$18 for a two page PDF? I still don’t get it.

Yesterday, I saw this tweet by @Ananyo

Time that biologists stopped telling the public oversimplistic fairy tales on Darwinian evolution, says P Ball ($) nature.com/nature/journal…

So I clicked the link to the Nature paper and realized, “Oh, yeah. I’ve got to enter through the UW library website.”

But then I thought, “Wait…$18 for a two-page Nature comment? WTF?”

So I tweeted:

DNA: Celebrate the unknowns, like this Nature comment, which costs $18. nature.com/nature/journal…

And thinking about it some more, I got more annoyed, and tweeted:

Why do publishers charge such high per-article fees? At $18/artcl, you’d have to be desperate or stupid to pay; at $1-2, prob’ly lots would.

And then I thought, I’ll ask Nature directly:

@NatureMagazine Why is the per-article charge so high? It seems like you’d make more profit at $2/article.

And they responded:

@kwbroman For a while now, individual papers can be rented through @readcube for $3-5. A full tablet subscription to Nature costs $35.

But that didn’t quite answer my question. So I asked:

.@NatureMagazine So is the $18 charge for a 2 pg PDF just to discourage piracy?

I thought a lot about whether to put “piracy” in quotes or not, or whether to write “copyright infringement” instead.

But anyway, they responded:

@kwbroman just as with any product, the more you buy, the more you save. Media/publishing subscriptions have worked this way for decades.

That again didn’t quite answer my question.

It’s a scam

I still don’t understand the $18 business. It’s not “The more you buy, the more you save.” It’s, “Buy the whole season for $35, or buy 5 min from Episode 1 for $18.”

I understand that the cover price of Wired is $5 per issue, while I could get a year’s subscription for $15-20. But that’s not the same as $18 for one article vs $200 per year.

The $18 for a two-page PDF is like 900 numbers and paycheck advances. These are scams taking advantage of desperate or stupid people.

If they don’t want to sell the PDFs for individual articles for a reasonable price, they should just not sell them at all.

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3 Responses to “$18 for a two page PDF? I still don’t get it.”

  1. Karsten W. Says:

    Yes. It’s about choice framing. 18$ for an article make 209$ for full subscription look much cheaper.

  2. collectedrcode Says:

    I recently published in a journal which takes about 35 GBP per paper, if you want an individual article. I realised this because I posted the link to a friend who is not working in academia – meaning: she ran into the paywall.

    Form this experience, I gather most people IN academia simply don’t realise and therefore don’t care what happens when you write your squiggly signature on the copyright transfer form.

    What I would be *really* interested in is the figures for individually bought paper. But I guess publishers will never disclose these.

    [sarcasm]But, hey, that would be another impact metric in the line of publish-or-perish: “MY publications create more individual purchases than YOUR publications, and my journal has even a higher price mark!” [/sarcasm]

  3. Cathryn Says:

    I couldn’t reefrain from commenting. Veryy well written!

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