[Reprinted from SLAPAM-L with the author's permission.]
Science magazine now, finally, has a site license publicly available for institutions. (see http://www.sciencemag.org/subscriptions/libinfo.shtml). There are some distinctive features:
"5. Science Online subscriptions allow access to the full text database of all Science issues published on the Web over the course of a period of 51 weeks (a one year subscription). There is no physical archive provided with this subscription. Online subscribers are encouraged to purchase a print subscription for archiving purposes."
In other words, the library is purchasing only a one year window.
"Site-wide Subscriptions -- desktop access by IP address for the
"Educational institutions: Total number of employees and students.
"All other institutions: Total number of employees.
"Site-wide Subscription Rates
|Less than 1000||$1500|
|Greater than 25,000||$5500|
"Connection fee for each affiliated remote site is $250.00
"2. Library Workstation Subscriptions -- online access by IP address for workstations that are physically located in a library.
"Price: $25.00 per workstation.
"Minimum order is 10 workstations if the library does not have a Science print subscription.."
This means that for site-wide access, my university would need to pay $3500; we currently have 10 institutional print subscriptions with one workstation access each, at a total cost of 10($295+$25)=$3,000. To change to a site license would cost us 117% more than what we now pay, or 119% above the print price. And this would be only for a one year window! I am speaking only for myself, but I consider this exceptionally poor value, and I hope the other selectors here agree with me.
In my view, for a publisher to offer libraries a one year window would only be appropriate for access to an electronic version supplied without extra cost, as a bonus for the print subscribers. I think most of us would not pay for access to the current year only of a print journal. Although I recognize that subscription costs per se are not really a concern of this list, I think the general concept of the extent of any appropriate differential costs for print and online is relevant, as are some specific examples.
213.2 RESPONSE TO DAVID GOODMAN
Michael Spinella, Science, email@example.com
[Reprinted from SLAPAM-L with the author's permission.]
David, I'm glad to know that librarians are following our activities at Science closely, and your note has been helpful in that it points out some areas where our literature may need some clarification. Your comment leaves the impression -- perhaps generated by some confusing wording in our own subscription materials online -- that institutions subscribing to Science Online only get to look at the 51 issues we publish during their one-year subscription. This is not the case. All active Science Online subscribers, whether individual or institutional, have full access to ALL Science articles that have been published online. Full text dates back to October of 1995.
Your note raises two other more serious issues, and I would like to offer some response here, as well as invite listserv subscribers to contact me directly if they have more questions. The issues you raised are:
1) there is no permanent archive which survives the subscription term; and,
2) you don't see the value of Science Online when comparing the pricing to the print journal.
Your understanding is correct that dropping the subscription would entail a loss of access, even to the issues published during the licensing term. This permanent archiving problem certainly is not unique to Science. We share your concern about it, and are open to discussing better solutions for the future. The recommendation to retain print Science is actually a reflection of my discussions with librarians, who generally have said they have no intention of dropping the print anyway, and furthermore, would expect to retain online access indefinitely as well. Nevertheless, no one, including us, considers print to be a final and complete answer to the archiving problem, especially since the Online journal contains some content and functionality that never appears in print.
On point #2, we venture into an area that has more to do with perception and opinion than with fact. I am aware of your position on Science Online, since you and I discussed it at length by e-mail and phone some months ago, and I respect your decision to make judgments about the quality and usefulness of the journals you purchase -- whether in print or online. I am disappointed, naturally, that you have concluded that Science Online isn't worth its price. And, naturally, I disagree with you. Apparently, so do a lot of your fellow librarians, because we are getting a lot of orders as libraries prepare their 1999 purchases. Science Online is not just a digital copy of Science in print, so assessing its value by a facile comparison to the print price raises a classic apples to oranges problem. Not only are its economic drivers different from those of Science, but so are its functions, features, some of its content, availability, and reader usage patterns.
Science Online provides benefits that cannot be replicated by the paper subscription, including additional content, breadth of access, immediate availability of new content on the date of publication, full-text keyword searching across issues, and extensive hyperlinking to additional resources, citations, and supplementary materials. Preparing and supporting all these features is expensive. These benefits represent new work and new cost that does not flow out of the print journal production process.
Science Online is also subject to other costs and economic factors that are not faced by the print journal, and which drive the cost of institutional access higher:
1) fewer buyers -- it isn't pessimism to project fewer buyers for Science Online than Science has enjoyed, it is a merely a recognition of the unique composition of our print subscription base. In fact, we are experiencing vigorous demand for Science Online, but it is a foregone conclusion that it will not reach anything like the level of paying subscribers that Science has. Science in print is a very unusual scientific journal in that it serves a paying readership of about 140,000 members and 19,000 library subscriptions. This vast readership base enables us to distribute `first copy' costs very broadly among our readers. Science Online is expected to be principally an institutional buy, rather than an individual one. And we believe there are scarcely more than a few thousand separate research institutions, corporations and government agencies which will comprise the market for site licenses to Science Online. If one considers the "per person" cost of serving these institutions, the cost of providing Science Online to its user community is very low indeed (often under $1 each). But since there are fewer entities to spread the costs among, the gross cost per institution is significantly higher than the cost for the print journal, which has a broader and more varied revenue stream.
2) fewer advertisers -- we're pleased with the interest our advertisers have displayed in Science Online, and their support is growing rapidly. Nevertheless, in gross dollars, advertising online does not yet provide a substantial portion of the cost of the product. Furthermore, the development costs to create the kinds of capabilities we need to offer advertisers are not inconsequential. Since we cannot yet command very high ad rates online, the margins here are quite small.
3) new costs to support Science Online -- Besides the costs of creating the additional content and functionality of Science Online, we are anticipating very significant increases in our technology and customer service costs. Again, I must reiterate that Science is not like other primary scientific journals. The two pieces of `evidence' we have at this point are: a) our customer service inquiries shot up 50% in 1997, with the introduction of individual Science Online access; and b) our audited page requests for Science Online were 4.7 million. This figure is extremely conservative, as it eliminates all gifs and multiple hits due to the structure of a file, in order to estimate the actual number of articles or other discreet items requested. Combine with these facts the anecdotal evidence we have from librarians that Science is one of their most broadly read and requested periodicals, and that there is substantial demand from library users for Science Online to be provided. I don't think it's unreasonable for us to expect unusually high customer service and technology costs.
4) library subscription losses -- As I mentioned earlier, librarians tell us they don't intend to drop print Science. However, we do expect to see some losses of `second' institutional subscriptions to the print. We are not assuming that all of the library copies will be canceled -- if we made that assumption the prices would be significantly higher. In a few cases where a library has numerous copies of Science, we are considering how we might provide a discount for Science Online if the librarian will agree to retain all the copies.
No doubt this is more than you or your colleagues wanted to hear about Science Online pricing! I hope that this information will help clarify some of the differences between Science and Science Online, and that this dialogue can continue on a productive basis. Again, I do hope to hear from you or other readers of the listserv if you have further questions.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org; Paper mail: 215 Flemington Road, Chapel Hill NC 27514-5637; Telephone: 919 929-3513; Fax: 919 960-0847.
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/prices/. At Grenoble the url is: http://www-mathdoc.ujf-grenoble.fr/NSPI/NSPI.html.