At Marcia Tuttle's request, I have asked for responses from publishers to Fred Friend's piece, just below, about the value of discussions between librarians and publishers. The response from Sandra Whisler has come forward to date. Other input from publishers about this important topic would be appreciated!
172.2 WHY ARE LIBRARIANS TALKING TO PUBLISHERS?
Fred Friend, University College London, firstname.lastname@example.org
There is a saying in this country that if you had a pound for every time you did something you would be a rich person. Well, if I had a pound for every time I have written or said something about the journal price rise problem, I would be so rich I could afford to buy quite a few journals! And what is becoming clear is that all the discussion with publishers about price rises has been a waste of time: prices continue to rise well above general inflation and well above the budget increases available to libraries. So why are we talking to publishers? Clearly not to get them to reduce their prices, or if that is our objective we had better change it.
There is a general reason for librarians to continue to talk to publishers, and that is that we are all in the scholarly communication business, and any business works better when people talk to one another. But we do need to think through what we are trying to achieve. Publishers who read the Newsletter must correct me if I am wrong, but my impression is that they do have a fairly clear idea of what they are trying to achieve in any dialogue with librarians, and that is an understanding of the library situation which will bring an increase in market share for their products. I think they want to understand how we make our purchasing and cancellation decisions. Whether that understanding has led to any more sales I do not know, and perhaps publishers are feeling as frustrated about that as we are about the failure to solve the price rise problem. For my part I have tried to understand how the publishing industry works, but as an end in itself or with any purpose in mind? Certainly my understanding of the factors involved in pricing a journal has increased, but beyond a certain point the barriers come down and commercial confidentiality stops any full understanding.
I hate being negative, and I am aware that this contribution may come across in that way. The most constructive objective I can propose for dialogue with publishers lies in what, or rather who, we have in common: the faculty members who write the articles that the publishers publish that libraries buy that faculty members read. In our purchasing and cancellation decisions we take the users' views into account. Publishers always tell me that they are responding to the wish of faculty members when they increase the size of a journal that leads to a price rise. Can we have a common objective with publishers in dialogue to understand better the views of the academic community? For example, do publishers care that 80% of what they publish is never read? They may not care, having made the sale, but if they do, and if librarians also care, can we work together to find out why? Perhaps publishers and librarians should stop trying to understand and influence one another and join forces in understanding and influencing the academic community.
172.3 THE ECONOMIC REALITIES OF JOURNAL PUBLISHING
Sandra Whisler, University of California Press, email@example.com
I have never met Fred Friend, or even corresponded with him directly, but on the basis of his participation in NSPI and other listservs, I have come to think of him as a person who always has thoughtful and worthwhile things to say. So I am especially dismayed at the tone and the distrust of publishers which I perceived in his piece on "Why are Librarians Talking to Publishers?" Combined with the increased shrillness and vitriol which I have detected at meetings this fall (most recently at the ARL conference on Electronic Licensing held in San Francisco Dec. 8-9), I am concerned about the deteriorating climate and channels of communication between our two communities.
Friend surmises that publishers talk to librarians in order to increase market share. It is true that publishers have always paid attention to their customers and tried to understand their realities as a part of efficient marketing. But the publishers I know (and not just in the nonprofit world) also talk to librarians out of a sense that we are all in this together and a conviction that the entire process of scholarly communication -- a process which is now changing radically -- will be best served by clear and mutually respectful communication, even when we must disagree.
Publishers and librarians both add real value to the communication process -- value which is often invisible to the end user. So I talk to librarians because I truly care about their perceptions, needs, and realities, not just because it will make me a more efficient seller. I and most of my publishing peers want to create an electronic world which benefits publishers and librarians -- and the scholars whom we all serve.
At the same time, I am not free to just "give them what they want." Even at university presses and scholarly societies, we are running businesses and must deal with our own economic realities. The publishers I know have heard what librarians say about their budgets and have done what we can to restrict price increases. In my experience the ongoing library budget crisis comes up in decision-making all the time.
But we are under immense financial pressures ourselves:
*OUR costs continue to rise faster than inflation (paid any attention to what's happening to second and third class postal rates or the cost of paper lately?).So we can't promise libraries prices that are within the CPI without being irresponsible as business people.
*The demands to create electronic product while continuing print product create new cost centers and produce little income. In addition, while the library community has been very vocal in asking publishers to create electronic product (and even to shoulder the costs of new roles like archiving), there isn't a huge level of actual purchasing of e-journals, so that the costs are largely unsupported.
*Universities are continually lessening their support for editorial costs and offices.
*We continue to face demands from scholars to produce new electronic and print publications, but there isn't library support for these journals, so launches are more financially risky and require more investment.
*The need for ongoing expenditures in hardware, software, and staff training is large.
I don't feel frustrated that libraries can't purchase my journals; nor do I blame libraries for their budget difficulties, which are obviously beyond their control. I DO feel frustrated when some librarians make outrageous and incorrect statements about publishers and their motives (as happened at the ARL licensing meeting) and when there seems to be more interest in assessing blame than there is in working toward solutions of the enormous problems which face us all. And it's hard not to feel resentful when the commitment to scholarly communication that I and most of my publishing colleagues share is portrayed in strictly commercial terms.
Left to their own devices, scholars might construct an electronic world in which both publishers and librarians see their roles reduced or eliminated. Because I value the roles which librarians AND publishers play in the process, I hope that we will be able to maintain civil, mutually respectful channels of communication as we try to negotiate a difficult and tricky transition full of conflicting needs, perceptions, resources, and expectations. I agree with Mr. Friend that we need to educate scholars, but I believe that there is also much work to do with university administrators -- work that we can usefully do together. I hope we can avoid the mistrust and hostility which another round of publisher-bashing would create -- mistrust which would lessen our ability to do this important work together. Concluding that it's not worth talking unless the other person does what you want isn't a very productive way to conduct a personal relationship, and it won't work very well as an operating principle between communities either.
172.4 HEALTH REFERENCE CENTER FROM INFORMATION ACCESS COMPANY
Danny Jones, University of Texas Health Sciences Center, San Antonio, firstname.lastname@example.org
We have been using the Health Reference Center from Information Access Company for several years. It has been very useful to the lay public, as our main collection is selected for the health care professional. We started several years ago with a single stand-alone CD-ROM version and in September we converted to the Web version on IAC's Searchbank. Our conversion to the Web version was part of a consortium purchase which we negotiated for 11 sites in South Texas, in which some sites got CD-ROMs (both stand-alone and networked) and most sites got the Web version. Consortium pricing provided a SUBSTANTIAL reduction from the single site pricing, and there is an additional price break for consortia of 6 or more sites, as opposed to smaller consortia.
According to some of our staff, the Web version is not necessarily as convenient as the stand-alone CD-ROM. With the stand-alone version we could basically sit people down and they could figure it out by themselves. There were no other CD-ROM titles available on that machine, and the HRC was permanently loaded on it. Teaching the lay public how to negotiate the web can be a bit more challenging. Printing from the web was also a problem initially, but that has been worked out. With the Web version we also have the convenience of simultaneous access from anywhere in our internet domain. The HRC web license includes a text-based version that we provide from our database menu.
While the consortium pricing is advantageous, dealing with IAC is not easy. We placed the order on July 31, 1996 and actually have never gotten a correct invoice for the purchase. Granted, this was a complex order. But I was assured by our sales representative in California that they could handle it and I would have the invoice faxed to me. Even after I gave them detailed instructions, the invoice was wrong. When I did not get satisfaction from the sales representative I went higher to both the director of sales and the assistant director of customer relations, and that even required several calls. The invoice we finally paid had an extra site charge which we crossed off, adjusted the bottom line and paid. I probably have spent 30 hours dealing with them over the invoice.
Pricing and account information from IAC is a mystery to me. I called this week to add a second stand-alone CD-ROM for one of our consortium sites. According to the person I talked with their records showed a network version at that site, not a stand-alone version. The sales representative I spoke with quoted a price over the phone and then said she would have someone who covers my state call me back. That person called and quoted a different price which was more than 20% lower. I asked her to quote the second copy to expire at the same time as the first copy, which she did, and she promptly faxed me a quote which agreed with what she told me over the phone.
IAC has some desirable products, but I have to wonder how much time we and they are wasting in the order process. If they had a published price list, maybe they could eliminate some of their administrative costs and still make the same amount of money.
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 University 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 appreciate credit if you quote from the newsletter.
The Newsletter on Serials Pricing Issues (ISSN: 1046-3410) is published by the editor through Academic and Networking Technology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, as news is available. Editor: Marcia Tuttle, Internet: email@example.com; Paper mail: Serials Department, CB #3938 Davis Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill NC 27515-8890; Telephone: 919 962-8047; FAX: 919 962-4450. Editorial Board: Deana Astle (Clemson University), Christian Boissonnas (Cornell University), Jerry Curtis (Springer Verlag New York), Isabel Czech (Institute for Scientific Information), Janet Fisher (MIT Press), Fred Friend (University College, London), Charles Hamaker (Louisiana 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 Newsletter is available on the Internet, Blackwell's CONNECT, and Readmore's ROSS. EBSCO customers may receive the Newsletter in paper format.
To subscribe to the newsletter send a message to LISTPROC@UNC.EDU saying SUBSCRIBE PRICES [YOUR NAME]. Be sure to send that message to the listserver and not to Prices. You must include your name. To unsubscribe (no name required in message), you must send the message from the e-mail address by which you are subscribed. If you have problems, please contact the editor.
Back issues of the Newsletter are archived on 2 World Wide Web sites. At
UNC-Chapel Hill the url is: http://www.lib.unc.edu/reference/ prices/prices.html.
At Grenoble the url is: http://www-mathdoc.ujf-grenoble.fr/NSPI/NSPI.html.