[Received December 16, 1997.]
Publishers may faint with surprise that I should offer them any praise, but I do think that some of them are designing Web products that will prove to be extremely valuable to library users. I heard about two such new services at an STM Seminar in London: HyperCite (IOPP) and ChemPort (ACS), and no doubt there are other similar products out there. What I find refreshing about such developments is that publishers are taking a broader view of access to scholarly information, using such services as a vehicle for scholars to see particular journals in the context of a wider range of information. At one time, I remember, publishers would not "advertise" anything except their own products. There are still inbuilt barriers and commercial restraints -- e.g., sometimes it can still be difficult to move from one publisher's full-text to another publisher's full-text -- but there does seem to be a move towards the kind of discipline-based one-stop information resource that users need. What is still worrying of course is that some publishers, while being innovative with the technology, are still adopting old-style pricing policies, such as asking that libraries pay a hefty premium for electronic versions while making it difficult for libraries to drop the print version. That will be a barrier to future developments.
The challenge for librarians is how to respond to such developments. There has been in-built conservatism in universities just as there has been in publishing houses, and many librarians are not prepared to or are not able to embrace the Web wholeheartedly. I find my view on this is changing in the direction of feeling that our switch from paper to electronic versions for many journals will be sooner rather than later. We have all seen it coming, but with varying views on the pace of change. Many users are now used to seeing electronic versions of journals and I suspect that librarians will want to drop the print versions fairly quickly. How bold librarians will be or will be allowed to be in switching to Web-based information provision is difficult to predict. Many have gone down that road to a partial extent, but there may be much to be gained from a radical approach. The ease for users in obtaining access to full-text via the Web is now such a powerful argument, even allowing for problems such as slow networks, that products like HyperCite and ChemPort seem to me to have a good future.
For the new products to succeed, however, there has to be a radical review of the payment process, both by publishers and by librarians. Publishers have got to accept that academic libraries cannot afford to pay more and they must produce new pricing packages which will enable their products to be perceived as being better value for money than they are at the moment. The Web journals are potentially much better value for money than paper journals, but only in the context of a switch away from paper. Likewise, I suspect that librarians have got to clarify what payment-structure really is best for the Web-based information world. There has been a lot of talk about pay-per-use, which may work in some situations, but which in most academic libraries would kill use dead. The subscription model is probably still the best, in that it is easy to manage and will encourage use, but librarians need to have continued access to electronic journals even after their subscription has ceased. We have got to think radically in getting away from the idea that we need to hold electronic journals in the same way as we have held paper copies on our shelves for centuries. (We are now in an access-world rather than a holdings-world.) But we do need to be sure that archive copies are there somewhere for us to continue to access material that we have paid for. All of this is without prejudice to what happens about fair use, which will still have a place.
198.2 MCB RESPONDS TO HERR KAEMPER: TWO MESSAGES
Kathryn Toledano, MCB University Press, firstname.lastname@example.org
[Received December 22, 1997.]
Dear Herr Kaemper,
International Journal of Numerical Methods for Heat & Fluid Flow (HFF)
As publisher of this journal your statement on Marcia Tuttle's Newsletter on Serials Pricing Issues has been brought to my attention.
First I would like to offer my sincere apologies on behalf of MCB for your not receiving a response to your enquiry in June with regard to the journal's pricing. As you know from your earlier dealings with MCB when we customised access of HFF's Web site for your institution, non-response is not MCB's usual style. This was exceptional -- we value our customers, including yourself.
You may recall that MCB acquired this journal from its previous publishers in early 1996. At that time HFF was not commercially viable -- it did not have enough subscribers. MCB is investing in the journal's development to ensure its continued publication. These investments fund new subscriber growth, electronic development and editorial support. The subscription revenue is still insufficient to cover all the journal's costs. At this stage, rather than discontinue the journal, MCB is subsidising HFF because we understand the important contribution it makes to scholarly communication.
We believe HFF now enables you to provide a significantly improved service to your library users than you were ever able to provide when the journal was delivered in print only.
To answer your question about how we justify the higher price. HFF has undergone a number of significant enhancements since its print-issues-only days with the previous publisher in 1996. These include:
- The creation of an electronic archive (abstracts only from 1994-1996 with document delivery of these articles via MCB at no extra cost, and full electronic articles from 1997). I note that your subscription to HFF started in 1996, which gives you access to the 1994 and 1995 journal content free!
- Electronic access to the current content.
- Unlimited electronic access 24 hours a day to the current and archive content of HFF throughout your institution -- that is simultaneous access for your faculty and students which is equal to an unlimited number of subscriptions to a paper-only journal.
- Liberal copying and sharing of copyright material at no extra cost.
- Access via the Internet for you and your library colleagues plus journal users to various forums and other resources
Next year HFF subscribers will have the benefit of electronic access to the broader body of knowledge within its specialised field. We will be providing subscribers with abstracts of articles and other documents published elsewhere. Should you wish to access those documents we have a fast personalised service via the British Library -- however the usual copyright fee will have to be paid. Thus researchers have campus-wide electronic access to the current and archive content of HFF and the content of other quality publications from one source.
Thus far our electronic developments are enabling wider access to the body of knowledge. In the future we hope to create some of the other value-added features you allude to in your statement to NOSPI.
We have also created customised versions of our Web site for your institution. Upon receipt of your query our technical staff enabled your library to provide HFF throughout the campus (about 70 domain names) within two weeks. This was further customised upon your suggestion and was fully operational four weeks later. You will be pleased to know that your suggestion has also been rolled out for the benefit of other subscribers -- thank you for that feedback. We did comprehensive Beta-testing of the non-customised electronic access in 1996 before it went live in 1997, with a number of prominent academic institutions in Europe and North America.
Your feedback has proved valuable. We will shortly be establishing a focus group for users of our engineering, materials science and technology journals and I would like to invite you to participate in the product and service development of these titles.
I am aware that you have published your views on the NOSPI site and possibly others. Given the extent to which MCB has co-operated in the past and continues to enhance the journal as an information resource, we would appreciate your co-operation in ensuring that the wider audience also has an opportunity to consider our response.
Dear Herr Kaemper,
Thank you for your considered response to my e-mail. I have since spoken to a number of colleagues within MCB to appraise myself more fully on some of the more detailed and technical matters to which you refer.
The functionality of our on-line publications is frequently under review, following discussions with representatives of the library community, agents, technology partners and other publishers, to assess the potential for improvement and development. You refer to the IOP and Springer sites as ones offering more functionality in their electronic journals. We wouldn't disagree with you but believe that our site compares favourably to those offered by other publishers, such as Academic Press, Blackwell Science and Elsevier.
Within the management field (which is the coverage of the majority of our journals) there are less publications on-line with which we can create inter-publishing linking. This should only be a matter of time. In the meantime, we are currently developing related virtual conferences and forums to which we can provide dynamic links with not only published material but also to facilitate discussion/debate with scholars in the field.
Our site licence is included within the journal subscription. It is a liberal e-licence which provides access to the current content, the journal's archive and networking throughout the domain. Plus, a subscriber can make 25 copies of any article for which MCB holds the copyright without asking permission and without any fee.
We are working towards a consortia licence that conforms with the fair use guidelines currently under discussion in the library community.
The site is not finished -- we are continually looking for feedback and suggestions so these can be incorporated into the site and so its usability can be improved. Whilst we can create an evolving and accommodating site, it would be nigh on impossible to produce a bespoke site designed to meet every subscribers' individual needs.
You rightly queried our access control system. Currently, we have the ability to provide access using single/multiple IP addresses, single/multiple domain names and passwords. As from mid-January it will accept Class B, which will allow in excess of 65,000 hosts to access our site -- which is what most of our customers are requesting.
It has not yet proved possible to provide continuous publishing via the Internet in terms of one article at a time. We do need to move towards a model where the Internet site is not wholly dependent on the print journal publication and where certain items are updated before the print.
Again, may I thank you for your feedback and make the point that our site is not 'finished' and we welcome informed comments as to how it should be further developed.
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