Interview with Ingenta CEO Mark Rowse
Free Online Scholarship (FOS) Newsletter
August 8, 2002
by Peter Suber
In my last issue (FOSN for 6/17/02) I wondered why Ingenta had appointed such an FOS-friendly advisory board.  Ingenta produces electronic editions of scholarly journals for publishers of print journals.  So far Ingenta produces no FOS or open-access journals.

On July 15 I had a wide-ranging telephone interview with Mark Rowse, Ingenta's CEO, who answered my earlier question and many others.

The short answer to my original question is that Rowse sees no conflict between FOS and Ingenta's current business.  He wants to know what's happening in the FOS domain, wants Ingenta to advance some of the goals of the FOS movement (more below), and wants to position his company beyond the sometimes politicized conflicts in the scholarly communication industry today.

For Rowse scholarly journal articles are not merely free or priced.  They evolve, and are often both free and priced at different times or in different versions.  In the earliest stages, they are usually free, for example in presentations at conferences and informal email discussions.  They might also be free at some middle stages, such as circulating preprints to colleagues or posting them to a preprint exchange.  The final stage tends to be publication in a peer-reviewed journal.  Rowse does not rule out making this final stage free as well, but points out that, even when it is priced, it is compatible with free distribution of the earlier versions at earlier stages.

Rowse believes that publishers are starting to recognize the legitimacy of free versions of published articles.  This is shown by their growing acceptance of eprint archiving, at least of preprints.

Having said this, Rowse emphasized that Ingenta is not a publisher and does not want to become one.  Others can solicit content and organize its peer review.  Ingenta's niche is to produce the ejournal of the resulting articles.

Rowse's openness to free distribution of preprints is one factor that led Ingenta into the eprint services business.

Background:  On July 1, Ingenta announced its plan to produce a commercial version of the eprints software developed at Southampton University.  Eprints is the open-source software for creating OAI-compliant institutional archives.  The Southampton version of the software will remain free and open source, and will continue to undergo development.  The free Southampton version and priced Ingenta version will coexist and serve different constituencies.

Rowse is betting that some institutions will not want to bother installing and maintaining an eprints archive, even if the software is free.  Ingenta will take on these jobs for institutions willing to outsource them, as well as the job of uploading content to the archives, a follow-through step that many institutions neglect.  Institutions will choose whether to host the archives themselves or have Ingenta host them.  The even when Ingenta hosts them, the archives will be open-access.  For many institutions, Rowse believes that hiring Ingenta will cost less than doing the same work themselves.

Rowse can't yet estimate the release date for the commercial version of the software.  Ingenta is still writing the code and considering different charging models.

Though Ingenta will sell the software and related services, Rowse does not expect them to produce a significant portion of company revenue.  Ingenta has other reasons for entering the eprints and OAI services business.  First, it would like to assure the consistency of the metadata generated by different archives at different institutions.  It would like to provide researchers with searching tools that cover both refereed and unrefereed content, perhaps with different tabs on a search results page.  It would like to interest commercial publishers in the OAI metadata harvesting protocol, even if these publishers will never adopt open access.  It would like to enhance the protocol for various value-added research functions.  In all these ways, it would like to make the free and priced worlds interoperable.  Above all, it would like to be involved in scholarly communication at every stage in the life of an article.

Finally, I asked whether Ingenta had considered producing open-access journals.  The answer is yes, but Rowse noted that he has never been approached by an open-access journal.

Ingenta's expertise includes the DRM system that limits online access to a journal's paid subscribers.  But Ingenta only enforces the access rules requested by its publisher clients.  Open-access journals might not have considered Ingenta in the past, because they would not take advantage of its DRM (true) or because they believed Ingenta was committed to priced access (untrue).  But Ingenta is willing to produce ejournals for anyone, whether they wish to use its DRM or not.  In fact, because open-access journals would use fewer of Ingenta's services, Ingenta could charge them less for production and hosting.  (Ingenta would not compete with companies like BMC, for the same reason that Ingenta would not become a publisher.)  Since the question hasn't yet arisen, Rowse can't give a price for this service.  But he invites open-access journals to contact him to discuss it.  It's possible that Ingenta's experience and economies of scale would make its production costs lower than other alternatives.

Ingenta home page

Ingenta announcement of its Open Archive and E-Print services

Eprints software

Open Archives Initiative

For more on Ingenta's support for online scholarship, see its June 25 acquisition of BIDS, the non-profit academic bibliographic service in the UK.

...and its study of the impact of site licensing and library consortia on academic journal publishing.

* PS.  Some publishers ask Ingenta to allow free access to their contents.  Here's one example,

Journal of the Association of Laboratory Automation (current issue)

The only snag is that articles are only "available for download for 24 hours".  I don't know what this time limit means in practice.  But if it is enforced, then this is free access without open access in the full sense.

But that is only how one journal chose to regulate access.  I recommend that fully open-access journals take Mark Rowse at his word.  If you are comparing prices for mark-up, hosting, and production (just about everything but editing), then ask Ingenta for quote.


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