NS10.2 COMMENTS ON REMARKS BY JOHN O. CHRISTENSEN AND THE MOST RECENT HAYMAKER, Tony Stankus
NS10.3 ELSEVIER RESPONSE TO QUICK AND DIRTY SURVEY, John Tagler
NS10.4 GREED OR SOCIO-ECONOMIC PHENOMENON? Bruce Bennion
Christian Boissonnas, Acquisitions Librarian, Cornell University, CBY@CORNELLC.BITNET.
[Reprinted, with permission, from ACQNET, Vol. 1, No. 113, October 4, 1991.]
Below are the texts of two letters. The first, from me to Eva Skelley, Managing Director of Collets, requests information about an occurence about which I was made aware last week. The second, from Dr. Skelley, is Collets response.
THE FIRST LETTER:
Ms Eva Skelley, Managing Director Collets Dennington Estate Wellingborough Northants NN8 2QT UNITED KINGDOMDear Ms Skelley,
In my capacity as Editor of ACQNET, the Acquisitions Librarian Electronic Network, I have come across certain information about Collets that I would very much appreciate having you verify and comment upon. If I decide to publish the item in question, your reply, if any, will be included in its entirety.
The information I have relates to the demise of Les Livres Etrangers. A library in this country which had orders for Russian publications with Les Livres Etrangers has recently received some of these same publications, and at least one invoice, from Collets. The library claims that it has no orders with your firm for any of these publications.
I would be grateful if you would confirm for ACQNET that you are sending books to libraries in the United States in response to orders that they had placed through Les Livres Etrangers, and the conditions and understandings that you have reached with these libraries under which you are sending these books.
As you well know the whole story of Russian publishing and its distribution has created much confusion in this country. Any comments that you would care to make that would clarify that story and explain Collets' strategy and action in it would be helpful and appreciated.
ACQNET is an electronic network which links people interested in library acquisitions and related issues. It was started in December 1990 and currently has over 320 subscribers in seven countries. Newsletters are sent irregularly, but average one every other day or so. Because of the importance of, and interest in, this matter, I hope that I can receive any reply that you may wish to make this week. You may telefax your reply at the following number: 607-255-9346.
Christian M. Boissonnas Acquisitions LibrarianTHE SECOND LETTER:
COLLETS International Booksellers Subscription Agents Library Suppliers Publishers Denington Estate, Wellingborough, Northamptonshire NNB 2QT, U.K. Tel: (0933) 224351 Telex: 31720 Collet G Fax: (0933) 276402 ES/pej 2 October 1991 Christian M. Boissonnas Acquisitions Librarian Cornell University Library Acquisitions Department 110 Olin Library Ithaca, NY 14853-5301 U S ADear Christian Boissonnas,
Thank you for your letter of September 30 to which I am happy to reply as follows.
Collets have acquired the business of Les Livres Etrangers from the liquidators of the company, comprising database of customers for books and journals, database of books ordered with Mezhkniga via LLE, and books already delivered to Paris and taken over by the liquidators.
Action taken by Collets so far:
1) Collets have contacted all customers who were using LLE for journal subscriptions and are handling orders for 1992 for all those who have confirmed with Collets.
2) Collets have contacted all customers who used LLE for their BLANKET and on APPROVAL profiles, offering to provide the same service in future and are already operating the service for all those who confirmed with Collets.
3) Collets have provided computer print-outs of all monograph orders placed through LLE to Mezhkniga, requesting confirmation from the libraries which titles are required to be supplied through Collets. These confirmations are passed to Mezhkinga who, in turn, then supply the books when published.
4) Collets have confirmed all orders to Mezhkinga for customers who transferred all their ordering to Collets.
5) Collets have now completed the processing of continuation orders (standing orders for irregular serials and multi-volume works) and will be supplying print-outs to libraries for confirmation, except those in category 4, who will get them automatically.
6) Collets have supplied books held in Paris by the liquidators, i.e. legally LLE property, the proceeds of which were paid to the liquidators by Collets, to all customers.
Collets are continuing their comprehensive service of acquiring books and journals from the former-USSR area and Eastern Europe. They are expanding their service into the marketing of Western materials in the Slavonic specialisation.
Collets produce regular catalogues:
NEW IMPORTED TITLES, listing their imports from the former USSR and E. Europe.
SPOTLIGHT ON THE USSR AND EASTERN EUROPE, listing titles published in the West.
Regular annual catalogues in Teaching Aids and Dictionaries, Art, Literature, Travel, and maps. Mailing forms are provided on request.
On the suggestion of Sconul, Collets will be producing regular updates on the situation with MK, and supplies from the relevant territories, in view of the changing situation.
Collets have a resident representative in Moscow whose task is to establish links with publishers and suppliers who are not using Mezhkinga.
Our representative will attend the AAASS conference in Miami this November and will be pleased to answer any questions in greater detail.
I trust this information answers your questions. Do feel free to publish it as it stands.
Yours sincerely, COLLETS Eva Skelley, Ph.D., Managing DirectorFURTHER COMMENTS:
While this exchange was taking place, another was also taking place between Collets and the library which had received books for which it had no orders. The person in charge at that library and I discussed the two sets of communications. We believe that, although sent in error, the books were sent by Collets in good faith. Collets has agreed to take them back at their cost.
As everyone knows the whole situation involving Slavic purchasing has been pretty nightmarish all year. While I do not know of any other library which had an experience similar to the one described here, it could have happened, and could still happen. This story suggests that vigilance when dealing with the receipt of Slavic materials is still in order, at least for the next few months.
NS10.2 COMMENTS ON REMARKS BY JOHN O. CHRISTENSEN AND THE MOST RECENT HAYMAKER
Tony Stankus, Science Library, College of the Holy Cross, firstname.lastname@example.org.
In the last issue, John O. Christensen (BYU) offered us an excellent insight into why it is sometimes better to pay more to a "friend" like the American Chemical Society, even when its percentage increases seem higher than those of "foes" like Pergamon/Elsevier. Not only does his preliminary analysis deal with cost factors, which understandably interest serials librarians, but it also deals with the impact factor, which has a strong appeal to the faculty whose manuscript submission strategy is just as important as cost factors in the viability of journals.
While faculty who collectively bring into even mediocre universities tens of millions of dollars often wonder why a thousand here or there for their individual journal needs is all that much, they are intensely concerned with prestige rankings. The impact factors that Christensen discusses come the closest to this of all independent ranking methods, a finding that is not entirely new to the field, but seems especially pertinent when harnessed to cost factors. In my forthcoming pair of books (here comes the shameless plug): MAKING SENSE OF JOURNALS IN THE PHYSICAL SCIENCES and MAKING SENSE OF JOURNALS IN THE LIFE SCIENCES, I demonstrate both verbally and in over 70 hopefully easy-to-interpret graphs that we should consider arguing that certain factors that greatly interest faculty (percentage of papers from US labs in a journal, percentage of papers from major Western Scientific Powers and from Japan, and impact factors) very often favor less expensive US society journals even when those journals also provide the most papers. Faculty interests and serials collection management interests coincide much more often than is generally suspected, a theme that Hamaker implores us to explore. Analyses by Christensen, and hopefully by myself, will help make this clearer in terms that interest our real partner in the science journal wars, the scientists who are investing their manuscripts.
If it can be shown, as I have already begun to uncover, that many of the added papers in some of the for-profit titles have come largely from scientific backwaters, then we can develop a distaste for the journals in terms of American manuscript placement strategy that will make these already overpriced journals vulnerable to cancellations in which neither the faculty nor the serials collection managers shed any tears. Of course, those journals which concentrate the best European and Japanese work, and which are often still under the control of the major for-profit players, will have to be taken as well, but their number is much, much smaller than all the titles that these for-profits are marketing today.
Consider that Pergamon and Elsevier before the merger had many directly competing titles. Let us see which ones out of these pairs actually get the really most heavily cited, most favorably geoscientifically concentrated assortment over time, and then demonstrate this to our sceince faculty customers. Both journals are not likely to remain exactly the same. Using Christensen's approach, we can very likely show that one is a winner, and the other, more or less a loser. Although it may sound racist, it is a fact that if you ask an American-based scientist (whatever the nationality by birth might be) whether getting even 50 percent more papers from the Third World is worth even 10 percent more in price, he or she would probably laugh, and then make a note neither to send any more papers there, nor to waste time scanning the title. Scientists have intuitively sensed, and research such as mine will empirically show, that the best papers from the Third World, the former Soviet Bloc, and even from Japan find their way into US society journals, or barring that, into the relative handful of for-profit titles that are becoming the Eurojournals of choice.
And for the times when your faculty either cannot, or choose not, to get into the US society title, recommend that he or she consider the low cost, widely-subscribed-to, high scientific quality, and surprisingly slick journals from Canada's NRC. I strongly suspect that they would welcome an increase in good US papers that would displace some of the manuscripts from Third World countries that now fill out their issues alongside their generally sound native Canadian contributions. For actual data on what's happening to Canadian, Japanese, and the more advanced Pacific Rim countries in terms of manuscript placement see (another shameless plug) SCIENTIFIC JOURNALS: IMPROVING LIBRARY COLLECTIONS THROUGH ANALYSIS OF PUBLISHING TRENDS. Once again, the journals favorable to serials collection managers are also, very often, actually those most appealing to the scientists they serve. This can lead to a surprising unanimity on cancellations once we explain data like Christensen's.
NS10.3 ELSEVIER RESPONSE TO QUICK AND DIRTY SURVEY
John Tagler, Director, Corporate Communications, Elsevier Science Publishers, 655 Avenue of the Americas, New York NY 10010; 212 989-5800.
A "fairly quick and very dirty survey" [your words] indeed! Your readers deserve better than that.
Your lead article in NS#9, October 3, 1991, sounds a note of alarm over the proliferation of new titles and increased number of volumes in Elsevier's 1992 price list. I think we had better shed some light on your rough statistics before readers draw some erroneous conclusions.
Let's take the two matters separately:
I. TITLES INDICATED AS "NEW" IN THE 1992 PRICE LIST
Alarm is raised at a total of 46 titles labelled "new." By way of explanation, the price list is prepared primarily for subscription agents' use, and we flag any title that appears on the Elsevier list for the first time to assist vendors in updating their title files. A journal identified as "new" is new to Elsevier but not necessarily new to the market. Many are acquired from other publishers.
As the following breakdown per publishing location indicates, Elsevier is not flooding the market with 46 new titles -- or anything near that total.
o New journal launches: 8 (or 10?)
One title (IFIP TRANSACTIONS) is published in three sections. We consider it one journal whereas librarians, as in your method of counting, admittedly might consider it three.
Two of the other journals were actually launched in 1991 but appear for the first time on the 1992 price list. If anyone is tallying annual lists of new launches, be sure these titles (DIFFERENTIAL GEOMETRY and EUROPEAN NEUROPSYCHOPHARMACOLOGY) do not appear twice.
o Journals acquired from other publishers: 2
o New sections of existing journals: 3
Here again, the method used in counting new journals is subjective. From our perspective, we are not adding new journals to the literature but reconfiguring and clustering papers in existing titles; librarians may choose to see it differently.
We appreciate your noticing two ceased titles!
o New journal launches: 5
Four of these titles are newsletter publications intended for hands-on professionals in industry. They are not additions to the journal literature. The one truly new journal, TRENDS IN CELL BIOLOGY, was launched in mid-1991.
o Journals acquired from other publishers: 16
Elsevier Applied Science Publishers has had an active program to acquire journal lists or single titles from other publishers. The 16 newly acquired journals include 9 titles transferred from Computational Mechanics Publications and 2 from Freund Publishing.
o Merged title: 1
INFORMATION MANAGEMENT REPORT merged two existing Elsevier bulletins - - ADVANCED INFORMATION REPORT and OUTLOOK ON RESEARCH LIBRARIES. Do we get credit for a decrease of 1?
o Acquired/merged titles: 3
Fourteen small abstract titles, acquired from BHR Group Ltd., are being merged into three new abstracts publications (FLUID ABSTRACTS: PROCESS ENGINEERING, FLUID ABSTRACTS: CIVIL ENGINEERING and TRIBIOLOGY AND CORROSION ABSTRACTS. This represents a net DECREASE of eleven titles.
o New journal launches: 3
Two of these are Russian translation journals and were actually launched in 1991.
o Journals acquired from other publishers: 2
PARIS: the lone title listed as"new" was an existing journal acquired from another publisher.
LAUSANNE and LIMERICK list no new titles for 1992.
In sum, if we want to play around a bit with a formula for Elsevier's addition to the aggregate number of serial titles, it would look something like:
+8 - 2 (ceased) [Amsterdam] + 5 - 1 - 11 [Barking] + 3 [New York] = + 2 net.
II. INCREASED NUMBER OF VOLUMES
The subscription agent with whom you were speaking should have done a bit more analysis before sounding the alarm. Yes, Elsevier's publication schedule for 1992 continues to grow; historically it has done so reflecting the growth in scientific output. We have made no secret of this but have also tried to be as open as possible with our customers on matters of pricing and publication schedules.
According to your statistics, 173 of the total 698 titles in the Elsevier list indicate some growth in 1992 publication schedule. Anyone doing a "quick and dirty" analysis could jump to conclusions about 25 percent of the titles expanding, but a further analysis is warranted. In fact, much of the growth will be experienced by large journals where there is a natural ebb and flow in the number of published papers per year, but it does not alter the output to the extent implied by simply counting titles.
Rather than counting the number of titles expanding in 1992, a more valid analysis is to compare the total number of volumes scheduled for 1991 and 1992. Scheduled volumes in 1991 are 2726; scheduled volumes for 1992 are 2937. That represents growth in volume output of 7.7 percent, a figure consistent with the information provided in the LIBRARY JOURNAL spread you cite in the newsletter. In 1992, the price increase in the overall Elsevier journals package which is attributable to expanded publication will be approximately 7 percent.
In our price list we flag titles undergoing growth to alert agents and librarians to the reason behind any unusual price increase. Perhaps we should also flag journals that are declining in size (yes, it does happen and the price reflects the reduced output), but librarians understandably seem less likely to query declining prices.
I hope this has put the 1992 schedule in better perspective. We could continue to beat this horse until it dies -- to the point of counting volumes, issues, pages or characters -- but by that time it will be 1993 and we will have to start all over again.
[MARCIA REPLIES: Dear John, Thank you for your letter. You're right; the readers deserve better than I gave them. Thank you for doing it. However, I have a question. What does it matter if several of the new journals were launched in 1991, if they are identified as "new" in the 1992 catalog? About the matter of Elsevier acquiring journals from other publishers, librarians are concerned about Elsevier, the biggest, growing even larger. Also, our perception is that the transfer of a journal to Elsevier or one of the other international publishers means a significant price increase. New York's new Russian translation journals are especially frightening because such titles are among a library's most expensive. Finally, regarding the newsletter publications launched by Barking, even though they are intended for industry professionals, I wonder if libraries buy them anyway? I'll look into that and let you know what I find (not quick and dirty!).
[FROM EDITORIAL BOARD MEMBER JIM MOUW: John mentions that Elsevier journals do occasionally shrink as publication output in a field declines. Can he show any cases where the cost has also declined? Or even where the rise has been slowed?]
NS10.4 GREED OR SOCIO-ECONOMIC PHENOMENON?
Bruce Bennion, University of Southern California, BBENNION@USCVM.BITNET
It seems to me that nearly all of the folks who contribute to this newsletter do a lot of beating on publishers -- especially commercial publishers -- while doing very little to find out why journal prices are escalating so much more than general inflation. Could it possibly be that we are experiencing a socio-economic phenomenon that has little to do with greed? Could it be that the formal communication system of science and technology has overloaded itself to the point where the static (i.e. non-growing) library market cannot bear the traffic any longer? The authors of journal literature, still increasing rapidly in number worldwide, demand a place to publish. The publishing market responds with ever more new journal titles, which libraries cannot acquire routinely as they once did. Libraries cancel, prices accelerate due to increased "per unit" costs, more libraries cancel, prices accelerate again, and away we go.
John O. Christensen's recent contribution on chemistry serials costs seems to leave room for a socio-economic explanation of the problem -- which, incidentally, has hit us hard here at USC just like everywhere else. He compares society and commercially published chemistry journals, finding to no one's surprise that the average price of a society journal is less than half that of a commercial journal. He also shows that the commercial journals have a higher cost to impact factor ratio than the society journals.
Exactly right, and why shouldn't these be true? Societies are nonprofit, often subsidizing publishers. Furthermore, their journals are often the most widely circulating in a given discipline or field, which means of course that their unit costs are less and their subscription prices lower, subsidy or no subsidy. If I publish a journal with 200 subscribers, surely it would cost a great deal less "per unit" if I had 10,000 (or even 1000 subscribers). Circulation figures should always be considered when doing any kind of journal pricing study. As to impact factor, journals that circulate less are bound to be cited less. If they circulate a lot less, then they are likely to be cited a lot less. Here again the advantage goes to the society journals.
Many contributers to this newsletter seem to hold the notion that if only we could persuade the societies to publish more journals, then costs could be controlled. Much as I would like to believe this, I cannot. The pressure for places to publish is coming from all of the would-be authors. Whether their low circulation, specialty journals are published by a society or a commercial press makes little difference. They would still be very costly, and if the societies get into publishing these, they will soon feel the pinch in their finances. And the journals would scarcely be any cheaper for us, the librarians. I believe the problem is mainly with the system, not avaricious publishers.
I am suggesting the above as a research hypothesis, not necessarily fact. Perhaps some eager doctoral student would like to take it on as a thesis problem. I do not deny the existence of avarice among commercial publishers, and in fact could point to one or two who I believe are crooks. However, I believe that the main problem lies in other parts of our three-and-a-half-century-old system of journal publication. If someone else doesn't, I may need to do the research and see if this really isn't so.
++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++ Readers of the NEWSLETTER ON SERIALS PRICING ISSUES are encouraged to share the information in the newsletter by electronic or paper methods. We would appreciate credit if you quote from the newsletter.
++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++ The NEWSLETTER ON SERIALS PRICING ISSUES (ISSN: 1046-3410) is published by the editor as news is available. Editor: Marcia Tuttle, BITNET: TUTTLE@UNC.BITNET; Faxon's DataLinx: TUTTLE; Paper mail: Serials Department, C.B. #3938 Davis Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill NC 27599-3938; Telephone: 919 962-1067; FAX: 919 962-0484. Editorial Board: Deana Astle (Clemson University), Jerry Curtis (Springer Verlag New York), Charles Hamaker (Louisiana State University), James Mouw (University of Chicago), and Heather Steele (Blackwell's Periodicals Division). The Newsletter is available on BITNET and ALANET. EBSCO and Readmore Academic customers may receive the Newsletter in paper format from EBSCO and Readmore, respectively. Back issues of the Newsletter are available electronically free of charge through BITNET from the editor.