Over the break I’ve been reading John Willinsky’s “The Access Principle: The Case for Open Access to Reserach and Scholarship”:http://mitpress.mit.edu/catalog/item/default.asp?ttype=2&tid=10611. It’s a good book and I recomend it to anyone with an interest in Open Access issues but who can’t digest the massive stream of information that is Peter Suber’s “Open Access News blog”:http://www.earlham.edu/~peters/fos/fosblog.html. In the case of the AAA, I think the argument for open access is more or less won — given anthropology’s populist sensibilities and obsession with ‘relevance’ it’s not surprising that there is strong support (at least in my experience) for the AAA to make its journals open to the public. The biggest problem that open access advocates have is the business model — how will we pay the production costs of these journals?
I was surprised, then, to see that in Appendix B of his book Willinsky inclued the annual publication budgets of a dozen or so scholarly associations — including the AAA. I have to admit that I had never thought of looking up any of these figures, or even wonder where they might be found. Willinsky’s data is based on the AAA’s tax forms for 2000. According to him the AAA made US$4,680,764 that year, US$637,950 of which came from publication revenue as well as US$6,679 in royalties. However, it cost US$790,113 to produce AAA journals. In other words, the AAA lost US$145,504 producing its journals in 2000.
Curious, I poked poking around some and downloaded the AAA’s 2004 annual report — you can “download the PDF”:http://aaanet.org/reports/04ar/AAA04.pdf from their website (yeah transparency!). Check out pages 18 and 19 — that’s where the numbers are. I have to admit that while I regularly kvetched about membership fees, I had never actually wondered where they went or what they were used for. According to the report, two of the eight sources of revenue account for 54% of all revenue — publications worth US$1,301,954 (28%) and membership fees US$1,148,087 (26%). However, publications accounted for 42% of expenses (US$1,859,346) — in other words, in 2004 the AAA lost US$557,392 on journals (please correct me if I’m using these figures wrong).
Based on an almost total ignorance of AAA administration and armed only with two pie charts, it looks to me like “membership” and “sections” are subsidizing journals — only 8% of income is spent on “membership” while this category accounts for 26% for revenue (the figures for “sections” are 3% and 13%).
What does this all mean? I have absolutely no idea. I was just struck that I had never looked at or thought about these figures before — and this despite the fact that I have heard many, many rants from people on everything ranging from the incredible inefficiency and corruption of the AAA to endless griping about how the rank and file doesn’t understand that yes, it actually costs something to run the AAA. Seeing these figures at least provides some ballpark understanding of where the AAA is, and what kind of latitude it has to go to other places as it pursues different approaches to publication.