At the Guardian, George Monbiot says that academic publishers are "the most ruthless capitalists in the western world." He notes that journal subscriptions can cost $10,000 a year, and that libraries struggle to pay fees for articles reporting research that has been largely funded by the public. "What we see here is pure rentier capitalism: monopolizing a public resource then charging exorbitant fees to use it," Monbiot writes. While there are open-access publishers, Monbiot says they have "failed to displace the monopolists," and adds that most government agencies do not confront academic publishers. Matthew Ingram at GigaOm says publishers have been able to keep their hold on the market because academic institutions reinforce the current model by encouraging their researchers to publish in the journals they subscribe to, thus justifying their subscriptions as well as the controlled access to them. "Until either one or both of those factors change, academic publishing will continue to be the market that digital disruption forgot," he says.
In a separate post, Derek Lowe at In the Pipeline asks why there isn't a system like ArXiv, the physics pre-print server, for chemistry. "Our field is still very much dominated by the societies (ACS, RSC, et cetera) and the commercial publishers like Elsevier, Nature, Wiley, et cetera," he says. "When's the last time — when's the first time — you heard of a significant organic chemistry paper appearing anywhere else?" Razib Khan at Gene Expression picks up that thread. Citing Michael Eisen, Khan says one possible reason there isn't an ArXiv for the biological sciences is that intellectual property is more of a concern in that field than it is in physics. "There are obstacles, but let's not pretend as if we don't have a model for some success," he adds.
HT: Jonathan Eisen