Here are some of the strangest points in the Grovers’s boycott letter.
1. Elsevier sells journals to libraries in “bundles” which Gowers does not like because his library has to pay both for the journals he wants and for the journals he does not fancy. What makes this objection strange is that “bundling” is a common practice and not only in publishing business. For example, the grapefruit juice I buy comes with sugar which I hate. Gowers is from England where there are exactly 5 TV channels (ingeniously named Channel 1- Channel 5). I live in a free country and we have hundreds of TV channels. Among those most show total trash, and I want to watch only two: “The Comedy Channel” (and only from 10 pm to 11pm – “The Daily Show” and the “Colbert Report”) and “PBS”. Unfortunately I cannot subscribe to just two channels. In order to be able to watch The Daily Show, I need to buy “basic cable” which consists of about 50 channels, almost all of them showing garbage 100% of the time.
This “madness” did not start recently, though. In the Sistine Chapel, there is a fresco “The last supper”. The fresco shows a bunch of guys sitting at the table, possibly celebrating a Passover. Of these guys I know and care about only one or two. The others come as a bundle. Possibly they would charge me less if there were only two guys on the fresco. I think we should start boycotting the Vatican.
2. Gowers complained that when his library subscribed to some Elsevier journals, he still could not connect to the journals from home. This only means that he does not have a teenage son. Because any teenager now knows the word “proxy” and can set it up in 15 minutes.
3. The managing editor of one Elsevier journal published a lot of his own papers in his journal without proper refereeing. Thus Elsevier does not control their editorial boards. The problem here is that Elsevier (and also Springer, World Scientific, etc.) is in the publishing business. The officer at Elsevier who is responsible for that particular journal does not understand mathematics and is not in a position to “control” the content of the journal.
I am the managing editor of IJAC which is a World Scientific journal. The WS wisely does not control me and I (being completely ignorant in how to make a profit in the publishing business) do not control them. From time to time they ask me questions about the content and I sometimes ask them questions about publishing (say, I want WS to publish 6 issues per year instead of 8).