the first year.

  • Best of all, that’s where ALPSP could make more money, not having to share its membership dollars with its publisher, Wiley.

It’s not unreasonable to assume the APC in 2025 represents something close to the mean membership/subscription charge:

The move to Gold OA may impact other aspects not addressed in any public messaging so far. For instance, a subscription to Learned Publishing has been a member benefit for SSP for many years, but with the journal going full OA, that seems destined to change.

Overall, Learned Publishing has been a journal of mixed quality and interest over the years, and is not that widely read — I mean, there’s only so much we do that’s rigorously studied, novel, or widely relevant. But ALPSP could make a smart membership/subscription combo model, which could work in ALPSP’s favor — taking one-time transactions and turning these into recurring revenues. It’s something many OA publishers have tried, but ALPSP seems to have a better chance of success doing this than most, due to the small, focused community it draws from.

Short of that, we’ll have to see if article volume increases, how much content starts coming from the lands OA seems built to exploit, whether Learned Publishing becomes more of a mixed bag than ever, and whether ALPSP boasts more members over time.

Note: The post earlier this week sharing emails obtained via a FOIA request sparked a rumor that David Lipman had helped Heather Joseph’s son get a job, something I never said, but which the emails could be read as indicating.

After hearing this interpretation, I did some sleuthing. The email thanking Lipman for getting someone their first job out of college was from 2014. Since Joseph’s eldest son was still in high school at the time, this clearly isn’t who Lipman helped.

That said, it does appear he quite possibly hired someone as a favor to Joseph.