Concerns about selling electronic reprints

Memo from Electronic Publication Implementation Committee (EPIC), Entomological Society of America (ESA), to the ESA Governing Board.


12 June 1997

To: ESA Governing Board (Doug Dahlman, President)

From: EPIC (John Lloyd, Chair)

EPIC recently learned that the Governing Board had concerns relative to ESA offering its authors concurrent electronic reprints. This memo lists these concerns, as specified by Doug Dahlman, and gives EPIC’s view of them.

Attached to this memo is a paper describing electronic reprints and discussing the pros and cons of ESA selling them. An earlier version of this paper was instrumental in the Publications Council, and later EPIC, unanimously endorsing their sale. The original paper, available to the Governing Board at its 11 Dec 1996 meeting, is on the Web at

Concern No. 1. ESA will lose revenue from sale of paper reprints.

True, but it will be more than replaced by revenue from e-reprints.

As detailed in the attached paper, the sale of electronic reprints should be much more profitable than the sale of paper reprints. Crude estimates of the per-page profits from paper and electronic reprints are $9 and $17 respectively. Should authors who purchase e-reprints purchase paper reprints as well, ESA will make an estimated profit of $26 per page.

Concern No. 2. ESA will lose control of the distribution and copying of e-reprinted articles.

True, but ESA will profit from it.

The only financial effect of this loss is the loss of copyright royalties. As detailed in the attached paper, that loss is less than 50¢ per page and was included in the calculations of e-reprints profits.

Concern No. 3. The technologically disadvantaged will be unable to access e-reprints.

True, but e-reprints will improve their access to ESA articles.

The disadvantaged will still have the options they now have: namely, they can photocopy from an issue owned by a library or a colleague or they can write the author for a reprint (who can send a traditional reprint or one printed from the Web). In addition, the disadvantaged can prevail upon any Web-connected friend or colleague to print a copy of the article for them.

Concern No. 4. ESA will lose revenue from library subscriptions should all or most authors purchase e-reprints.

Probably true, and the Governing Board needs to plan for this possibility.

Libraries will cancel their subscriptions only if nearly 100% of authors pay for e-reprints and librarians decide that their clients no longer need traditionally printed issues and volumes. (When printed, e-reprints are like good photocopies, and making them into issues or volumes is a poor substitute for a subscription.) The remedies for that eventuality include rationing the sale of e-reprints, delaying their posting, and increasing their price. Increasing the price is probably simplest and most easily explained to authors who want their work available electronically.

In view of the above, EPIC recommends that in ESA’s announcements and descriptions of e-reprints, statements to this effect be included: “Should e-reprints become exceedingly popular, library subscriptions, an important component of ESA revenue, may be threatened. If this happens, the terms of e-reprint sales will be re-evaluated.”

The short term effects of e-reprints are very positive, both financially and as a new, valuable service to ESA members and to their colleagues worldwide. The threat of reduced subscription income in the long run is real, but there are remedies. EPIC believes an important consideration is that ESA, which has income from dues and page charges, is in far better position to offer authors what they want (free access by all to their research results) than are commercial publishers, who rely almost entirely on library subscriptions and the sale of paper reprints for their income. Offering authors what they want should give ESA a boost in finding new members, in retaining old ones, and in competing for its members’ best articles.