I find this statement rather presumptuous. I take it as axiomatic that any problem which Tim Gowers and Terry Tao are in the process of trying to solve, and have not yet solved, is not trivial.
Agreement with Gowers' position is widespread but not universal. For example, of the last nine Fields medalists, four are signatories to the boycott. If the other five are still publishing in Elsevier journals, then libraries are still going to subscribe to them.
I am personally a signatory and a strong supporter of the boycott, and I know many others who are the same. However, I know others who disagree. They argue that having our work published by commercial publishers such as Elsevier lends dignity to the process, and that having to spend a lot of money makes us look important in the eyes of university administration.
A further, very substantial obstacle is that junior scholars have to publish in the best journals they can to enhance their reputation, and thanks to buyouts of Academic Press and others, Elsevier now owns many of the titles that publish good-but-not-great papers.
"Our discipline" does not make decisions. That is up to individual researchers, and for the time being, many of them continue to choose to publish excellent papers in Elsevier journals.
I think JMLR is something of a special case in academic publishing. While there are a few subject fields that would be already have almost exactly the right skill set to set up their own electronic publishing infrastructure, I think that expecting the same level of technical expertise from, say, biochemists is a bit unrealistic. That said, it is getting easier, and once enough people are on board, I suspect we'll see lots more like this in the next decade or so.
Electronic Journal of Combinatorics: http://www.combinatorics.org/
Theory and Application of Categories: http://www.tac.mta.ca/tac/
As has been noted elsewhere, establishing open access journals presents no technical difficulty, especially with systems such as the Public Knowledge Project's Open Journal Systems journal management and publishing system, which has been around for at least 7 years. http://pkp.sfu.ca/?q=ojs
The high price of 60 years of scientific content is at issue. Of course, the establishment of open access journal should be encouraged.
wow. Given that Stellenbosch is substantially smaller and in a 3rd world country one would expect that they'd pay less.
I'm sure it's more of a case of Elsevier charging whatever it could to each university.
That says absolutely nothing. You'd need to look at it on a GDP per person basis. There all those countries you listed are far ahead of South Africa, in some cases by a factor of 10x.
The academic publishing industry seems a bit like the film and recording industries. They do not want to face the fact that distribution and production are becoming less expensive.
And they are going to fight to the end.
But their high fee structures will eventually be unsustainable.
UCal tried to take at least one of these publishers on some years ago, forcing them to renegotiate licensing terms. What ever became of that?