NO 140 -- May 25, 1995

Editor: Marcia Tuttle

ISSN: 1046-3410


140.1 FROM THE EDITOR, Marcia Tuttle





Marcia Tuttle,

I want to welcome Mike Markwith, CEO of the North American office of Swets 

& Zeitlinger, as a new member of the newsletter's editorial board. Until 

now we have had only one subscription agent on the board, so vendors have 

been underrepresented. With his long experience as a subscription agent and 

his very active professional life, Mike has been a frequent contributor to 

and a constant supporter of the newsletter, He is already proving to be a 

valuable addition to the editorial board. 

Also, I want to tell you about two new ways to access back issues of the 

newsletter. The folks in my library's reference department have agreed to 

archive the newsletter on their web site. We consider this resource to be 

the official archive of the _Newsletter on Serials Pricing Issues_. The 

entire file of (so far) 177 issues may be located by telnetting to Log in as library, then choose UNC Internet Library, then 

Electronic Journals. In addition, all issues from No. 110 (March 17, 1994) 

are available at this url: 


If you do that, you can also see my home page, which so far has only an 

unusual picture of me.


Heather Steele, Blackwell's Periodicals Services,

[Received May 10, 1995. -ed.]

Alan Smith, Director of Blackwell's Periodicals Division, has just arranged 

a survey of the major British, Continental European and US publishers and 

based on it makes the following estimates for 1996 price increases. The 

publishers were contacted in late April and early May for current informa-

tion on their pricing plans for 1996. Based on this, our latest forecasts 

below are shown in the publisher's local currency. Please note that in-

creases in paper costs, postage and pagination have been taken into ac-


                         NORTH AMERICAN LIBRARIES

              British Publishers                 10 - 10.5 %

              American Publishers                10%

              Continental European Publishers    10 - 11%

Many British/European Publishers price in US dollars for the American mar-

ket. Because of the current exchange situation, you should allow an extra 

7-8% for their journals. We predict an overall increase of 13.5-14.5% which 

will vary on the mix of your collection. Canadian libraries should make 

allowances for exchange difference between the Canadian and US dollars. 

                             BRITISH LIBRARIES

               British Publishers                 10 - 10.5%

               American Publishers                10%

               Continental European Publishers    10 - 11%

Sterling has weakened by 9% against the major European currencies since 

last September, but is 4% better against the US dollar so exchange varian-

ces will have some impact. Overall we predict an increase of 9.5 - 10.5% 

for British Libraries which may vary depending on the mix of your collec-



Albert Prior, Swets Subscription Services, Lisse, The Netherlands.

[Received May 1, 1995. -ed.]


I would like to comment on the contributions by John Merriman and Hannah 

King on the position of subscription agents. Agents have generally probably 

been reluctant to draw librarians into the debate between themselves and 

publishers about discounts. After all, it can be argued that it is up to 

agents and their suppliers to sort out such problems between themselves.  

Agents recognise that libraries certainly do not owe them a living. They 

exist simply because they offer a practical service to acquisitions librar-

ians. However, agents welcome any opportunity provided for librarians to 

confirm to publishers the value of subscription agents in the acquisition 

process. As without them, libraries would face increased staff and adminis-

tration costs in dealing direct with publishers. Increased staff costs 

could result in decreased materials budgets, ie serials purchases, if there 

is a finite amount to an overall library budget. The contribution of the 

subscription agent at least makes the acquisition process as efficient as 

possible. Reduction in publishers discounts, which is the problem raised by 

John Merriman, leads either to weakening of the services the agent is able 

to provide or to increased service charges to libraries which the agent is 

forced to apply in order to regain the margin that is needed (a margin 

which for all agents is low). The latter is attractive to neither libraries 

nor publishers.  

With regard to document delivery, I can only speak for Swets, but it has 

been our policy to explore current awareness and document delivery services 

as a reflection of the trends in this direction occuring amongst our custo-

mers (the move towards access rather than holdings), and the need to be in 

a position of providing such (hopefully income-generating) services if 

annual subscriptions to printed journals decline, as anticipated by some. 

Any agent failing to consider such alternative services, in an industry 

where electronic capabilities may transform it totally, is lacking any 

forward planning in its company.

In the case of Swets, our emphasis has been on current awareness rather 

than document delivery and such services have been channeled through the 

library community, our traditional business partners, rather then bypassing 

them as we recognise the continuing role to be played by libraries in im-

plementing and managing electronic and article based services on university 



Andrew Odlyzko, AT&T Bell Laboratories,

[Received April 29, 1995. -ed.]

A repeated question that has been raised in this forum is whether authors 

can be persuaded to behave so as to reduce costs of journals, say by steer-

ing their works to inexpensive publications. Unfortunately there is little 

evidence that this will happen. Altruism is not a powerful motive, and 

there are few ways to make it more attractive. The perverse economic in-

centives that operate in scholarly publishing are illustrated well by the 

following bit of history, extracted from an email message from Paul Gins-

parg (, the creator of the preprint server that has 

revolutionized information dissemination in many subfields of physics and 

other disciplines.  

        ******* quoted from a message from Paul Ginsparg **********

   i need to provide a small amount of background. in the late 70's, the 

   elsevier journal nuclear physics b took over [from Physical Review D] as 

   the "journal of choice" in this field [particle physics and field theo-

   ry] by having no page charges (no matter that their subscription charges 

   to libraries were many times larger than the aps journals [such as Phys-

   ical Review D], that was an indirect cost that researchers never saw). 

   all the larger more active groups (harvard, princeton, ...) decided 

   across the board they would not pay any page charges (under the guise of 

   fairness: since there wasn't enough on the grant to cover every member 

   of a large group of students, postdocs, junior and senior faculty), so 

   contributions from the most active groups went instead to nucl phys b.  

   the belated response from the american physical society in the mid '80s 

   was to eliminate page charges as well, but just for phys rev c and d 

   [phys rev c covers nuclear physics, and is in competition with the else-

   vier journal nuclear physics a], and by the early 90's patriotic ameri-

   cans began resubmitting to the aps journals.  

   but now, times are evidently getting tighter -- library subscriptions 

   are not increasing, and the aps comes right out and explains that its 

   publishing activities are used to subsidize its other activities (lobby-

   ing efforts, educational outreach, ...). so more or less in defiance of 

   its editors, the financial wing decides to reinstitute page charges and 

   increase them across the board ...

   for further edifying info, see 

                     ********* end of quote *********

Note that the physicists in this story behaved in a perfectly rational way. 

The money they saved by not paying page charges was money they could use 

for support of graduate students, etc. They did not have to use their 

grants to pay for the increase in library costs associated with the shift 

from an inexpensive journal to a much pricier one. Furthermore, even if 

they had to pay for that cost, they would have come out ahead; the increase 

in the costs of just their own library associated with an individual deci-

sion to publish in _Nuclear Physics B_ instead of the less expensive _Phys-

ical Review D_ (could such a small change have been quantified) would have 

been much smaller than the savings on page charges. Most of the extra cost 

would have been absorbed by other institutions.

To make this argument more explicit, consider two journals, H (high priced) 

and L (low priced). Suppose that each one has 1,000 library subscriptions 

and no individual ones. L is a very lean operation, and it costs them 

$3,000 to publish each article. They collect $1,000 of that $3,000 from 

authors through page charges, and the other $2,000 from subscribers, so 

that each library in effect pays $2 for each article that appears in L. On 

the other hand, H collects $7,000 in revenue per article, all from sub-

scriptions, which comes to $7 per article for each library. (It does not 

matter much whether the extra cost of H is due to profits, higher quality, 

or inefficiency.) 

>From the standpoint of society as a whole, or of any individual library, it 

would be desirable to steer all authors towards publishing in L, as that 

would save a total of $4,000. However, look at this situation from the 

standpoint of the author. If she publishes in L, she loses $1,000 that 

could be spent on graduate students, conferences, etc. If she publishes in 

H, she gets to keep that money. She does not get charged for the extra cost 

to any library, at least not right away. Eventually the overhead rates on 

her contract might go up to pay for the higher library spending at her 

institution. However, this effect is delayed and is very weak. Even if we 

had accounting mechanisms that would provide instantaneous feedback (which 

we manifestly do not, with journal prices set over a year in advance and 

totally insensitive to minor changes caused by individual authors deciding 

where to publish), our hypothetical author would surely only get charged 

for the extra $5 that she causes her library to spend ($7 for publication 

in H as opposed to $2 in L), and not for the costs to all the other 999 

libraries. She would still save $995 ($1000 - $5) of her grant money. Is it 

any wonder if she chooses to publish in H?


James Mouw, University of Chicago,

Technical information:  URL = This 

reviewer accessed the WWW page using Netscape version 1.0.

A recent addition to the rapidly increasing array of Web pages is this 

introduction to the ISSN. The page is technically solid, all the links 

provided actually lead to functioning pages, and the response time is very 

fast. The quick response time is most likely due in large part to an almost 

total lack of images, even in places where they would be welcome additions. 

The page is bilingual, with most information given in English and French.

The page also provides links to information contained on other pages, in-

cluding the Australian ISSN home page which is apparently the only other 

operational web site devoted to the ISSN (

ISSN.html). A link is provided to the Switzerland page, but this is not 

operational as of 5/25/95 ( There is also an 

item for standards information that links the user to information contained 

on the Faxon home page (

The first item on the main menu is a list of "New or amended items," allow-

ing the frequent user an opportunity to quickly scan for recently added or 

updated information. A scan of this page in late April indicated that the 

ISSN page would be updated frequently, since the "new or amended items" 

list showed at least 10 updates in the previous month. However, a recheck 

in late May indicates that there were no subsequent updates during the next 


The next item serves as an introduction to the ISSN, and provides a wide 

variety of information, from basic explanations like "What are serial pub-

lications" to "ISSN related standards" to a list of "uses for the ISSN" and 

a list of serial title word abbreviations.

The bulk of the rest of the page is devoted to information about the ISSN 

network - maps and lists of the National Centres (with many of the listings 

including e-mail addresses), a list of the products of the ISSN Interna-

tional Centre, and the latest statistics of the ISSN register.

I applaud the Centre international de l'ISSN for designing this Web page 

and for making it available, but I find it somewhat disappointing at this 

point. Many of the items on the page seem to be little more than an online 

representation of readily available printed products rather than new pres-

entations taking advantage of the capabilities of the WWW, and it is not 

organized in a fashion that highlights answers to frequently asked ques-

tions. For example: I approached the page with the ISSN related question I 

am asked most frequently, which is "How do I get an ISSN for my publica-

tion?" If the answer is on the web page, I couldn't locate it. The closest 

I can come is the vague statement that "Each user of the ISSN, each serial 

publisher, has the possibility of asking for the assignment of ISSN to 

publications which have not yet been registered by the network, by contact-

ing to the National Centre concerned or the ISSN International Centre." 

Even this is buried two or three screens into the page. I would like to see 

this information clearly labeled on the first screen of the page, as it 

indeed is on the Australian ISSN page which includes a category on its 

first screen clearly labeled "How to Obtain and Use an ISSN." Selecting 

this option brings up basic information and then offers a link to an elec-

tronic application form. After much digging I did find that for the US, 

this information is available on the Library of Congress Gopher at 

gopher://, but this link is 

only found under the US listing on the directory of ISSN agencies screen.  

It is unfortunate that basic information of this type is not prominently 

highlighted on the ISSN home page. Another frequent question is "Is the 

ISSN really unique?" Again, that question seems to be answered obliquely in 

the "genealogical tree of ISSN records," but not directly in the text. 

Finally, I mentioned earlier that the page is almost totally lacking in 

graphics, the main exception being a series of maps showing the countries 

with ISSN agencies. While the lack of images certainly speeds up the trans-

mission time, it leaves this user feeling that something is missing. A few 

well-placed images would certainly liven up what is now a very dull presen-

tation of factual information. For example, the section that provides a 

genealogical tree of ISSN records would provide a great opportunity for 

true graphics, including scanned copies of the covers of each iteration of 

the publication used for the example, but this was not done. Instead, the 

user is presented with a crude line drawing. The WWW offers superb oppor-

tunities for the imaginative presentation of data, I hope that future im-

provements to the ISSN home page will take advantage of those opportuni-



Statements of fact and opinion appearing in the _Newsletter on Serials 

Pricing Issues_ are made on the responsibility of the authors alone, and do 

not imply the endorsement of the editor, the editorial board, or the Uni-

versity of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.


Readers of the NEWSLETTER ON SERIALS PRICING ISSUES are encouraged to share 

the information in the newsletter by electronic or paper methods. We would 

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The NEWSLETTER ON SERIALS PRICING ISSUES (ISSN: 1046-3410) is published by 

the editor through the Office of Information Technology at the University 

of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, as news is available. Editor: Marcia 

Tuttle, Internet:; Paper mail: Serials Department, 

CB #3938 Davis Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel 

Hill NC 27515-8890; Telephone: 919 962-1067; FAX: 919 962-4450. Editorial 

Board: Deana Astle (Clemson University), Christian Boissonnas (Cornell 

University), Jerry Curtis (Springer Verlag New York), Janet Fisher (MIT 

Press), Fred Friend (University College, London), Charles Hamaker (Louisi-

ana State University), Daniel Jones (University of Texas Health Science 

Center), Michael Markwith (Swets North America), James Mouw (University of 

Chicago), and Heather Steele (Blackwell's Periodicals Division). The News-

letter is available on the Internet, Blackwell's CONNECT, and Readmore's 

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