I realized the other day that the discussion about subscription versus open access is still active with many people. I think, all in all, open has won, that is open access, open science, open educational resources or OER, open education, and on and on. The way I realized open has won when I started to think about the largest publishers and where they are concentrating their future efforts and acquisition dollars.
Let’s talk Elsevier as an example. Most of what they seem to be concentrating on is author services, workflow, abstracting and indexing services, services for libraries or universities, and more. Now this isn’t completely true, but for the most part it is true for them and for other large publishers.
What that tells me is that they see the decline of the subscription model and that they have concerns with open access and the APC or author processing charge as a sustainable business model.
By ceding that content is moving toward open and becoming more of a service provider, they are signaling that content is heading toward free, if not mostly there now.
Further ways to think about the free model winning:
If I say encyclopedia, what do you think of? Wikipedia. Free.
If I say video on the web, what do you think of? YouTube. Free.
If I ask you about details on a movie, what do you think of? IMDB. Free.
If I say social media, what do you think of? Facebook and Twitter. Free.
So, a bit early to call a winner, but I think it has become very difficult to put the genie back in the bottle. Just ask the largest scholarly publishers.