We all pay a lot of money for the product of our own collective academic enterprise. With 2.5 million downloads of pdf's by Harvard University patrons from our top three publisher packages, I wondered what the costs might be. Well, thanks to Betsy Eggleston, we now have a better idea:
Elsevier package 2008 article downloads: ($.76/download)
Wiley package 2008 article downloads: ($1.52/download)
Springer package 2008 article downloads: ($2.98/download)
That is a lot of money per click but several questions pose themselves:
a) Do all libraries have a similar cost per download?
b) Is the relative cost per download similarly ordered for each of these three publishers in other libraries?
c) What is the equivalent cost for a circulated book/monograph per patron-use? Is that a fair comparator?
d) What is the equivalent cost per download for open access publications (including the author cost)?
I suspect that knowing the answers to these questions is a source of leverage and power. How can we make decisions with and on behalf of our researchers, faculty and public without knowing these answers? Should we not insist on greater transparency of the relationship of academic value and cost. If you have any additional data, feel free to enter a comment regarding this post or send me an email and I will add it to this post.