Jean-Claude Guedon, University of Montreal, guedon@ERE.UMontreal.CA.
Submitted by Cindy Hepfer, Health Sciences Library, SUNY at Buffalo, email@example.com.
With his permission, I am forwarding a response by Jean-Claude Guedon to Ann O'Neill's report in no. 132 of _NOSPI_ on my ACRL Journal Costs in Academic Libraries Discussion Group session held at ALA Midwinter last month. Jean-Claude, editor of the e-journal _Surfaces_ and a professor in the Department of Comparative Literature at the University of Montreal, espouses a very different point of veiw from the commercial speakers on the ACRL Discussion Group panel. I hope you will be able to include this in an upcoming issue of your newsletter as I believe that your readers will find Jean-Claude's remarks both interesting and thought-provoking. In the fourth edition of ARL's _Scholarly Publishing on the Electronic Networks_ (edited by Ann Okerson and published in 1995 by the Association of Research Libraries), there is a very interesting paper by Jean-Claude Guedon entitled "Electronic Journals, Libraries, and University Presses." In addition, there are several other papers on pricing electronic products, including ones by Colin Day of the University of Michigan Press, Sandra Braman from the Institute of Communincations Research at the University of Illinois, Andrea Keyhani from OCLC Electronic Publishing, and Jeffrey K. MacKie-Mason and Hal R. Varian of the University of Michigan. I encourage the readers of the _Newsletter on Serial Pricing Issues_ to purchase this volume and read it! Cindy Hepfer, 1994/95 Chair ACRL Journal Costs in Academic Libraries Discussion Group =========================================================================== > 132.1 ACRL JOURNAL COSTS IN ACADEMIC LIBRARIES DISCUSSION GROUP: NEGOTI- > TING PRICES AND LICENSES FOR NETWORKED ELECTRONIC INFORMATION. ALA > MIDWINTER, FEBRUARY 4, 1995 > Ann O'Neill, College of Library and Information Science, University > of South Carolina, firstname.lastname@example.org. >
> Judy Luther of the Institute for Scientific Information followed and dis- > cussed the philosophy of pricing materials in electronic format. She began > by noting that publishers face risks in the conversion of print to elec- > tronic distribution of information because of the rapidly changing technol- > ogies. This kind of preface is generally mobilized to justify some pricing policy that might sound hard to swallow to customers. One possible answer to this is that no one forces commercial publishers to move into this sector and that university presses and a number of academics are happily spending money doing precisely this kind of exploration. Another is to remind com- mercial publishers that if they move into this sector, despite the risk, it is because they want to position into new markets and not be left behind by competitors. There is no reason why customers should finance their attempt to create new markets or new niches. > Publishers' pricing philosophy should reflect the user's approach to > information, the psychology of demand, and knowledge of what users want. Publishers should keep this kind of marketing vocabulary for truly commer- cial products. In the case of research results produced from public money, it is clear that the "psychology of demand" is irrelevant and knowledge of what users want is very simple: they want access to all the published re- search available on their topic as this is the basic rule of research. Finally, the notion of a "user's approach to information" is strange at best, and nebulous at worst. Scholars' approach to information is simply keeping up with the research front. This is what you learn in graduate school and there is little one can do about it. > Costs may be based on the value of the information to the user. The format > used by ISI is both qualitative (exposing users to more research and data > and getting it to them more quickly) and quantitative (getting more data to > more users in more locations). The changing formats mean that "a rose is no > longer a rose" because the electronic version of a product loses some of > the distinctiveness of the original format as libraries and users combine > print and electronic versions of the product. This is a point I object strongly to. Research results can be extremely valuable to a particular team because it fits right in with their own re- search, but to the extent that the results from team A pertain to fundamen- tal research (as distinct from patents, for example) and are relevant to team B, and to the extent that the results of the research performed by team A are based on public grants (or foundation grants) and will feed into the research activities of team B funded in a similar way, one wonders why commercial considerations should ever enter into the process. What scholars need is an efficient way to legitimize, and archive, scholarly information and to make it spread as widely as possible at as low a cost as possible. ISI's argument would mean that the closer a colleague is to one's own re- search, the more expensive it should become as it is of the highest inter- est to that given scholar -- a sure way to make information move around as poorly and inefficiently as possible. There is something very disturbing in the thought that the ability to dif- fuse information in several ways, some being faster than others, is used to justify various pricing policies that have nothing to do with production costs, but rather have to do with profit maximizing. This means that the richer team will always get the information faster than the poorer team, an excellent way to keep teams from poorer countries out of the race to know- ledge. Incidentally, the correlation about the size of a team's resources and its scientific or intellectual value is not established to the best of my knowledge. > The challenge facing publishers is how to be consistent in their pricing. > The print price may serve as the base cost, electronic may be slightly > higher and a combination of print and electronic may be higher still. Pub- > lishers do have costs to consider in establishing a price. Information in > electronic form has higher labor costs due to more extensive training of > staff, costs to key the data, changing technology, and possible duplication > of maintenance for each format. The increased efficiency and access for the > user may not necessarily save publishers money. Once the initial database > has been created, however, the publisher may face lower maintenance costs. All this philosophy, if applied to research results, clearly demonstrates that commercial publishers introduce biases in the communication of re- search results that I am strongly tempted to label as "perverse". > Because libraries want to provide information to multiple users, the costs > to libraries are not clear cut and continue to evolve. The price to multi- > ple institutions or state networks may be determined by such factors as > campus, zip code, size of the institution, or the level of research done > there. It may be possible to have tiers within these groups and discounts > based on the level of use. Again, research results are analyzed here purely as if they were a commodi- ty and nothing else. There is something totally left aside here -- namely the modest fact that research results that are published are supposed to be part of the total human heritage, and not just another opportunity for a few privileged people to exploit an essentially captive market. > The experiments in pricing will continue in the near future but will be > clarified as the demands and increased convenience for the user become > clearer. I think the best experiment in pricing would be for research institutions to test how much it would cost if, collectively, they recaptured the means to produce scientific information, calculated the costs of producing them themselves and then would bring the savings coming from free or nearly free access to these resources by their libraries. I have a piece on this in the proceedings of the ARL-AAUP meeting held in Washington DC last November, and edited by Ann Okerson. In short, I advocate we essentially get rid of commercial interests in the processes of research communication as these have nothing to do with commercial considerations. Are we going to sell articles by Nobel prize winners at a higher rate than those written by young assistant professors? If commmercial viewpoints were to be accepted uncritically, we could start inventing schemes such as pricing scales ac- cording to citation record of authors (similar to a baseball star and his batting average...). Saying things like this shows the absurdity of treat- ing research results as if they were toasters or vacuum cleaners. It also shows that the tendency to solve all social problems through automatic recourse to a market mentality reflects intellectual laziness or -- and this is worse -- a not entirely honest analysis of the scholarly world. At the same time, refusing an automatic recourse to market does not mean sug- gesting an automatic recourse to some bureaucracy: this would be falling from the frying pan into the fire. Each case requires a thorough analysis and an *original* solution well adapted to the situation. > Karen Hunter of Elsevier Science presented the perspective of a full text > provider, rather than the indexing and abstracting services discussed prev- > iously. The development of full text access to electronic information is in > much earlier stages, and is being pilot tested with the TULIP project. > > Elsevier is following five principles to establish pricing models: 1) Price > is media neutral, the cost to the library should be the same whatever the > medium; Why should it be so? Production costs are not the same with each medium. Distribution costs are not the same in all cases. > 2) Include present and future costs in the price structure -- if > Elsevier were to charge all electronic development costs up front, the cost > to libraries would be prohibitive, so these must be distributed over time; Translation: if Elsevier immediately charged all the costs of a project like TULIP, the costs would be such that no one would subscribe. However, if enough people can be persuaded to subscribe to TULIP at an early stage, then they will have a tough time to get out of TULIP and they will encour- age others to join, thus contributing to Elsevier recovering all of its development costs. Question: what happens if TULIP is stopped, as may well be the case as it is a very ill-conceived system. What will libraries do, stranded with a dead design and having to make it coexist with both print and yet another form of electronic system bound to supersede Elsevier's TULIP in due time? > 3) In the long term, prices for electronic information should reflect the > function of the information; What does that mean? Which functions have been singled out? What rules regulate the relationship between information function and its pricing? The statement sounds impressive but, on closer look, it appears essentially meaningless. > 4) Price to encourage use, more individuals > than institutions, or consider flat rates rather than metered use; Price should reflect production costs exclusively, and should be designed to offer the widest possible circulation over the entire surface of the globe. I am talking here of research results, not commercial publications. > 5) Fairness in relation to the number of users. What does that mean? If the information is digitized, larger numbers of users correlate with need for greater bandwidth and faster computers. Neither have to do with publishers directly. The power of computers doubles every two years roughly, while their price remains essentially constant. This can handle roughly twice as many customers who, therefore, should pay half as much for their information on that basis. Bandwidth can be very large if the information is distributed, but, in any case, Elsevier cannot do much about networks bandwidth, unless it creates its own network. > Licenses should include the following considerations: who buys the license, > where the information is kept, who uses it, who controls it, how is it > used, who pays for it, what happens to the information at the end of the > relationship, and who has archival responsibility. Currently, use is hard > to measure and control. At the end of a relationship involving paper cop- > ies, an individual library keeps the information and may have unlimited > use. With electronic full text however, use can expand to the university, > country, or consortium; use can be measured; but the library may not have > access to the information at the end of the relationship. Again, the commercial viewpoint induces such considerations and raises these questions. In a system where scientific papers would be produced and circulated on a non commercial basis, through institutional collaboration, once the production cost is covered. This would allow research institutions from rich countries, for example, to establish a support policy allowing the free circulation of research results to poor countries, thus redressing one of the major imbalances of our times.
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