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Subscription modelについて <SK>

Liblicense MLで盛り上がっているsubscriptionについての議論、長過ぎて全部は追っていない。11月15日のScholarly KitchenでJoseph Espositoが取り上げているので読んでおく。
The Stubborn Persistence of the Subscription Model « The Scholarly Kitchen

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It’s not a bad idea to know what we are talking about when we refer to the presumably doomed subscription model. From a business point of view, subscriptions are contrasted with single-unit sales. A subscription involves an ongoing payment for an ongoing service. Accounting rules capture this distinction nicely. So, for example, if a publisher sells a book for $20, the figure of $20 is recognized as revenue in the publisher’s ledger. But if a publisher sells a one-year subscription to a journal for $480, then the publisher only recognizes one-twelfth ($40) of that income each month.

One of the main responsibilities for Production editor in a publisher is to publish journal issues on time so that the income happens in timely manner. It also reduce complaints from our customers, libraries.

Now, accounting is a black art, but the business folks reading this, whether they work for for-profits or not-for-profits, whether for publishers, libraries, or anything else, know that cashflow and income are not the same thing. When you sell things as single units (e.g., a book), your cashflow trails behind your recognized income because you are typically not paid until after you ship the book. (This changes a bit with e-books.) But when you are paid up front for a journal, you have the use of the cash for months ahead of time. This is why journals publishing is such a good business: it throws off great amounts of cash, and it does so early.

It's true. I guess that's one reason why investors like STM publishers. Their business model is nice in view of finance.

I go into these arcana of accounting to make the point that the subscription model is a business model, and as such, it concerns itself with dollars and how they are made. No journals publisher currently enjoying the economic benefits of the subscription model will willingly switch to a single-unit model or selling on demand. Subscription marketers will only engage in single-unit sales (e.g., PPV) when they are forecast to yield incremental revenue — that is, revenue on top of the already existing subscriptions. Typically this means that an established merchant of subscriptions will adopt a single-unit program only when it is designed to reach a new market segment — for example, libraries that are not subscribers or a scientist working in the research lab of a corporation.

It's a reasonable guess.

The Internet does not commoditize content. The Internet commoditizes bad content. This is not an age of content abundance. High-quality content, by definition, is always scarce.

I agree with this statement so that I'm working in a publisher. At the same time, as an individual, I'm tired to look for a nice content in the Internet ocean. Not all publishers will survive, but demand for a publisher and an editor will continue.

When you move to single-unit sales, on the other hand, the cost of marketing goes way up. This is because all the marketing expenditures must be placed against the sale of a single unit — a very expensive proposition. In fact, the current pricing of PPV, high as it might seem, is actually being subsidized by the income from subscriptions. It is for this reason that the single-unit book business is a bad business and the subscription journals business is a good business. This also explains why so many more academic publishers are now attempting to sell libraries aggregations of ebooks: they are trying to switch from the crummy economics of single-unit sales to the rich economics of subscriptions.

Big Deal for ebooks might come. I'm not sure if it's good or bad. However because libraries started to cut purchases for single books, it's unavoidable for publishers to start selling books as a package like journals. Joseph's metaphor, a cable TV in the US, is well-explained. Nobody loves the system, however it somehow survive and flourish...

subscription制を否定するならば・・・という話で、Josephはさらにジャーナルのシングル(個別論文)売り化、さらにpatron-driven acquisitions との混合形態へと論を進めていく。


いっぽうsubscription制に対する反発として発展したものとして、オープンアクセスジャーナルもある。でもOA出版社であるBMCやPLoSもsubscription制を取り入れ始めている。またOA料金を支払う著者側に対して「メンバー」になることでOA料金を実質値下げするという別方向での"subscription"商売も見られるようになってきている。

The question is not whether libraries should be trying to reduce their materials costs; of course they should; the question is what is the overarching strategy and what is the desired outcome. The problem is not with the subscription model — which does in fact reduce costs, just as publishers say; the problem is with its abuse — which does in fact increase costs, whatever publishers say.

図書館員と出版社は敵対するものではない。出版社がコンテンツを作成して、コンテンツを購入して利用者に届ける図書館がいて・・・と双方は協力関係にある。問題はsubscription制が濫用されること・・・どんな制度も濫用される危険性をはらんでいる。そのバランスを取るのがネゴシエーションであり、協同である。(という綺麗なまとめ)

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実際のところsubscription制は良く出来たシステムだと思う。エディターはテーマ事にジャーナルを編集して、出版社はそれを定期的に刊行して、図書館は定期的に受け取る。研究者はTOCアラート等で最新コンテンツ情報を仕入れつつ、必要なときに各ソースにアクセスしてコンテンツを読む。


単行本のように独立コンテンツだとエディター・出版社もその都度その都度テーマの選定、ページ数の選定等々を行う必要がある(それが楽しい側面・必要な側面ももちろんあるが、ここでは触れない。)し、図書館はどのタイトルを仕入れるか個別に判断しなければならず手間や見逃しが増える。研究者は欲しいものが必要なときになかったら困る。どうしても必要ならリクエストしたりILL利用したりするけど、1冊ずつリクエストする手間がかかる(それでも必要な人はやるけど。文系の研究者のほうがILLを利用することが多いというのは、資料の性格(唯一性)を考えると自然なことかな)。


トータルコスト的に考えるとなかなか優れた制度なわけで、問題はそれをどう運用していくかである。とはいえ、制度を良いものにしようとあれこれ議論が起こるのは欧米の良いところだな。