NS32.2 COMPLAINTS ABOUT TRENDS JOURNAL PRICING, BOUND ANNUALS, AND ELSEVIER'S REPLY, Tony Stankus and Cindy Cline
NS32.3 FROM THE MAILBOX
NS32.4 HAMAKER'S HAYMAKERS, Chuck Hamaker
Daniel H. Jones, University of Texas Health Science Center, JONES@UTHSCSA1.BITNET.
I have some experience in sending letters to publishers and would like to share with you my methods of finding the "correct" name AND ADDRESS to send them to. With the big commercial publishers it is important to get the right name and address because the letter might get waylaid and never reach your target. This can be a labor intensive effort.
1. The masthead of a journal usually contains a listing of editorial staff under various rubrics such as managing editor or editorial staff editor, and this is the person at the publisher I try to notify. These staff people usually depend on the success of the journal for their livelihood and it is in their interest to be concerned about unusual numbers of cancellations or other concerns from subscribers. They are in the position to pass on the information should the editor choose to ignore it, usually passing it on to the publisher's management who have some influence over the editor.
2. If the journal is a society journal published by a commercial publisher I also send a copy of the letter to the president of the society and to the executive director/secretary of the society as well as to the managing editor of the journal.
3. If I know anyone on the editorial board of the journal I send them a blind copy of the letter -- this is usually someone on our faculty.
4. If the journal is self-published by a society then send a copy to the chair of the society publications committee and to the executive director/ secretary of the society.
5. Generally, I write one letter to the editor of the journal and distribute copies as described above.
6. Most of the needed names and addresses are printed on the masthead of the journal but sometimes a little detective work is necessary. The _Encyclopedia of Associations_ can be helpful in finding names and addresses of society executives. If I cannot find the information anywhere I call the vendor which handles most of our journal subscriptions -- he has good contacts with the publishers and can usually recommend the right person to target.
7. When in doubt always aim higher in the hierarchy of the publishing company. For instance, I have great respect for John Tagler and consider him a friend, but I would never send him such a letter, although, he will probably be delegated the task of responding to any letters from libraries sent to Elsevier. If you're really upset do not hesitate to send the letter directly to the president or chief executive officer of the company.
In my letters I try to be direct and objective in what I have to say, and try to avoid emotional or dramatic statements. In some cases I have received personal letters, phone calls or e-mail from the editor or management staff either as a courtesy acknowledgement or to provide some insight into the problems the journal has been having. I know of a publisher which offered one library a special deal on its journals when she cancelled all of them -- she declined the "deal" and said she and her faculty were already convinced they could live without the journals. In general though, publishers have told me they appreciate my taking the time to write them and that they especially want to know about their subscribers' concerns. Letters expressing concerns about a journal are better handled by the subscribing library and you should not expect a vendor to communicate this for you.
NS32.2 COMPLAINTS ABOUT TRENDS JOURNAL PRICING, BOUND ANNUALS, AND ELSEVIER'S REPLY
>From Tony Stankus, College of the Holy Cross, email@example.com:
While one can readily wonder aloud about the price of almost any Elsevier journal, and it is certainly true that one could bind the separate issues themselves for less than $12, Elsevier's claims about the standing of their Trends series ring decidedly true. The most stunning development of the last ten years, by and large, has been the meteoritic rise of these slim but extremely current entries. The typical pattern in most disciplines has been for the field to have a society-sponsored journal featuring exhaustive reviews with dozens of pages and hundreds of references, usually a softbound quarterly marketed for $100-$200 annually. In some fields, we are blessed with an entry from the Annual Reviews not-for-profit corporation. With these one gets from a dozen to two dozen fairly lengthy essays for less than $50, a real bargain. The rest of the need for reviews has been served in some cases by Academic Press with roughly annual "Advances in" usually for about $100 each or by CRC Press with a "Critical Reviews in" for two or three times that, usually in a softbound quarterly or bimonthly. In almost all these cases massive, authoritative reviews were the style. The truth is, these are almost as hard to read as they are to write. If a working scientist hit upon a magnum opus in exactly the field he or she was considering, such a work saved him priceless retrospective reading and digesting of old material and provided a valuable historical perspective. Otherwise they were not likely to be read. Elsevier hit upon something when it saw journals like _Cell_ publishing minireviews. Minireviews are about 10% as long and about ten times faster to write. They are made to be digestible without losing the aura of quality or authority one has with traditional reviews. The Trends series is essentially a number of minireviews in very hot fields gathered together with some reportage of the key papers (gleaned from the hundreds of papers) given at live symposia. Scientists have found that they actually can keep up better with a broader variety of topics in this much-easier-to-take formula. Senior scientists, the traditional source of full-length reviews, realize that maybe they don't have to devote their entire sabbatical to accept the invitation to write the megareview, when in fact, citation studies show that a well-placed minireview will actually be more widely read and cited. (Indeed, for many senior scientists the second-happiest day of their professional lives is when the society or the editors of Annual reviews invite them to write the big review; the truly happiest day is when they finally finish it!) The message for librarians is this: continue to argue with Elsevier about their practices with these Trends series, but be aware that their support among scientists is very high, and their pricing may not be entirely out of line with some of their less-cited traditional review journal competition.
>From Cindy Cline, University of Kentucky Medical Center, MCLCINDY@UKCC.uky.edu:
I am the serials librarian at the University of Kentucky Medical Center Library. We have a few of the Trends journals. We use a vendor. It was my understanding that the library edition included both unbound issues and the bound annual. When the Elsevier rep visited me in November 1991, I asked why Elsevier would spend the money to publish something twice. We would also prefer to bind our own copy. He said he would pass along my comments. I received the same letter as Joanna Wagar dated April 1992. I showed a copy of the letter to the subscription vendor and she was very upset. Seems as though there is large lack of communication between Elsevier with its subscribers, vendors, and reps.
NS32.3 FROM THE MAILBOX
The mailbox is: TUTTLE@UNC.BITNET or Marcia_Tuttle@unc.edu.
From: Ford Lemay, Yale University, firstname.lastname@example.org:
What follows is a copy of a letter from our music librarian to Gordon and Breach.
April 22, 1992 Gordon and Breach P. O. Box 90 Reading Berkshire RG1 8JL England Dear Sir or Madame: We have just instructed our English dealer, Blackwell's, to cancel our subscription to _The Journal of Musicological Research_. The invoice for the forthcoming volume has the outrageous price of $213 for four scanty, 75-page issues. An issue of _The Musical Quarterly_, with almost twice the number of pages, is $8.95. An annual subscription to the fat, beautifully printed MUSIC AND LETTERS is $85. Twelve issues of _The Musical Times_ are $70. _Music Review_ is $85. In the USA, _The Journal of the American Musicological Society_ is $36. _Opera Quarterly_ is $48. The _Journal of Musicology_ is $52. You undoubtedly have reasons for charging so much, such as the lack of advertising, just as I have reasons for cancelling, such as we're being overcharged for the product. We have adequate funds to purchase your journal, but it is repugnant to us to be taken advantage of. Very truly yours, Harold E. Samuel Music Librarian
>From Ann O'Neill, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Information and Library Science, ONEIA.ILS@mhs.unc.edu:
I just got a preview issue of _Science Watch_ a newsletter from ISI. Nothing very earth shaking, just a newsletter. The subscription card at the end is the interesting part. I can get a charter subscription of 10 issues for "US $295." By my figuring that's $29.50 an issue, and for this 8 page issue that would be about $3.69 a page! Another publisher is heard from.
NS32.4 HAMAKER'S HAYMAKERS
Chuck Hamaker, Louisiana State University, NOTCAH@LSUVM.BITNET.
Some readers of the newsletter may not have regular access to _Library Acquisitions: Practice and Theory_ edited by Carol Pitts Hawks, a Pergamon journal. Because it is fairly specialized and may not reach a more general audience, I want to call your attention to an in-depth interview with Richard R. Rowe and his thoughts on a variety of topics. Although the interview was conducted at ALA in Atlanta last summer, it is only now being printed. I think it answers many questions that some librarians and publishers have had about the indexing and document delivery service Faxon is working on. It shows, first and foremost, that Dick Rowe really does think through the implications of much of what his company does. Contrary to the "pop" understanding of the just-in-time vs. just-in-case buzz-words, Rowe does understand that document delivery is not a panacea -- for anything. The index, he indicates, is being built from titles customers most commmonly subscribe to (some 10,000 titles). In his mind that is a product designed to increase the usefulness of existing collections. In that sense the product is actually designed to help librarians provide access to their OWN collections. Regarding the document delivery portion of the service, once again, he clearly sees this as a supplementary effort. Rowe's thoughts on this are so succinct, and so much in agreement with my own point of view and that of many publishers, that I am going to quote them extensively:
I don't think that it is a sane strategy over time for libraries, for readers, or for publishers to move to individual purchase of individual documents. It's not a good way for the information systems to evolve. It puts too much pressure on writing stuff that will have an immediate demand. In fact, purchase on an item by item basis will tend to drive out material that should be available in the knowledge base but may not at the moment be popular. One of the things I fear is a kind of "keyword of the month" club where everyone will be writing the article that will have the right keywords in it so that someone will retrieve it and buy it. That kind of reactivity to the technology and the change in system would be a tragedy. So I am hoping that the document delivery portion of FRS (Faxon Research Service) will have a short life in the sense that it will be replaced by a more comprehensive electro-subscription service.... So we see this as a major enterprise but not one that will replace the subscription business. I think the paper subscription will over time be converted to the electro-subscription.
Rowe is absolutely correct, I believe, in postulating that the kind of "just in time" demand purchasing that SOME people are thinking about right now could well spell the end of the depth of information now available. Speaking of the subscription business as the core of what Faxon does, he states "we've talked about the library subscription business, which remains our core business, as a "just in case" business where libraries quite correctly and appropriately buy materials and have comprehensive archives that are there in case someone wants and needs them."
Given some of the down-right sneers at traditional library purchasing I've heard over the last year, I'm afraid there is a sense that somehow all libraries need to do is just provide "access" to what people want when they want it, and not a minute before. As I think is clear from these words by Rowe, even though his language is being copied by many, the depth of thought he has given to the problems associated with on-demand acquisition is not being matched in much of the library "pop" press and discussion. I strongly recommend anyone thinking about these issues get a copy of "An Interview with Richard R. Rowe, president and CEO, the Faxon Company" in LAPT v. 16 no. 2 pp. 93-102. I only wish we had access to this interview six months ago. Some of the extremes in reactions to the "Just-in-time, just-in-case" perspectives might have been a bit less extreme.
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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; Internet: Marcia_Tuttle@unc.edu; 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 and Blackwell's CONNECT. EBSCO and Readmore Academic customers may receive the Newsletter in paper format from these companies. Back issues of the Newsletter are available electronically free of charge through BITNET from the editor.