Economies of Scope
To this point, the analysis applies essentially to one journal at a time, as though the journal were the only size package that counted. In fact, of course, the choice of size of package for information could change. Two centuries ago, the book was the package of choice. Authors generally wrote books. Libraries bought books. Readers read books. In the past 50 years, the size of package shifted to the journal in most disciplines. Authors write smaller packages, that is, articles, and get their work to market more quickly in journals. The elemental information product has become more granular. Libraries commit to journals and so receive information faster and at lower cost per unit. In deciding what to read, readers depend on the editors' judgment in publishing articles. In short, libraries buy bigger packages, the journals, while authors and readers work with smaller units, the articles.
With electronic distribution, the library will prefer to buy a still larger package, a database of many journals. A single, large transaction is much less expensive for a library to handle than are multiple, small transactions. Managing many journal titles individually is expensive. Similarly, readers may prefer access to packages
smaller than journal articles. They are often satisfied with abstracts. The electronic encyclopedia is attractive because it allows one to zip directly to a short, focused package of information with links to more. Authors, then, will be drawn to package their products in small bundles embedded in a large database with links to other elements of the database with related information. Information will be come still more granular.
If the database becomes the dominant unit of trade in academic information, then publishers with better databases may thrive. The JSTOR enterprise appears to have recognized the economies of scope in building a database with a large quantity of related journal titles. JSTOR is a venture spawned by the Mellon Foundation to store archival copies of the full historic backfiles of journals and make them available by network. The core motive is to save libraries the cost of storing old journals. JSTOR plans to offer 100 journal titles within a few years. Some of the professional societies, for example, psychology and chemistry, exploit economies of scope in the print arena by offering dozens of journal titles in their disciplines. Elsevier's dominance in a number of fields is based in part on the exploitation of scope with many titles in related subdisciplines. The emergence of economies of scope in the electronic arena is illustrated by Academic Press's offer to libraries in Ohio LINK. For 10% more than the cost of the print subscriptions the library had held, it could buy electronic access to the full suite of Academic Press journals electronically on Ohio LINK.
To take advantage of the economies of scope, the electronic journal might begin to include hot links to other materials in the database. The electronic product would then deliver more than the print version. Links to other Web sites is one of the attractive features of the Web version of the Encyclopedia Britannica. An academic journal database could invite authors to include the electronic addresses of references and links to ancillary files. Higher quality databases will have more such links.
The American Economic Association eschews scope in the print arena, preferring instead to let a hundred flowers bloom and to rely on competition to limit prices. Its collection of three journals does not constitute a critical mass of journal articles for an economics database, and so it must depend on integration with other economics journals at the database level. The Johns Hopkins University Press's MUSE enterprise suffers similar lack of scope. Although it has 45 journal titles, they are scattered among many disciplines and do not, collectively, reach critical mass in any field.
The emergence of more powerful, network-based working paper services seems likely to lower the cost of the editorial process, as mentioned above. A common, well-managed electronic working paper service might make the cost of adding a journal title much lower than starting a title from scratch without access to electronic working papers. The enterprise that controls a capable working paper service may well control a significant part of the discipline and reap many of the advantages of scope in academic publishing.
In fact, a capable electronic working paper service could support multiple editors of a common literature. One editor might encourage an author to develop a work for a very sophisticated audience and publish the resulting work in a top academic journal. Another editor might invite the author to develop the same ideas in a less technical form for a wider audience. Both essays might appear in a common database of articles and link to longer versions of the work, numerical data sets, bibliographies, and other related material. The published essays will then be front ends to a deeper literature available on the Net.