Intended for healthcare professionals

Head To Head

Should journals sell reprints? Yes

BMJ 2011; 343 doi: (Published 14 October 2011) Cite this as: BMJ 2011;343:d6428
  1. Jane Smith, deputy editor
  1. 1BMJ, London WC1H 9JR, UK
  1. jsmith{at}

Jane Smith argues that stopping journals selling reprints will not benefit research or readers, but Tom Jefferson (doi:10.1136/bmj.d6448) sees the competing interests as a serious problem

Let’s leave aside for the moment the wicked thought that some journals might accept articles solely because they will bring in reprint revenue and assume that journals have mission statements, explicit or not, that are to do with meeting the needs of their readers and which drive their selection of articles.

My starting point then is that firms in general make products that they hope their customers value—and if they do value them they will pay for them. So if the product and the buyer are not illegal (or morally reprehensible) why wouldn’t a journal want to sell copies of its articles to anyone who wants to buy them? Moreover, if a journal is proud of what it publishes then the argument applies even more strongly.

Vital income

Medical journal revenues are surprisingly precarious. Their readers don’t usually buy them directly; journals are paid for by institutions or funded though advertising and sponsorship, and …

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