3.1 FROM THE EDITOR, Marcia Tuttle
3.2 THE CURRENT CONTROVERSY BETWEEN SPRINGER VERLAG AND GERMAN LIBRARIANS, Siegfried Ruschin
3.3 PUBLISHING: THE NEXT GENERATION, Marcia Tuttle
3.4 COST COMPARISONS OF SOURCES FOR SERIALS PUBLISHED OUTSIDE AUSTRALIA, Philip Bull
3.5 UNFRIENDLY TAKEOVER ATTEMPTED, Wayne State University Press
3.6 SPECIAL LIBRARIES ASSOCIATION CONFERENCE PROGRAMS OF INTEREST, Nancy Anderson
3.7 REFLECTIONS/DIRECTIONS, Warren J. Haas
3.1 FROM THE EDITOR
Marcia Tuttle (TUTTLE@UNC.BITNET)
This section will be short, because the newsletter is long! I will begin immediately on the next newsletter, because I had to leave a lot of things out of this one. It looks as if the electronic versions of the newsletter will be more frequent (subject to the editor's schedule) and shorter. But, don't stop sending your contributions! Your response tells the ALA/RTSD/Publisher/ Vendor-Librarians Relations Committee's Subcommittee on Serials Pricing Issues that we are filling a need. We have more than 200 subscribers now, and the list is still growing. Thank you!
For those of you who will be at the ALA Conference in Dallas, the Subcommittee will meet on Sunday morning, June 25, from 9:30 to 11:00. I will try to report the meeting location in the next newsletter. We hope you will come both to tell us in person the good things you send and to tell us how we can better meet your needs in the serials pricing area. I continue, slowly, to become more sophisticated on BITNET, but you have been very helpful there, as well. At the ALA meeting the main topic on the committee's agenda will be FEEDBACK.
Finally, the ARL report has been distributed to members, prior to discussion at the group's meeting in May. When the contents of this very significant study have been made public, we will have a report.
3.2 THE CURRENT CONTROVERSY BETWEEN SPRINGER VERLAG AND GERMAN LIBRARIANS
Siegfried Ruschin, Librarian for Collection Development, Linda Hall Library, Kansas City MO
While American librarians have been complaining about the discriminatory pricing policies of some European publishers, their European colleagues have been raising similar complaints about the policies of some American publishers.
It seems ironic that German librarians have lately directed these complaints at the venerable Springer Verlag. To understand this, one has to remember that some Springer books and journals are published in the USA. German librarians have discovered that they have to pay considerably more for these American publications than would be justified by existing exchange rates.
In an article published in BIBLIOTHEKSDIENST (vol. 23, 1989, no. 1, pp. 38-40), Hermann Josef Doerpinghaus, Assistant Director of the Universitaetsbibliothek Freiburg and chairman of the "Erbungskommission des Deutschen Bibliotheksinstituts" (Acquisitions Commission of the German Library Institute), shows that for its fifty journals published in the USA, Springer has been charging German libraries prices that range from 5.2% to "an audacious" 75% above the American prices. The average overcharge is 34%. A German library subscribing in 1989 to all 50 journals would thus have to pay almost DM 5,000.00 more than a comparable library in the U.S.
Doerpinghaus explains why this discrepancy has only recently come to light. It is, he says, not easy to detect, because in Springer's German price lists the journals appear in a single alphabet with their prices, plus the domestic and foreign shipping rates, given in Deutsche Mark. Doerpinghaus says that, because "the foreign shipping costs are cited exactly to the last penny, it would never occur to the unsuspecting customer in the Federal Republic that foreign customers may have to pay quite different prices," something that one would discover only by comparing the price lists for Germany with those for the U.S. The latter give the prices in dollars as well as in DM, except that for journals that have differential prices the DM price is omitted.
The apparently simple expedient of ordering these journals from New York has been impeded, because German dealers may obtain the journals only from Springer in Germany. Doerpinghaus suggests that libraries order the journals through American agents; but, as he explains, this also has its difficulties and undesirable consequences.
Springer's acquisition of several major German bookstores and the resulting greater concentrated control of the distribution of journals has given rise to additional concerns among German librarians.
Doerpinghaus's article was reprinted in BUCH MARKT 2/89 accompanied by some comments, including those of Dietrich Goetz, a co-owner of Springer-Verlag. He feels that Doerpinghaus neglected to consider that the German price includes a value added tax of 7%, whereas there is no similar uniform tax in the U.S., where "it varies from state to state." (Is there any state in the U.S. that levies a tax on subscriptions? The question of taxes and how they affect international periodical prices may deserve more attention than it has received in the recent controversy over differential pricing.)
According to Goetze, there is also a marked difference between the discount granted to journals distributed in America (ca. 5%) and the 15% discount that must be given to German dealers. (Why then, we may ask, do American libraries not benefit from this difference of discounts when buying German periodicals from Springer New York?)
Goetze insists that, because prices have to be set as much as 18 months before the last issue of the journal is produced and delivered, it is necessary to add a risk factor of + or - 15% to the currency exchange rate. In the light of past experience, much could be said about this argument. One wonders, for example, how great was the loss that, according to Goetze, Springer had "had to accept in the past year," what the plus or minus sign in his statement means, or how valid his 18 months argument is. It is hard to see what further currency risk Springer incurs once payment has been received and converted into the other currency, or what difference it makes, in this context, whether the last issue is published the next day or years hence. Surely, Springer, Berlin, does not pay its New York branch issue by issue as each is published.
A report signed by Dietrich Goetze has just appeared in BIBLIOTHEKSDIENST (vol. 23, 1989, no. 3, pages 278-79). It essentially repeats the arguments made in BUCH MARKT. The report is followed by a reply from the "Erwerbungskommission" that addresses these arguments point by point.
Springer's replies are not much different from the ones that we have heard over the years from other publishers. It is interesting to read that AESTHETIC PLASTIC SURGERY costs DM 290.00 in 1989, the same as in 1985. What Goetze fails to mention is that in 1985 the mark was worth about 34 cents; today it is worth over 53 cents, and when Springer billed and probably collected most of the subscription payments for 1989 for this American journal, it was worth even more.
The commission makes a point that we have repeated over and over, namely, that libraries are quite capable of paying their bills in foreign currency and more than willing to assume the risks of exchange variations. This would remove a concern from the publishers, that allegedly has been heavily weighing on their minds, even though there is little evidence that, so far, these variations have had a deleterious effect on their financial well being.
Finally, Dr. Goetze seems to have some difficulty in understanding the relationship between a reduction of sources of distribution and the cost of products, and he seems surprised that this should be of concern to his customers, since, according to him, "libraries are precisely those who profit from such increased efficiencies." This difficulty itself is surprising, as is a resentment that permits Goetze to dismiss the matter as somebody's conscious effort to discredit his publishing house. "We must interpret the combining of three completely independent subjects that are not even remotely related as a conscious effort to evoke antagonistic feelings toward our publishing house," he writes.
If Dr. Goetze has sincere difficulties in understanding, he should be helped by a letter from Hans-Juergen Witt, chairman of the "Arbeitsgemeinschaft Wissenschaftlicher Sortimenter" (Union of Science Book Retailers) in BUCHREPORT, no. 7, Feb. 16, 1989, page 7. In words resonant with an exasperation that librarians seem hesitant to express, he questions Dr. Goetze's arguments, and advises him that, if he feels that differential prices are needed, he will have to come up with better reasons than the ones he has advanced. And as to any discredit to Springer, Witt writes, "Perhaps you should ask yourself why your company [a publishing house with a high reputation in the world of books, as everybody, incruding Dr. Doerpinghaus, acknowledges] has a 'bad press.' Perhaps you would conclude that it may have something to do with your business policies."
3.3 PUBLISHING: THE NEXT GENERATION -- SOCIETY FOR SCHOLARLY PUBLISHING MEETING
The Society for Scholarly Publishing has just distributed the program for its annual Meeting, to be held at the Washington Hilton on May 30 - June 2. Preregistration, which has been extended until May 15, carries a fee of $200 for members and $260 for nonmembers ($50 of which goes toward a 1989 SSP membership). Allan Wittman (Partner, Allan Wittman Associates) and Patricia H. Penick (Manager, Intellectual Property Rights, The Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers, Inc.) are co-chairs of the meeting.
Keynote speaker is Frederick Bowes, III, Director of Publishing Operations, New England Journal of Medicine. Joshua Lederberg, President, Rockefeller University speaks at the May 31 luncheon, and Nicholas Veliotes, President, Association of American Publishers is the banquet speaker.
Other sessions and speakers are: "New Publishing Opportunities," Bernard Rous (Executive Editor, Association for Computing Machinery) and William Y. Arms (Vice President, Academic Services, Carnegie Mellon University); "Dealing With Intellectual Property Rights," Louise Levy (Libraries and Information Systems Center, AT&T Bell Laboratories), John H. Garrett (Manager, Business Development, Copyright Clearance Center, Inc.), Brian Kahin (Research Affiliate, Research Program on Communications Policy, MIT), and Carol Risher (Director, Copyright and New Technology, Association of American Publishers); "Marketing Electronic Information" (speakers to be announced); "What Libraries Want >From Publishers" (speakers to be announced); "Practical Information for Publishers," Gretchen Oberfranc (Manager, Electronic Publishing, Princeton University Press), Charles Creesy (Computer Administrator, Princeton University Press), and Kurt Koenig (Vice President, Copyright and Trademark Counsel, Kinko's); and "High Pressure Publishing and Growing Ethical Concerns" (speakers to be announced).
For further information contact: Society for Scholarly Publishing, Washington DC (202) 328-3555.
3.4 COST COMPARISONS OF SOURCES FOR SERIALS PUBLISHED OUTSIDE AUSTRALIA
Philip Bull, Blackwell's, Sydney, Australia. Reprinted with permission of Blackwell's and the Australian Serials Special Interest Group from ASSIG NEWSLETTER, no. 5 (January 1989). Even though the article is directed toward Australian librarians, it has value for persons in other countries who work with foreign currencies.
In comparing quotations or invoices for serials published overseas four questions need particularly to be born in mind:
i. Whether all the overseas prices have been converted to Australian dollars (or to another common currency) at the same time. ii. Whether the quotation or invoice covers the whole cost of each subscription. iii. Whether the cost quoted is in all cases for the same subscription year. iv. Whether the method used to compare prices takes account of the differing pricing structures used by different suppliers.
Inconsistencies between quotations on these points can lead to highly misleading results.
THE EFFECT OF EXCHANGE RATES
At any one moment, all international exchange rates balance out -- that is, A$100 converted to pounds sterling, the sterling amount converted to US$, the US$ to DM, and the DM to A$ will yield A$100. However, if any significant time elapses between each conversion, the final amount may be greater or less than A$100. This is because the relationship between various currencies changes constantly.
To give an example:
A US title quoted or invoiced at US$100 would have converted to A$141.64 at 31st March 1986, to A$157.23 at 31st October, 1986, and to A$143.41 at 31st March 1987. Although the US$ price remains the same, the A$ cost to the library in October 1986 would be 11% greater than in March of the same year, and 9% less in March 1987 than in the previous October.
If the library had paid one supplier in A$ for this title in October 1986, and a second supplier had quoted the same US$ price for the same title in March 1987, the second supplier would appear to be 9% cheaper in A$ terms -- an apparently significant but in fact completely illusory difference.
To obtain a true comparison between suppliers where currency conversions are involved, all the conversions should be made as far as possible at the exchange rates applying on the same day.
CONVERSION OF OVERSEAS PRICES
Unless the comparison is between sources quoting or invoicing in the same currency for titles from the same country (e.g., a comparison in US$ between two US suppliers quoting on US titles), at least one exchange rate conversion will be involved:
a) Where the title is published in a country other than the supplier's (e.g., a German title from a UK or US supplier, or any overseas title from an Australian supplier), the publisher's price must be converted into the currency in which the supplier invoices.
The conversion may be made at the exchange rate in force when the supplier pays the publisher or produces the invoice, may be at an artificial rate calculated to approximate the rate likely to be in force at some future date (e.g., when the supplier expects to pay the publisher), or may be based on internal arrangements made by the supplier to offset future swings in exchange rates. A number of other variations are possible.
There is inevitably a delay between the time when a supplier chooses the exchange rate, and when the library pays. Depending on the way in which exchange rates have changed during this period, the changes may benefit or disadvantage the library. This is however very difficult to predict in advance, and it is in any case often not practicable to establish what rate was used.
It can be assumed nonetheless that most suppliers adopt a consistent practice, and that this is consistently reflected in the price to the library.
However, some suppliers reserve the right to change quoted prices or to reinvoice the library to take account of exchange rate movements since the original quotation or invoice.
It is essential to establish whether prices quoted or invoiced are firm, or are subject to this proviso.
b) Where the library is comparing quotations or invoices for the same titles in a number of currencies (e.g., A$, pound sterling, US$, DM), all prices need to be converted to a single currency for comparison purposes.
The same principle applies to comparisons between two or more overseas currencies as to single currencies; a US$ quote and a pound sterling quote must be converted at the exchange rate for the same day.
Even so, however, temporary disparities between the two currencies may distort the comparison (one may be unusually strong, or unusually weak); if it is suspected that this is the case, it is worth converting a few prices at an exchange rate a few months earlier or later than the one chosen for comparison, to see if this makes a significant difference.
Where a quoted price is being compared to a subscription price actually paid by the library, the simplest method of comparison is to convert the quotation at the rate actually used when the library paid the invoice, or, for a different currency, at the rate for the same day as the rate used in payment. (Alterna- tively, the original invoice prices may be reconverted at a later exchange rate.)
Where an overseas invoice or quotation is being compared with an A$ price or quotation from a local supplier, the conversion to A$ should be made at the rate for the date of the A$ quota- tion or invoice. (The intention in this case is to use an ex- change rate as close as possible to that likely to have been used in calculating the A$ invoice.)
In all of these cases, the aim is to remove as far as possible random variations caused by exchange rate movements, in order to establish the true underlying pricing of each supplier.
Because exchange rate movements are seldom predictable over the span of time involved in serials acquisitions, a choice of supplier largely influenced by the rates in force at the time of ordering or supplier selection may not hold good by the time payment falls due.
[NOTE: If exchange rates are not readily available within the library, they can usually be obtained by a phone call to any bank.]
TOTAL SUBSCRIPTION COST
In some cases, publishers change prices after they have first been set, or include additional issues or volumes in a subscription at an additional charge. These variations result in supplementary invoices to the library.
Depending on the timing of the quotation, or for other reasons, supplier quotations may or may not include these additional costs. Similarly, where an actual payment by the library is used as the basis for comparison, the original invoice payment may not represent the total cost to the library.
It is important, therefore, to ensure that all comparison prices for a title cover the total cost of that title.
YEAR OF SUBSCRIPTION
Most subscription years run from January to December, although libraries may have split-year subscriptions running from the date at which the subscription was first initiated.
In the great majority of cases, publishers will not commence setting their prices for the following year until September of the current year. Price setting continues until December, and in some instances into the next year.
This means that a quotation or invoice for, for instance, 1988 renewals, dated in August 1987, must largely be based on 1987 prices (but may include an estimation by the supplier of what the 1988 prices will be).
A quotation or invoice produced in September is likely to contain fewer current prices than one produced in December.
To ensure that this year's prices from one supplier are not being compared with last year's prices from another, it is important that each supplier should be asked to state specifically what subscription year his prices refer to, and what adjustments (if any) he has made to anticipate future price increases.
Where the object is primarily to establish the comparative pricing of suppliers rather than to obtain a cost for the following year's renewals, the problem of differing subscription prices can often be lessened by asking suppliers to quote the prices they would have charged for last yer's renewals, rather than those for the forthcoming year. These prices are also more easily compared with actual subscription payments.
In this case, it is necessary to check that the supplier's terms have not changed in the interim.
Suppliers price subscriptions in a number of different ways. In some cases the supplier will apply a standard mark-up to the cost of the titles to himself (suppliers usually receive a small discount from publishers), or to the publisher's cover price, for all subscriptions. In others, the pricing will vary from title to title, under a formula specific to the supplier.
In the latter cases, the samples used for comparison must be large enough to ensure that they give a good idea of the overall pricing of the suppliers in question.
In every case, the supplier should be asked to give a clear statement of his pricing policy, and of how this compares to the publishers' cover (or official) prices. (The cover price provides a common external benchmark against which terms can be compared.)
When seeking quotations, it is worthwhile asking whether the supplier has any comments on the sample submitted to him. If the pricing for a title seems anomalous, or the way in which the pricing structure is applied seems unclear, suppliers can also be asked to show exactly how the invoiced or quoted price for any title was calculated.
3.5 UNFRIENDLY TAKEOVER ATTEMPTED
Press release from Wayne State University Press, dated February 20, 1989
Unfriendly takeovers are not a new story. Of late, however, the target is the scholarly journal issued by the nonprofit publisher, most often, a university press. Typically, the journal is nderpriced when compared to similar publications by commercial houses. The potential income from increased subscription rates makes these journals attractive takeover candidates for large publishers.
Over the last few years, Wayne State University Press has fought off several attempts to take over HUMAN BIOLOGY, which the Press has published for thirty-five years. Science-related journals issued by commercial presses often command high subscripiton rates. Wayne State University Press charges institutions a modest $80.00 per hear; the commercial publisher expected to increase the rate to $300.00 within three years.
With the full support of Wayne State University, the Press administrators, Robert A. Mandel and Alice M. Nigoghosian, fought the attempted takeover. They viewed the actions of the commercial publisher not only as a threat to HUMAN BIOLOGY, but ultimately to other journals published by university presses as well.
Libraries, of course, bear the cost in increased rates. In recent years, librarians have witnessed skyrocketing rates for serials and they have found themselves making painful choices about renewals. They have been forced to cancel subscriptions to exorbitantly priced publications. The ultimate losers in this financial crunch are researchers, scholars, faculty, and students.
Resolved to do what was necessary to save HUMAN BIOLOGY, Mandel and Nigoghosian have worked almost a year to fend off the imminent threat. Devoting long hours to develop their strategies, they compiled data and projections to insure the viability of the journal at Wayne State University Press. They even prepared documentation in the event that a legal suit might occur. Their efforts met with success -- the commercial publisher retreated, deciding to begin a competing journal.
For further information, contact Alice Nigoghosian, Associate Director, Wayne State University Press, (313) 577-6130.
3.6 SPECIAL LIBRARIES ASSOCIATION CONFERENCE -- PROGRAMS OF INTEREST
Nancy Anderson, University of Illinois Library BITNET: NDANDERS@UIUCVMD)
The SLA journal pricing programs are as follows:
Program: ISSUES IN JOURNAL PRICING: PART I - HOW JOURNALS ARE PRICED Moderator: Joel Baron, The Faxon Company Speaker: TBA Sponsored by 9 SLA Divisions, Sunday, June 11, 1:30 - 3:00. As a prelude to discussion on the effects that significant increases in serial titles have on special libraries, representatives of publishers and a subscription agency will explain the process of journal publishing and pricing. [N.B. Many special librarians are, in reality, academic librarians.] Program: ISSUES IN JOURNAL PRICING: PART II - INCREASED JOURNALS/SERIALS PRICING Moderator: N. Bernard Basch Speakers: John Tagler, Elsevier Scientific; Dan Tonkery, Readmore; Robert Marks, American Chemical Society; Richard Rowe, Faxon Company; Charles Hamaker, Louisiana State University Library; Joan Grant, New York University Library; Peggy Hull, Glaxo; and others, TBA Sponsorship same as above Two librarians and a librarian advocate will present statements on how various aspects of increased journals/serials prices have affected their operations. A publisher, a jobber, and a society publisher will discuss why prices have increased and how they are coping and/or trying to assist librarians with the problem. Overview and summation by Hamaker.
Warren J. Haas, Council on Library Resources, Inc. Reprinted with permission from C.L.R. REPORTS, vol. 3, no. 1 (February 1989)
The subject of journal prices has received increasing attention by librarians in recent months and has now caught the eye of university officers. Pressure for action is rapidly rising. In response, several projects to establish the facts related to the escalation of costs, especially for commercially published scientific, technical, and medical journals, are under way. The Association of Research Libraries is gathering and analyzing information about a set of titles to determine the relationship between subscription prices, on the one hand, and production costs, number of pages, and currency fluctuations on the other. At Stanford, a group of science and medical librarians is considering the topic in detail with the objective of encouraging discussion of the problem and possible solutions within the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
Extending the discussion, the Society for Scholarly Publishing is sponsoring a series of meetings of librarians, publishers, scholars, and university officers on this and related topics. The American Council of Learned Societies is considering an exploration of journal pricing policies of at least some of its constituent societies, and CLR is undertaking some informal but potentially informative studies of other aspects of the issue. In short, in the many libraries and organizations that are concerned with both the effectiveness of scholarly communication and the requirements of responsible management, the problem is beginning to receive responsible attention. The kinds of action that will stem from these efforts are yet to take form, but three suggestions might usefully be made to expedite matters.
1. Library users, especially research faculty members, need to be better informed about costs than they seem to be because, in a world of finite resources, choices must be made and users must help make them. To give the matter the prominence it deserves, subscription costs for specific titles should be dramatically displayed in current journal areas. It is likely that at least some users would soon begin to make informed and illuminating comparisons and would be more willing to share the responsibility of attending to the financial as well as the intellectual foundation of scholarship.
2. The sheer quantity of publications is a matter that must ultimately be dealt with. Quality control is an uncertain and demanding exercise, but at some point the effort must be made because quality controls quantity. The objective is not to constrain communication of information but to promote the development and use of alternative ways of assuring communication appropriate to content and need. Librarians cannot make qualitative judgments by themselves, but as senior administrative officers they have the responsibility to see to it that those judgments are made.
3. There are many possible ways (and more than one "right" way) to maintain an acceptable balance between fiscal reality and academic interests in addressing the journal problem. For at least some disciplines, primary journals are an important "socializing" force. In other fields, this is less clearly the case. Whatever corrective action is ultimately taken, including changes in journal structure and journal distribution, the machinery of scholarship must not be damaged. But as libraries are now learning, uncontrolled subscription costs are themselves a very real threat, and inaction here may be the greatest risk now facing scholarly communication.
Publishers doing business in universities are, by definition, a part of those universities. The relationship carries with it obligations as well as opportunities. This simple fact now needs to be reaffirmed by the entire academic community.