NS21.2 FURTHER TO FAXON/PERGAMON/PRICING
NS21.3 COMMENTS ON "HAMAKER'S HAYMAKERS"
NS21.4 HAMAKER'S HAYMAKERS, Chuck Hamaker
>From Theresa Connaughton, Los Alamos National Laboratory (firstname.lastname@example.org):
Our Librarians and scientists are quite concerned about the rising costs of physics journals. We spent $132k last fiscal year for AIP journals. The Laboratory also had an institutional membership (in flusher times) but AIP did not allow the lower membership rates to be applied to the Library's subscriptions. Therefore, we pay full price not only for Library copies but for dozens of subscriptions that go directly to our scientists but are paid for through programmatic funds. We have never "cheated" AIP by getting member copies of any of their journals for the Library but we are concerned that maybe we are paying twice for the same information. That is, we do our share to support AIP as our authors spent $77k last year for reprints and page charges and then we pay again to receive the journals themselves. I'd like to see some financial break granted to those institutional subscribers like us who routinely support the activities of AIP through its various publications programs.
>From Siegfried Ruschin, Linda Hall Library (NDAY@NMKCVAX1.BITNET):
With reference to your request in no. 18 (February 18) of the NEWSLETTER ON SERIALS PRICING ISSUES, I would like to comment on the high subscription prices that some professional societies charge to libraries.
We tend to assume, and some studies reinforce this assumption, that journals published by societies generally cost less than similar journals produced by commercial publishers. But it must not be overlooked that the policies of many societies also raise serious questions.
It is perhaps egotistical to quote oneself. In 1985, I said in an article in the SERIALS LIBRARIAN
It seems pertinent, at this point, to reflect on some basic questions, including the purpose of scientific communication, particularly as promoted by learned institutions.
Many of the scientific societies in the U.S. as well as in other countries have largely transferred their publishing responsibilities to commercial enterprises or have in fact themselves become major publishing houses. Historically, the purpose of these societies was to serve their members and the scientific community at large. It was to this end that they founded and supported their own journals. In a questionable reversal, journals now help support many societies. Who benefits, one asks, and who should pay?
This still seems to me to be the crucial question. Should it be up to libraries to underwrite the publishing activities of professional societies whose members, after all, benefit from the services of the same libraries and in many instances admittedly could not do their work without these services? This touches, of course, on broader questions about the equity and efficiency of the present system of distribution of scientific knowledge.
NS21.2 FURTHER TO FAXON/PERGAMON/PRICING
>From Robert Stafford, Monash University, Melbourne, Australia (ROBERTS@VAX7.cc.monash.edu.au):
Adrian Alexander of Faxon and other serial agents may indeed be "constantly looking for ways to improve and expedite the flow of pricing information" (Newsletter 18). But his assurance that this enthusiasm extends to publishers is not so convincing. It does not sit well with his own observation that publishers often require us to renew subscriptions before telling us the price.
Do major publishers not know how much they will charge for their products? More importantly do they not decide on the price? One gets the impression of rather hapless large corporations who are entirely at the mercy of powerful researchers, insistent on publication. Thus the reluctant publishers are forced to increase prices. If this happens after most of the orders are in, well that is just unfortunate.
Further evidence of some serial publishers' enthusiasm for spreading price information can be adduced from the policy favoured by some of omitting all mention of price from the text of their journals. Others only publish the price to individuals, while some show only a volume price without indicating the large number of volumes published per year, and that these volumes are comprised of issues bound together.
This Library has been the victim of such freeflowing information in too many cases. We are currently reviewing our use of serial agents and will look favourably on those who can tell us the price of what we are buying, before we decide to buy. When prices of our existing subscriptions are increased beyond what appears to be reasonable, we will review our need for the titles invoiced as if considering them for the first time.
>From Pamela Bluh, University of Maryland Law Library (PBLUH@UMAB.BITNET):
Read with interest your correspondence with Faxon/Pergamon. Don't know if this comment is relevant, and you may already be aware of this. When we bid our periodical subscriptions, we have asked for bids based on both supplementary billing and no supplementary billing, and then have made our decision. While the quotes are usually higher if the vendor offers to absorb price increases after the annual invoice has been paid, we like to have the chance to weigh that against the staff time required to enter data more than once. Up until now, I think going with the higher service charge has been worthwhile for us. Whether we continue that once we are able to load invoice tapes (or transmit them electronically) is questionable, because then hopefully some of the human element will be removed from the transaction. Just a thought.
>From David Shontz, University of Florida (DAVSHON@NERVM.BITNET):
I admire Mr. Koepp and the Princeton Libraries' response to the pricing policies of Pergamon, and believe it was a reasonable measured response to the situation. But I don't know that it will be sufficient. The reason is the "unit price" relationship.
Let's say that Princeton has been subscribing to 10 Pergamon journals at a cost of $300 per journal. Pergamon doubles its rates to $600 per journal. Mr. Koepp responds by cutting 5 journals, paying Pergamon a total of $3000, just as before the price increase.
Pergamon now receives $3000 for 5 journal subscriptions instead of 10. Their "unit cost" is now lower than before the reduction. At least, they have saved on printing costs for that particular subscription. Over time, if enough subscribers drop those same titles, Pergamon can save the entire overhead of producing the ceased titles without reducing its revenue, generating more profit.
If Pergamon and other publishers do not respond to the first measure of "No new money," the next step must be to a "no new profit" strategy, where subscriptions are reduced to the point where a publisher actually suffers a reduced profit. This is a somewhat trickier strategy since it requires some knowledge of journal production costs, but it can be approximated.
>From Jim Mouw, University of Chicago (email@example.com):
I have been following the saga of Faxon's input of Pergamon prices with great interest. Not necessarily because of the vendor and publisher involved in this case, but rather because of the broader questions raised by this specific example.
Let's ask ourselves "Is there any reason a vendor would possibly wish to delay the input of current prices?"
Think of the following scenario: A publisher will have large price increases for the next year. Vendors know about this anticipated increase through preliminary information received from the publisher. [A side question here, "Do vendors know preliminary pricing information before libraries?]
This publisher's titles represent a significant portion of the vendor's business. In addition, these are high profit titles since the vendor receives a large discount from the publisher.
The vendor knows that many of its customers are involved in cancellation projects and are targeting those titles with the largest percentage increases. At the same time, the vendor is preparing proposals for several major accounts, and is using current prices from its database as the basis of those proposals.
By delaying input of new prices the vendor has prevented the (significantly higher) new prices from displaying in its online system and from printing on reports. This will result in old information to present customers, and will result in bids being run from old prices.
This period extends into the time in which most renewal invoices are processed. This vendor's policy is to invoice either the new price if known, or to invoice at last year's price (with a supplemental to follow). The vendor does not "estimate" prices. The result of this is that all libraries are invoiced at the old price. The supplemental invoice, with new prices, arrives after the cancellation date.
The present customers are notified about these large price increases when it is too late to cancel using normal procedures. It may still be possible to cancel, but the vendor will keep the entire service charge because they have already "serviced the title." The new customers, who selected the vendor based on the bid proposal, are hit with a large, unexpected, supplemental invoice.
Now, the question for all of us is: "Is this a legitimate scenario, and is the potental for backfiring worth the gamble for any vendor?" I believe that the case in point is simply an example of Faxon's mismanagement of the Pergamon pricing information. However, I do find the questions raised by this episode to be most interesting, and I hope to see more discussion on these issues.
NS21.3 COMMENTS ON "HAMAKER'S HAYMAKERS"
>From Joe Santosuosso, Faxon (SANTOSUOSSO@FAXON.COM):
This note is to remedy an impression that readers may have received from a recent item in HAMAKER'S HAYMAKERS concerning document delivery and electronic storage where Chuck Haymaker writes "We don't have it right now, but if a SISAC standard were evolved for article level identifiers, ordering articles could be automated to the point where no human hands are needed once the article is in 'your' database."
In fact, there is an ANSI/NISO standard, developed by a SISAC subcommittee, for article level identifiers: ANSI/NISO Z39.56-1991, Serial Item and Contribution Identifier. ANSI/NISO Z39.56-1991, commonly referred to as "the SICI standard" defines the requirements for unique identifiers for serial items and the contributions contained in them. The standard covers popular magazines as well as scholarly journals, newspapers, and non-print serials. To date discussion and implementation have focused on the serial item portion of the SICI. Publishers from the ICEDIS group (International Committee for EDI for Serials: Elsevier, Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, John Wiley & Sons, Kluwer, Pergamon, Royal Society of Chemistry, Springer Verlag, Taylor & Francis) are sending agents dispatch advice with SICI's as serial item identifiers. ICEDIS requires the presence of a SICI in the dispatch message. The contribution identifier portion of the SICI is well provided for in ANSI/NISO Z39.56-1991, and the SISAC subcommittees that are working on EDI/X12 conventions for transactions such as orders, claims, cancellations, and invoices are making provisions for those messages to carry both the serial item and the contribution identifier portions of the SICI.
>From Peter Sutherland, American Institute of Physics (peters@AIP.BITNET):
In NS20 Chuck Hamaker wishes for a SISAC standard for article level identifiers. Please be advised, this does exist. It is very new, but very real.
As a participant in SISAC, I would like to spread the word about ANSI/NISO Z39.56-1991 Serial Item and Contribution Identifier (SICI). This is designed to be an article level identifier, and was approved on July 15,1991.
We do now have a national standard for the unique identification of all serials articles. This, coincident with the market pressure towards electronic document delivery of journal articles, should lead to some interesting new ways of moving information. We shall see.
The ANSI/NISO Z39.56-1991 standard document is published by Transaction Press, Rutgers - the State University of New Jersey New Brunswick, NJ 08903; tel 908-932-2280; Fax 908-932-3138.
NS21.4 HAMAKER'S HAYMAKERS
Chuck Hamaker, Louisiana State University, NOTCAH@LSUVM.BITNET.
Just wanted to let you all know that the "possible" use of scanners to input text is not a maybe-it-will-happen-someday situation. I read one listserver that is offering the introduction and summary in scanned format of a book published in 1991 by Oxford University Press. The individual who scanned the text does make a case for buying the book, so OUP might see this as free publicity. But since actual text was scanned and offered to other readers of the list, my "prediction" of last week was barely ahead of reality. Widespread use of scanning equipment for specialist reader groups is not just a possibility but a very likely scenario. It is happening now. And available in networked form to anyone who can handle FTP. Some of the "standard" texts, (i.e., King James Version of the Bible) are of course also available on various listserver/file server bases. We are going to be seeing much more of this, I would guess, as books or articles come along that are of special interest to narrow groups of people.
Because the technology is available now, and the practice is happening now, reactionary tactics from publishers need to be changed rapidly to prevent the same disaster that struck the big three television networks. The advent of cable and VCRs radically changed both market share or viewer share and revenues. I think it very likely that the same dynamics that broke television viewership down (i.e., choice (cable) and ease of use (VCRs)) will soon be at work in the electronic information environment. And the mechanisms are remarkably similar, (i.e., networks and PCs with various enhancements). All it will take is a little technical experience and, voila.
I repeat my warning. Publishers need to cooperate (not just create costly alternatives) with libraries and library systems or we will see increasing textual anarchy. And ultimately tighter revenue streams for traditional publishers. Information is viewed by individuals as a public good. If pricing and availability make information elitist, the tools exist to challenge and gut traditional distribution and pricing methods. Many individuals are using them already. In addition to the book intro. I just mentioned, I read today on one list full text of an editorial from a student newspaper. Once again, it's an isolated incident, but I believe it is the future. Science and technology journal articles could be prime candidates. In opting for narrow audience, prohibitive pricing and lack of ready access, STM journal publishers have set the stage for such behavior. I suggest publishers look at Ken Auletta's new book THREE BLIND MICE for an inside look at how a sure thing can be lost very quickly when technological change and lack of vision combined to hamstring the Big Three networks' monopoly position. It took less than ten years. My guess is the STM system as we know it has much less time than that.
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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, CB #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. 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.