Elsevier publishes 250,000 articles a year in 2,000 journals. Its archives contain seven million publications. Total yearly downloads amount to 240 million.
The company is currently being boycotted by academics who object to its business model, which includes "paywalls" and (in their opinion) excessively high subscription charges.
Some very large journals (those with more than 5000 articles) charge subscription prices as high as $14,000.
The only way to win the war is through convincing the librarians and administrators who cut the checks for an institution's subscription. They're who drive prices.
This isn't as much a problem when you back subscription packages. The downside of purchasing this way is that when your subscription lapses, you lose all the access you had (since you don't 'own' it). Were you to go the a la carte method, you 'own' them but have to pay a $100+ 'hosting fee', per journal on a yearly basis.
The ridiculous prices to subscribe to a la carte journals is one of the primary problems, and the biggest gun that he publishers have to our head.
This is all at the expense of libraries and universities, and by proxy, your tax dollars and tuition. The industry is in need of massive disruption, has been for a decade now, but wrestling their IP seems an impossible feat.
It's a few steps removed from organized crime.
Also, there are certain canonical texts that are used almost universally across all universities during a certain time frame (say, the CLR algorithms book, or the Cover and Thomas information theory book).
Somebody needs to come along and start by making the little, obvious things right. Their next goal is to avoid acquisition long enough to make a difference. Every so often a promising business comes along, only to be bought out by the big guys and slowly dismantled (see SerialsSolutions).
Also, science and math journals are only an aspect of journal publishing, albeit the most pricey of subjects of which to build a collection. These subjects have always been the first to lean towards open access but they stand in distinction from the rest of a library's collection.
They are no lightweight in the biomedical research journal landscape.
One of the interesting things about scientific publishing is that the current arrangement is a recent phenomenon. Many journals started out as independent or university-affiliated publications which charged to cover costs; then were gradually spun off or bought out by for-profit institutions through the 60s and 70s. The accretion of publishers into a small number of companies, each with a virtual monopoly on critical journals in the field, resulted in the insane balance of power we currently experience. Inelastic demand for information (it's extremely difficult to do research without access to the major journals in your field) means Elsevier et al can jack up prices almost arbitrarily.
Besides, it's not just PLoS , there's Frontiers (frontiersin.org) and many other open access publishers. In fact many paywall-journals allow authors to make their papers open access by paying an additional fee.
But things have to start somewhere. Maybe it's only with Elsevier and maybe it with Maths faculty and only with the journals they publish in. But the whole system is so despicable in light of today's technology and publishing costs that once it's brought to light how much better things could be, I think change will come fairly quick.
Didn't at least one library try threatening a publisher that the univerity's faculty would no longer publish in that publisher's journals if fees were not made reasonable?
Is that a viable strategy?
Something needs to be done about scientific publishing and the excessively high tolls on knowledge. The publishing industry may claim that it performs some vital role, but I find it extremely unlikely that this is the optimal way of reviewing and disseminating knowledge.
I think we are morally obliged to do a lot better.
To me the paywalls around scientific publishing is a lot more than a question of principles -- it may end up impacting my life. Five months ago I was diagnosed with kidney failure. If left untreated, this will kill me. What I do the next months may have a big impact on my quality of life.
When your doctor tells you that you have a condition that will kill you, I would assume that most of you would try to educate yourselves on the topic. This includes reading recent papers.
Well, good luck with that. For absolutely every aspect that I have looked into I keep bumping my head into paywalls. Some articles are only available if I pay a lot of money -- and I have no way of knowing up front if the article will be worth it. Kidney disease is a narrow enough subject for publications to be very expensive.
I am continually asked what the hell I need access to these articles for since I am not a doctor. Imagine that: people acquiring knowledge because they need it and not because the publishing industry needs the money...
I think it is time academia started taking knowledge seriously.
I also tried the old trick of searching for "unlikely phrases" in the abstract to look for accidental publication online, but didn't find anything.
> Aufgrund unzumutbarer Kosten und Bezugsbedingungen hat das Direktorium des Zentrums Mathematik beschlossen, alle abonnierten Elsevier-Zeitschriften ab 2013 abzubestellen.
> Because of unsustainable subscription prices and conditions, the board of directors of the mathematics department has voted to cancel all of its subscriptions to Elsevier journals by 2013.
> @http://news.ycombinator.com/ visitors:
You just DDOS-ed our web server ;-)
Creating a static site at first was just a much faster and safer solution, especially as the original site did not contain anything apart from the two lines of text.
Yesterday I submitted a link (an StackOverflow question: http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=3943556) that got 107 up-votes on HN, but the number of unique visitors went from below 5000 to 25000 (in other words, 20000 unique (based on IP) visitors clicked on my link).
if that's true then top story at the beginning of the US day could generate a lot of requests, and if the university has a plain cms that is updated once a week by the departmental secretary then it's pretty unlikely they have seen much traffic, ever.
To be honest I would be interested if pg could publish what kind of click through rate the various links generate - could even be a counter next to the story.
22,638 visits on Apr 17, 10,247 on Apr 18 (according to Google Analytics).
This one http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=3894302 got 17,740 and 6,864 on Apr 26 and 27, respectively, from being close to the top.
Our numbers are 5k, 10k and again around 10k, so this would confirm what you're saying :)
More often than not, the content that gets published is created by the same institutions that are forced to pay for Elsevier's services. Elsevier acts as the middleman. Institutions pay academics to produce journal articles. After production and peer-review, ownership of the scholarly work is transferred over to a publisher. The institution must then pay to reacquire the same content they helped produce. In the past this made sense as distribution involved printing and mailing thousands of pages worth of journal articles. Nowadays everything is digital, which negates the publisher's purpose.
There is a burgeoning movement toward open access journals. More info on the subject available here – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Serials_crisis
The problem is a social one -- academics want to post their work to well respected journals, because the respect is the currency that their future career advancement runs on.
A market is ripe for disruption when every stakeholder except the entrenched competition wants the product to be different AND that difference is readily available through low-cost solutions.
Typically the new, low-cost solutions that haven't already been tried, are only recently available through new technology.
Given the maturity of the market and the social nature of the business, (even considering how squeaky clean arXiv's brand is versus Paypal's) I think the same people who aren't very excited about putting arXiv papers on their CV are those who would never dream of taking their money out of a big, traditional bank.
Even though all of their money is digital, etc.
(I'm one of the server admins ... and have been in fear of a real DDOS attack during the last couple of minutes. ;) )
I think the hardware platform is not really interesting, as the DDOS was
only caused by the worker pool of Apache2 being too small. Each hit of
the site creates about 30 additional request for css,js,png and gif
files. So 9000 hits in 3h mean something like 270.000 requests in 3h.
Apparently this was too much for 50 workers.
When the link was hitting the HN front page your site was already blocked - when the first person mentioned that the site was not reachable this HN post had about 60 points - anyway guess its the req/sec that killed you (and no cache - guess you don't have that much static content).
Have you seen many facebook referrers from people who repost HN front page stories to Facebook?
I'm pretty sure that the amount of req/sec caused the problems. After a configuration change between 150 and 200 apache2 workers were constantly occupied and neither network ,cpu or ram were even closely used to their capacity. (Before the change we had a hard limit of 50 workers.)
Apps like Scholastica (http://scholasticahq.com/) allow anyone to start their own peer reviewed journal and manage its content. Very soon, they'll even be able to publish open access (http://blog.scholasticahq.com/post/21917547765/open-access-p...). Full disclosure: I'm working on this application.
I suspect the publishers are fighting a bit harder against competing archives. For example, because they are sometimes involved in organising conferences, they can entrench themselves by offering an archive to the participants (giving a small sponsorship in exchange for the understanding the organisers won't offer the same archive), locking out the rest.
The elite universities can "make this" themselves -- they did something like this in philosophy (led out of Michigan) when I was in grad school:
The reality is these days that most/all papers are shared online in these PDF exchanges long before 'real' publication. And as a result the journal articles hardly matter as much.
I would guess this is most true for stuff with less lab work and more "pencil" work like math or logic or philosophy.
The page copy is just two sentences, one in German, one in English - essentially:
"due to unsustainable pricing, the math department has canceled Elsevier subs"
"...Because of unsustainable subscription prices and conditions, the board of directors of the mathematics department has voted to cancel all of its subscriptions to Elsevier journals by 2013..."
You just DDOS-ed our web server ;-)
The first time I've actually felt proud of my alma mater :)
"Because of unsustainable subscription prices and conditions, the board of directors of the mathematics department has voted to cancel all of its subscriptions to Elsevier journals by 2013."
It has to start somewhere.
Low cost, online education, which is a popular topic here on HN, is a neat idea. But to really make it worthwhile, the student needs full access to all academic journals.
For that to happen, the paywalls have to come down.
The endgame is ensuring that everyone has access to scientific research. Whether or not the publishers continue to be in business is not relevant, as long as we are able to wrest away the literature which they are holding hostage.
The digital library wouldn't vanish even if Elsevier filed for bankruptcy. But even imagining some James Bond villain destroying all copies, the journals would be digitised again from library copies, possibly something like the Google Books initiative. The libraries wouldn't fall twice for a partnership with a cartel creating newly exclusive rights.
the right to post a pre-print version of the journal article on Internet websites including electronic pre-print servers, and to retain indefinitely such version on such servers or sites for scholarly purposes (with some exceptions such as The Lancet and Cell Press. See also our information on electronic preprints for a more detailed discussion on these points)*
Unfortunately, that excludes some of their best publications.
Like it or not, America spends a huge amount on research as published in journals, and if a country has no subscriptions to it at all they're simply cut off from that. I don't have a horse in this race: I would be very happy if academic publishing were completely different. However, realistically, these things should be 'somewhere' in a country the size (and wealth) of Germany, available for consumption by its interested scholars.