Here's a response about the recent NOSPI message re. Academic Press's IDEAL service. The views here are mine and don't represent those of anyone else in our institution or consortium.
The Yale Library participates in a site license with Academic Press for their 176 IDEAL titles via the Web. We spent some months negotiating the license with Academic in our identity as a member of NERL, the NorthEast Research Libraries consortium (17 large NE research libraries, of whom about half eventually signed up for the service). This is the license that generally prevails for most of IDEAL's consortial arrangements in North America. Academic Press estimates that they have about 4-5 million academic users of their titles under this arrangement, all within one year. They must be doing something right, or at least I think they are. The situation is by no means perfect but it's headed in a good direction.
The consortial deal is as follows -- this is a bit complicated: On a three-year license, each institution is billed for ONLY the titles it takes in print. However, it is billed at 90% of the price of those titles for Web access (note that this is an ejournal license). If the institution chooses to take print copies of titles, it pays 25% of list print price for the print, in addition to the 90% e-price. So the most that the annual bill can cost is 115% of current print price. If we cancel print titles (as we will likely do this year, at least a few of them), then the percentage over 100 drops. In fact, if one cancelled all the print subs, one would be paying 90% of print price.
However, because the consortium altogether -- between the various members -- takes most of the 176 Academic journals, all the NERL signers get access to all 176 titles via the Web at no additional charge. Thus, the Yale story is that we take about 120 of those 176 titles. We pay 90% of the print list price for 120 titles, 25% of print list price for the ones we choose to keep in print. Since we are not cancelling much, our cost is about 13%-14% over basic print price.
The incentive for us: usage data on the Academic titles for the term of the license, which is a way of seeing what our readers want to access; 50+ additional titles for, in effect, 13% above current costs. It's worth the experiment, I think, to bring our readers a critical mass of e-titles, which we are starting to have now, at about 1,000 total, more than half of which are for-free online journals and the rest licensed at what are pretty reasonable prices.
As I said above, about 8 of the NERL institutions signed up. The others had various reasons for not signing, one of which was the belief that the price remains too high -- more specifically that the model that ensures historical cash flows for the publisher is the wrong model for these times.
Additional incentives: our consortial site license is very good. It allows extensive educational copying, downloading, printing by our users. Classroom use, reserves use, coursepack use can be done with no additional charge or permissions. All the hassle of what you can and can't copy is gone. Visitors to campus can use the titles from Yale machines. Our users can use the resources away from home. Scholars can send articles to collaborators in other, nonlicensed institutions when the work is in the interests of scientific and scholarly communication. The only thing we can't do is use the electronic issues for InterLibrary Loan. Apart from this latter item, we think the rest of the use terms to be very good.
And more incentives for small libraries: Academic will allow the forming and growing of consortia to license IDEAL. We now have a number of small regional college libraries as NERL affiliates on this particular license. If the titles they currently take in print from Academic total under $1,000, they pay Academic a flat $1,000 for access to all 176 titles that the main NERL consortium has access to. If they take more than $1,000 worth, then they pay on the pricing model above.
We are beginning to see usage stats monthly; they are starting to grow as more users become aware of the service. Interestingly enough, the small schools would appear have a proportionally higher use than the big ones at this time. I am not sure yet what to attribute this to -- it's early days. But clearly they are using these journals (perhaps against all logic) and they think they have a good deal. A few more comments below:
In the short term (on a 2-3 year basis) one can be locked into a pricing model based on the year before the year before the license began. This is part of the negotiating strategy, however, and some concessions might be possible for the duration of any contract. Admittedly we didn't get much give on this matter, though there was give on other matters related to pricing.
We can always cancel titles; but the trick, of course, is that in this kind of 2-3 year license, the cancelled titles do have to be paid for, for the next two years. Nonetheless, one should proceed with cancellations as they likely affect the next pricing base and round of negotiations!
Some say that this kind of system is simply not viable. Possibly not. This is not totally clear to me. If, like Academic, a publisher is willing to load lots of titles into the license, along with extensive copying, plus a high degree of service *and* extensive, continuing software development and upgrades (which no single library could do), then the argument about the unviability weakens. We are getting a lot more for our money than we used to with Academic's print titles.
About the "give them the money" proposal (no. 177):
I am skeptical that such a system would be efficient; in fact, one thinks it is likely to become vastly inefficient. Instead of pooling money on resources for thousands of users, the money would meet individual (likely research) needs. Students could easily get overlooked; the commons is likely to shrink rapidly (either holdings or access as a commons or both); future access would be in jeopardy, and a great deal of redundancy in time and dollars for document delivery for the same articles would result. I don't know to what extent this would happen, but it is not likely to be trivial. This is more an argument for the central role of libraries, though, than of any present publishing system.
It has been said that the average expenditure per faculty member in ARL institutions overall is about $12,000. Could it be that averages lie? The average of course depends on the school you are in. A few of the ARL schools have high faculty to budget ratios and large acquistions $$$. However, I was in one of the southern states (state research university) recently. There with a faculty group we discussed exactly the "give them the money" scenario. In that institution, the amount of money per faculty member would have been under $2,000 and every one in the room to a person agreed that this money simply would not get them very far. That idea had the shortest life of any I've seen!
182.2 RESPONSE TO CASS GLODEK (NO. 179)
Robert D. Simoni, Associate Editor, Journal of Biological Chemistry, rdsimoni@leland.Stanford.edu
It is both ironic and disheartening to read comments like those expressed by Cass Glodek on escalating prices from Non-Profit publishers and citing the Journal of Biological Chemistry (JBC) as an example.
The JBC is published by the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (ASBMB) and has been and continues to be, by far, the best bargain in science publishing.
We were the first to publish an online version of the Journal in partnership with HighWire Press which is part of the Stanford University Library System. One of the major reasons ASBMB chose a university library system as our partner in this venture is just because we share their concern about escalating serials cost, and we also share a commitment to offer lower cost versions of our Journal and thus take a leadership role in reducing serials pricing. In addition, the Officers of our Society and the Editors of the JBC are nearly all university faculty/scientists and know first hand the problems of limited budgets and escalating journal prices.
We feel we've made a good start toward our goal of a "low price" alternative and now offer the online Journal for 25% less than the print version. We have priced the print and online journals independently just so that a lower cost alternative is possible. It is now possible for an institution to subscribe to the online JBC, get a far greater value in my judgment, and save 25%. For '98, the cost differential between the print and online Journal will be about 30%, thus offering still greater savings for those ready to make the inevitable transition from print to online. (There is about a 30% differential in the cost of producing the print and online journals.) We expect that librarians will have to continue to make tough choices about which journals to purchase but also which format to choose. We also feel that the consortia deals made by the For-Profit publishers which link print to electronic products are nothing more than an effort to perpetuate the status quo and maintain high print profits.
It is particularly misleading for Glodek to cite a nearly 22% increase in the price of the print JBC for '97 as evidence that we are at long last attempting to "share in the largesse" long realized by the For-Profits. The price of print JBC did increase about 22% for '97 but Goldek fails to point out that we also received nearly 15% more manuscripts to review in '96 than '95 and the '97 price increase was based on this enormous volume increase plus a modest cost rise. The cost to publish the JBC is very tightly linked to the number of pages published. We have set our prices for '98 with a 7% increase in print price, also reflecting an expected volume increase and cost rise, and 0% increase in the price of the online JBC.
The suggestion that Congress should examine the "monopolistic practices" of scholarly publishing is interesting. Any such inquiry, assuming that Congress could focus their limited attention on such a "hot topic," would yield the view that authors are under no constraint as to where they publish their papers and that Society, Non-Profit publishers are very poor business people.
182.3 FROM THE MAILBOX
The mailbox is: firstname.lastname@example.org
From Carol Hutchins, New York University, hutchins@CMCL2.NYU.EDU:
In newsletter no. 181 John Tagler said
These percentages are guaranteed, regardless of the growth in the number of pages published in these journals or currency fluctuations. Most librarians would consider an annual cap of 9.5% reasonable based on historical increases industry-wide.
While it is interesting to read more details of Elsevier's offering,
I'd be even more interested to see a survey in which a large number
of librarians thought that annual increases of 9.5% in cost of
journals was "reasonable." Whatever the individual librarians may
have thought, the fact remains that budgets are flat or increasing
at maybe 4 or 5%. I think a plan from a publisher which pegs
increases at 9 to 10% is near suicidal. See Odlyzko (no. 181) for
From Albert Henderson, Publishing Research Quarterly, email@example.com:
In 179.1 Susan Zappen (firstname.lastname@example.org) blames "... faculty as both the problem and the solution. Their tenure system explodes existing journals and spawns new journals," for the library crisis.
I think it is the folks who have increased finances for research and cut libraries, not the tenure system, who should be pilloried here. I would say the faculty may be blamed for abrogating responsibility for budget decisions that eviscerate their resources. For hundreds of years prior to World War II, the best academic library collections were supported sufficiently to match the published growth of research. Some people have called this the era of elitism, but others admire its "gold standards" and high common denominators.
Will the faculty ever get into library finances? The faculty at University of Maryland - College Park recently sought a commitment from the administration on restoring library quality. I hope others take up this challenge. Ultimately, it is the faculty and students who suffer from using a stale library collection and the aroma that it ultimately generates.
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