Should ESA retrospectively e-publish all journal articles?

Position Paper on Agenda item 4i:
ESA Publications Council meeting (Tuesday, 16 Dec 1997, Nashville)

by T. J. Walker (8 Dec 1997 draft)


As soon as the sale of concurrent electronic reprints generates sufficient extra reprint income, ESA should begin making the articles in its journals freely accessible on the Web two years after they are traditionally published.

How much will putting back issues on WWW cost?

The only costs are making the PDF files (ca. $1 per page) and linking them to the tables of content (ca. 10 cents per page). Posting them permanently can be had for free. Thus the cost of posting back issues will be ca. $1.10 per page.

What extra profits should e-reprints generate?

Profits from e-reprints should exceed profits from traditional reprints by about $8.50 per page. If ESA sells e-reprints of 20% of its articles, the extra profits will be at least $1.70 per page published.

[0.2 × $8.50 = $1.70] [“At least,” because whenever authors buy both types of reprints, the per page profit of paper reprints (ca. $9.16) need not be deducted from the per page profit of e-reprints (ca. $17.63) when calculating the extra profits generated by e-reprints. Data and calculations of profit estimates are at eprints.htm]

Why should ESA adopt this proposal?

ESA would be providing a significant new service to its authors and members as it leads the way toward free Web access to primary scientific literature.

ESA would be spending less than 20% of the extra profits that e-reprints are likely to generate. (Virtually all authors will want to buy e-reprints once they realize their advantages. The fact that articles will be posted on the Web without charge in as little as two years will not satisfy authors’ needs for reprints in the interim. And some authors will buy paper reprints as well.)

In short, ESA can provide a major new benefit to its authors and to entomologists everywhere, while reaping higher profits from its publications.

Three possible objections

(1) A delay of only 2 years in posting issues will not protect ESA’s subscription income.

In the unlikely event that librarians decide that their patrons need no access to ESA-published articles for the first 2 years after publication, the delay can be increased.

(2) ESA’s royalty income will be endangered.

ESA’s profits from royalties are minor and most are probably realized within two years of publication. (See position paper on “Clarification of policy on authors posting retrospective e-reprints”.)

(3) The cost of archiving the files should have been included.

Archiving is not necessary, because most research libraries will continue to preserve the paper issues, from which digital files can be made. (Go to