How BioOne might further open access
(Modified from an email sent to Heather Joseph, 18 Apr 2003)

BioOne is in a great position to help its publishers move toward open access in a fiscally responsible (even profitable) way. BioOne could do this by providing a new service.

This service would be fully paid for by its users and would help publishers allow those authors who wanted immediate open access for their articles to pay a fee for it--as is already the case for authors who publish in the four journals of the Entomological Society of America [ESA].

The service would make publisher-designated, current articles freely accessible at the time of initial submission to BioOne. BioOne already does this for Florida Entomologist articles, with the difference being that for Florida Entomologist all articles in each new issue are freely accessible rather than only a portion.

BioOne would establish a per-article fee for this service based on the costs of providing the service. Those publishers that chose to make use of the service would offer open access to their authors on a per-article basis at whatever price they chose to set. The open access that authors would buy should include, as it does for authors who buy ESA’s open access, the explicit right to download the PDF files of their open-access articles and post them on their own or other servers, send them as attachments to e-mail, and to use them to print unlimited paper reprints.

A crucial aspect of this new service would be that so long as a portion of the articles in an issue were not open access on BioOne, all pages in the issue would count toward the BioOne royalties that publishers receive. In other words, the open-access pages would not be deducted from the total. BioOne could justify this policy to its subscribers by explaining that only subscribers have access to 100% of the articles in a title. It could justify it to its publishers by stating that BioOne wanted to make it attractive for them to sell immediate open access to authors who wanted it.

BioOne publishers who chose to offer their authors the opportunity to buy open access would need to set a price. One way to do this is to peg the price to the price of paper reprints, which many authors are used to buying. When told that one of the features of open access is that the author (and others) can produce paper “reprints” ad libitum from the PDF file, some authors will immediately recognize that buying open access to their articles will provide more benefits than buying 100 paper reprints. The experience of ESA, the only publisher thus far to sell open access on a per article basis, is instructive relative to price and acceptance:

Since January 2000, ESA has sold open access to its authors for 75% of the cost of 100 paper reprints. The first year, 25% of authors elected to buy open access; the next year it jumped to 51%, but in 2002 the figure rose only slightly (to 55%). ESA’s approximate annual profits from these sales were $16,900, $28,900, and $30,500. Because the production costs of open access are substantially less than the production costs of paper reprints, ESA profits more from selling open access for an article than from selling paper reprints for it.

Obviously, unless current policy is changed, if a publisher submitted an issue in which all articles were open access, the pages for that issue would be permanently excluded from the pages on which BioOne pays royalties. However, ESA's experience with selling open access by the article would indicate that publishers would not be quickly confronted with 100% penetration of open access.

If BioOne were to initiate this new service, it would have to design an easily interpreted icon to distinguish open-access articles from other articles in the table of contents of an issue. For example, the icon could a red OA monogram or a blue button with OA on it.

Because ESA journals are already on BioOne it would be easy to establish a demo with one or more of the four titles to illustrate to other publishers what BioOne has in mind and what ESA has already put into effect on its own web site.

Thomas J. Walker
Web Master, Florida Entomologist