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Economic costs of toll access



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Chapter 4 Economic costs of toll access Andrew Odlyzko Introduction Many of the early discussions of scholarly electronic publishing including precursors to what we now call Open Access originated among librarians and were stimulated by the serials crisis With prices of serials escalating far faster than inflation libraries were forced into subscription cancellations and drastic cutbacks in book acquisitions The hope was that something like Open Access would displace expensive publishers or at least pressure them to moderate price increases In practice though the revenues of the publishing industry have continued growing and there are many cases of continuing high profit margins Historical precedents suggest that this should not be surprising and can be expected to continue Information is becoming ever more important in the economy so total spending on it can be expected to grow The invention of printing lowered the costs of information dissemination and largely eliminated the job of scribes But it also led to growth in total spending on books In recent times library spending has kept growing although not as fast as journal prices and in most cases not as fast as university budgets But something else has been happening as well namely the rise of a large communication infrastructure Its costs are higher than those of libraries and it enables new types of scholarly communication as well as improved access to library resources It already provides essentially all the resources needed for Open Access The goal of this note is to sketch what the monetary costs of toll access are and how they compare to other costs in a typical university setting This note does not discuss the opportunity cost of toll access namely the benefits to society of making scholarly information available through Open Access That is covered by other chapters in this work see Terry and Kiley Harnad Harnad and Shadbolt Lynch Suffice to note that these include the benefits to society that would have



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