There’s a great article by Joseph Esposito in the current issue of the Journal of Electronic Publishing, “Open Access 2.0: Access to Scholarly Publications Moves to a New Phase” (found via the always informative Scholarly Kitchen blog). This article is required reading for anyone interested in the future of science publication, as it takes a hard look at the economic models available. Esposito argues that the problem with many of the current open access offerings is that they’re trying to replicate what’s already offered by established journals, rather than playing to the real strengths of open access, and that there’s certainly room in the market for many different types of offerings.

—article continues—

A few points that particularly resonate:

1) Attention is the scarce commodity we’re all struggling with now:

“A service that winnows through the huge outpouring of information and says (with authority), Pay attention to this; pay less attention to that; and as for that other thing, ignore it entirely—such a service is well worth paying for. The name of that service is publishing.”

2) In choosing your business model, you must know who your customer really is:

“…publishing is a service for readers, open access a service for authors. They both work best when the beneficiaries of the services pay for the benefits they receive…There is a paradox here: for open-access activity to be economically sustainable, the customer to be satisfied is the author, not the readers who receive the content at no cost to themselves.”

3) Libraries that serve as repositories for papers may be facing an economic crisis:

“Many of the current open-access services have not yet figured out their economics. Academic libraries, for example, in providing open-access repository services for faculty, often fail to charge either the individual researcher or the researcher’s department for the service, unlike the print shop in our example above. Instead, the service is provided free of charge by the library, though obviously the cost becomes part of the library’s (growing) overhead. Such services fall into the trap of thinking they can operate without capital.”

4) He suggest the future of the PLOS journals lies in limiting their editorial overhead:

“It is interesting to speculate whether PLoS will eventually take the next step: stop reviewing papers prior to publication, but provide robust software tools to encourage comments on already published documents—post-publication peer review. “

Interesting stuff, I’m sure many will disagree with his conclusions, but it’s nice to see someone talking hard numbers and economics, rather than focusing solely on the idealism that drives much of the open access movement.