Reality’s Recurring Power

Market forces and societal expectations are undercutting OA, bringing back an acceptance of subscriptions

Reality’s Recurring Power

A gradual acceptance of the persistent value of the subscription model appears to be expanding — sub rosa in some cases, grudgingly in others, and inevitably for a forced march toward OA, with its money and willpower drying up in the face of strong headwinds.

The benefits of subscriptions have been apparent all along to those of us who aren’t OA pushovers, or sycophants to funders and governmental bureaucrats. Just as other attempts to reinvent the wheel are often brought to a halt by hard reality, it looks like OA is starting to lose momentum as it picks up the ballast of costs, expectations, and scrutiny.

Here are a few of the benefits subscriptions naturally generate:

  • Benefits to readers — focused, relevant content that aligns interests and inspires confidence, along with the necessity for the publisher to provide value for money
  • Benefits to authors — fair evaluation untainted by the prospect of fees being paid by authors to publishers
  • Benefits to editors — encouragement to be selective, no need to kowtow to authors or sacrifice standards
  • Benefits to scholarly and scientific societies — allows these entities to compete on quality and relevance, where they excel, rather than on volume and velocity, where they struggle
  • Benefits to publishers — more valuable and reliable recurring revenues and an addressable, stable purchasing landscape
  • Benefits to the public sphere — greater confidence in a scientific record geared to utility and trust, not production and churn

This all comes to mind owing to a number of factors I’ve outlined elsewhere recently, and from a recent post by Arthur J. Boston, a librarian who has been promoting the “Read and Let Read” model, as he calls it, in which paywalls are accepted as a normal and even beneficial part of a thriving and healthy journals marketplace: