This post is very illuminating. I see the point of preprints shifting the emphasis of peer-reviewed reports on evaluation rather than publication. However, this is not entirely true in my opinion:
To this date, the publication/evaluation dyad stays in the hands of academic journals. This will be the case until other forms of published material will be cited in researchers’ works. Right now, at least in my field, I have never seen a preprint cited in a report. Hence, preprints at the moment do not solve the problem of publication but the one of accessibility .
Preprinting opens the door to decoupling these as discrete services that can emerge as competitive markets of their own. Journals can offer some or all of these services as a package or as individual services.
This is, in principle, an interesting solution. The problem lies, as usual, in the human nature. Imagine (private and paid) publication/editing services, peer-review services, marketing services. I can already see the competition and lobbying creating divisions between researchers who can afford this or that service, and research fundings spent to have the best peer-review, best marketing etc. because this is what will give your research good points and allow you to advance in your career.
Publicly funded archives, with ongoing and communitarian peer-review processes (with all reviewers converging in one archive to assure the readiness of the process, transparent reviews and the possibility for the community to judge the review process and the reports) are for me the only real solution to publication and evaluation.
Obviously, this is utopistic in a society where the distinction between “public” and “private” is more and more subtle (with good and bad outcomes). However, given that the costs of archives come mainly from server maintenance and hosting-related services, why not trying to turn archives into real alternatives to journals? (As a reviewer, I would much more in favour to provide reviews to not-for-profit archives rather than journals.)