Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Elsevier's letter to the mathematics community

can be found here. It would be interesting to hear from the boycotters whether they are satisfied with the steps taken by Elsevier. Maybe it is time to end the boycott? My personal interest in this is sentimental attachment to Advances in Mathematics -  a legacy of unforgettable Gian-Carlo Rota (who invited me to the Editorial Board many years ago). 

3 comments:

Henry Cohn said...

Tim Gowers has a response to their second letter at http://gowers.wordpress.com/2012/05/02/elseviers-recent-update-to-its-letter-to-the-mathematical-community/. I agree with him that there are still major issues that need to be addressed, and I think this viewpoint is widespread among the boycotters.

Definitely I don't want this to hurt Advances in Mathematics, or other Elsevier journals. Elsevier plays a big enough role in mathematical publishing that we can't easily replace them, so we should hope for a sustainable solution in which they earn a reasonable profit for providing a valuable service. Right now, I'm afraid that they are stalling for time and hoping the boycott will disappear, but I think they will eventually have to try harder. Ultimately, I think we'll arrive at a solution both sides can be satisfied with.

avzel said...

Henry: thanks for the link. The response by Gowers sounds convincing.

sowa said...

Well, I am one of them. Looks like the main point of the so-called boycott is missed not only by the Elsevier executives. Namely, this is not about negotiating of a better deal with Elsevier. This Elsevier's letter makes me laugh. 50 retired reviewers will get free access for a 1 year!!! Should we all jump in a joy?

I signed the declaration, and for me this is the end of my interactions with Elsevier. I do not think that my signature binds me not to buy a book published by Elsevier, but they do not publish anything interesting for at least 10 years already. Elsevier can do only one thing to satisfy me: dissolve itself and put everything they bought in the public domain.

I do share some sentimental feelings to Advances in Mathematics, to the book series Pure and Applied Mathematics (since Elsevier bought it, nothing appeared in it), and to Topology too. Advances still survives, but hardly for too long.

On the other hand, the boycott is, as usual, misguided. The root of the problem is not Elsevier. It is the transfer of the copyright to the publisher. The copyright laws are not inherently bad, the enthusiasts of anti-copyright also can (and do) use them. One just needs to keep the copyright in own hands, and to give the publisher a limited in time non-exclusive license to distribute the work. This should be the mode of operation with all publishers, including the learned societies (AMS) and university presses (we should never forget the lawsuit of Cambridge and Oxford University Presses against the Georgia Tech). This would solve all the problems.