AAA Executive Director, Bill Davis released a press release in which he made public how the AAA finances its publication costs:
The cost of publishing and distributing AAA’s 22 peer-reviewed print and online journals is anticipated to be over $2.1 million in 2007. … Unlike some association publishers who subsidize other organization activities from journal publishing profits, within AAA the subsidy flows in the opposite direction. AAA and section member dues will subsidize our publishing program to the tune of more than $900,000 in 2007.
After rejecting an “author-pays” model Davis suggests some alternatives proposals:
substitute member dues for library subscription income … is would require an average increase in individual member dues of 71 percent, an average rise from $133 to $227. Alternatively, if dues were to remain the same, AAA would have to make up the loss of subscription income by cutting back or eliminating section support, anthropology department support, media outreach, advocacy for federal funding for anthropology, committee support and/or other benefits and services to members and the discipline.
Scary! Either we bankrupt members, or we eliminate member benefits. (The AAA does media outreach?) This reminds me of how the Republicans frame the Social Security debate by making it seem like an undesirable policy is necessary because the alternative would be an economic catastrophe. The heart of this argument is the claim that making our content available for free would result in a loss of revenue which would have to be made up for by members. But as Peter Suber makes clear, the study upon which Davis bases these claims is highly flawed. (Suber also highlights several other inaccuracies and misconceptions in the Davis article.) And as Rex has argued, the idea that a reader-pays model will solve these financial problems is largely a myth.
Tomorrow I will be putting forward a proposal at my college’s faculty meeting that we purchase an AnthroSource subscription for our university. For a university AnthroSource is a great deal, costing less than one tenth the price of some other leading social sciences databases. There is a lot to admire in what the AAA has done with AnthroSource, but it is time for them to stop opposing FRPAA, to stop spreading FUD about Open Access, and to start thinking seriously about alternatives to a business model based on restricting access to our work.
(Thanks to Antropologi.info for the links!)