This is a follow-up to my previous entry (A shift in scholarly attention? From commercial publishing to open access publishing) prompted by Open Access? Some Sparks Fly at ALA. (thanks to Open Access News).
In the article, IEEE's Durniak makes the following unsubstantiated statement: "Free open access runs the risk of destroying professional societies."
One can do an extensive analysis to show that the above statement is not necessarily true. However, it suffices to note that commercial publishers are only one of the actors in the scholarly publishing cycle. As such, the totality of the functions performed by the commercial publishers can definitely be taken over by the professional societies themselves, or perhaps by a non-profit umbrella organization that would deal with scholarly publishing for various professional societies.
It is really unprecedented and uncalled for the commercial publishers to claim that without them the entire scholarly publication process will fail and that professional societies will be destroyed. It is indeed true that the commercial publishers provide value added services. However, none of these value-added services are outside of the competency of the professional societies themselves, especially with all the open source software available. Even if it means that the processional societies would have to hire IT staff to deal with the maintenance of the process, it would definitely be less costly than the cost to the host institution for buying back the intellectual output of their staff.
Sooner or later, the commercial publishers will have to relax a bit and see how they can honestly contribute in the process to moving to open access. Their stakeholders might not be happy, but, hey, the dynamic is changing and the power base is shifting.