Thursday, May 31, 2012

The Smart Money is Deserting Elsevier reports that "Elsevier's upside potential looks capped," in part because of the success of the open-access movement in universities. 
there is no room for top-line expansion given tight university library budgets, and no room for cost-cutting in an industry where the labor of academic researchers, editors, and peer reviewers is provided, literally, for free. Critics note that even the functions provided by Elsevier - journal layout and reviewer coordination - are often outsourced or poorly performed. For some journals, even layout is handled gratis by academics, who submit their articles pre-formatted according to provided LaTeX templates. 
We regard the common stock as an implicit naked short put option because, while the upside potential from the publishing division is limited, the downside risk from any revolt by its customers (libraries), laborers (academics), or funders (governments) is not. Elsevier's substantial profit margin has persisted for as long as it has partly because of the lack of awareness and the apathy among stakeholders; those factors are changing. 
This is a pretty remarkable development. My colleague Stuart Shieber should get a lot of credit for his leadership (read his Congressional testimony here, or the Cliff's Notes version in the Chronicle of Higher Education).

And if I haven't gotten to you in some other way, please sign the petition to the White House asking that taxpayer-funded research be freely available over the Internet. (You will be asked to register and click a link that gets emailed to you. Be sure to check your spam box if it seems not to arrive promptly.) If you need any persuasion, read Stuart's blog post about it.

You paid for that research. You should be able to see what it found rather than going through a private, for-profit intermediary which will charge you (or your library or university) for the privilege of learning what you paid to find out.

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