Scott Delman, Group Publisher of the ACM, has responded to my post earlier this month on society publishers and open access. That post generated some very good discussion in the post comments that are well worth checking out.
Delman's article is in the most recent Communications of the ACM (v52i8): Responding to the Blogosphere.
Here are some excerpts, although Delman's article is so interesting that I wish I could quote the whole thing.
The fact that ACM charges both for access to the published information in its Digital Library and also extends the courtesy of "Green OA" to its authors is actually less important to me (while both are important aspects of what we do) than the fact that ACM and many other association publishers serve as well-intentioned caretakers of the scholarly record. I have spent too many hours trying to identify the "most up-to-date version" of an author's article on his or her Web site or digging through the various related institutional repositories to identify a specific version of an article to believe that any other system at the present time offers the advantages of publishing with learned societies.
When I say that all association publishers are essentially OA publishers, I mean this from the perspective that associations and their corresponding communities are one and the same. In my opinion, the question should not be how will society publishers justify their existence in the future, but rather how can they be better at marketing themselves and promoting the valuable work that they continue to do. Publishing will always have a cost, whether it relates to print publications or publishing information online. In most well-researched articles I've read on OA, all parties generally tend to agree on this. The real question is where is this money best spent and how. As a longtime publisher who has worked for both for-profit and a leading association publisher, I feel strongly that this is where any debate should be focused, and I am confident that the most valuable and well-run professional society publishers will in the long run continue to prove their worth to the scientific community at large.(Emphasis mine)
I agree with most of what Delman says, perhaps only differing in terms of the language I would use.
What's most interesting is his emphasis on marketing the societies's role as a kind of gatekeeper for the scholarly record -- the place that the scholarly publishing financial infrastructure should support with their funds. It would be interesting to see some more detailed speculations about how he would organize this: would it be through continued library subscriptions or perhaps through author charges or something else entirely.
Most of all, it's great to see a society society publisher engage in the conversation!
(BTW, I blush slightly to be mentioned in the editorial of the CACM as "John Dupuis, the esteemed Science & Engineering Librarian from York University in Toronto, on his blog Confessions of a Science Librarian." Both for the kind words and, you know, it is CACM!)