I do occasionally look at the Association of Learned and Professional Society Publishers (ALPSP) web site, if only to compare their tag-line Shaping the Future of Learned and Professional Publishing with their behavior. For instance, their April 2011 report Heading for the open road: costs and benefits of transitions in scholarly communications acknowledged my blog theme, the acceleration toward open aspects of publishing and access and compared several assumption I and others make.
I preparation for their upcoming conference, ALPSP highlights the finalists for the Best New Journal and Publishing Innovation Awards. Among the new publication nominees is Bioanalysis, published by FutureScience Ltd. I decided to look at the instructions for authors that FutureScience provides. Besides the classic gold open access option, I also noticed that FutureScience also provides Access Tokens for authors.
What is access with tokens? Here is a snapshot from today’s explanation, linked back to the page where the most up-to-date version is found.
My first inclination was to read whatever Peter Suber or whatever trusted source I could find about the SWOT analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats) of access tokens offered to authors as an alternative to gold open access. One article in the Scholarly Kitchen blog talked about access tokens that might give small libraries a cheaper subscription to at least one scientific journal that was going to offer them. I also found a thesis online, TOKEN-BASED ACCESS TO DIGITAL INFORMATION from 1999 that laid out much technical theory about how a token system could work. My quick check (please comment if you can add to this discussion) of Peter Suber, Stefan Harnad, google blog search, etc. did not really turn up any opinion considering what tokens could do to open access.
Then I read about the Irish Journal of Medical Sciences providing tokens to members of the Members/ Fellows of the Royal Academy of Medicine in Ireland to bypass that little dilemma of their local library lacking funds for subscriptions by having access token subscriptions as part of their society or association membership. Since it is a similar author benefit in the case of the FutureScience implementation, I guess I can form my own opinion.
Tokens are an extension of a closed system, a tangible benefit extended to authors in exchange for their giving up their copyright and intellectual property. Once an author has 50 tokens for her/his article and uses them up, the publisher gets a bit more revenue out of their publishing venture when the author wants to re-stock, even as library subscriptions may expire. It is not open access, and it is not part of the principle of unlimited universal access to electronic publications that is always preferred in academic library. Perhaps someone from FutureScience will provide some data on their experience with authors and tokens v. author-selected open access.