Back in the fall and early winter I was afraid the Newsletter on Serials Pricing Issues was not going to survive long enough to get to a tenth anniversary issue. But thanks to some good friends and colleagues, we're on the way again.
Ten-plus years ago, a small group of librarians and one vendor (later, a publisher) met to decide whether we should try to issue a bitnet edition of our future printed newsletter. Thank goodness we took that brave step! The first issue, electronic and (short- lived) print, was February 27, 1989. I won't go into the history of the newsletter here, but I refer you to an article that covers the first few years. It is in PACS Review, volume 2, 1991, pages 111-127 (http://info.lib.uh.edu/pr/v2/n1/tuttle.2n1).
We have a new editorial board beginning with this issue, and I will introduce them. Three members are continuing on the board: Fred Friend (University College London), Michael Markwith (Swets Subscription Services, Inc.), and James Mouw (University of Chicago). New members are Keith Courtney (Taylor and Francis Ltd), Birdie MacLennan (University of Vermont), David Stern (Yale University), and Scott Wicks (Cornell University). Welcome! Their job is to come up with ideas for topics to be raised in the newsletter and people to write about these ideas, as well as to advise me on the appropriateness of submissions. They may well be soliciting your ideas and asking you to write for the newsletter. But don't wait to be asked, please! With no stated frequency, we can handle lots of ideas. In fact, there will be two more issues almost immediately.
I take this opportunity to thank the members of the former editorial board for their help over the past several years.
And now, on with Year 11....
215.2 THE PRICE OF A JOURNAL: THE PRICE TO THE LIBRARY OR THE
PRICE TO THE USER?
Fred Friend, Director Scholarly Communication, University College London, firstname.lastname@example.org
[Received February 12, 1999]
The paper by Andrew Odlyzko cited in No. 214 raises issues which every librarian should consider. I have responded to the Odlyzko paper in a Liblicense message dated 3 February 1999, querying the costs he quotes but supporting his main argument that library costs are high enough to render libraries vulnerable to being by-passed as intermediaries for electronic journal provision. The point of this message to NOSPI is that Andrew Odlyzko's approach leads me to wonder whether we should re-define our concept of the "price" of a journal. The concept under which we have tended to operate is that price equals the sum paid by a library to a journal supplier. Many contributions to NOSPI have been along the lines that the price of many journals is in that sense too high. From a librarian's point of view that concept of price and that reaction to subscription prices makes a lot of sense. But developing Andrew Odlyzko's approach, what we should really be looking at is the price to the user, which is a combination of various factors, of which the price to the library is only one.
Many funding models operate in different countries in the world. In many countries -- including the US and the UK -- there is a strong tradition of library services being free at the point of use. This is good, and long may it continue, but it should not disguise the fact that the user is paying for library services indirectly if not directly. The user may be paying the price through a library grant top-sliced from her or his departmental income, or if a student as a proportion of course fees. Either way a price is being paid which is greater than the price the library is charged by the publisher. I do not believe that Andrew Odlyzko is right to attribute costs as high as $8000 per journal article to the service a library provides as an intermediary, but do we have any more accurate costs? We may need them if other intermediaries offer users access to journal literature at a price that undercuts the price a user can see that she or he is paying by supporting the library service. This approach should also make us careful that it is not "the pot calling the kettle black" when we criticise publishers for raising prices. I still believe that many publishers have not been justified in raising their prices by so high a factor over a long period of time. Can we, however, be confident that the price we charge to our users (i.e. including the cost of running the journals service) has not risen by as much? I do not know the answer to that question, because it is difficult to dis-aggregate journal costs from other library costs, but I feel that I should know the answer. Has anybody done any work on this? In addition there is the question of the price a user pays in her or his own time. Libraries that retain paper journals will be vulnerable on this point, as paper incurs the user cost in walking to the library. With electronic access, all intermediaries who supply to the user will be on level playing field for price.
Many pricing issues will become more important as electronic journals replace print. In his paper Andrew Odlyzko offers several scenarios, such as that of librarians and publishers all being by-passed by electronic preprints, and he does see the possibility of a continuing role for librarians as "information specialists." But whatever the scenario that emerges, the end-user will be more aware of the price being paid for access to journal literature, and it is in librarians' interests to have a clear breakdown of the total price a user will pay.
215.3 COURT OF APPEALS AFFIRMS VICTORY FOR AIP AND APS IN
LITIGATION OVER SURVEY OF JOURNAL PRICES
Press release dated January 27, 1999 from the American Institute of Physics
[Received February 15, 1999]
On January 25, 1999, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit unanimously affirmed the decision by U.S. District Judge Leonard B. Sand that the publication and promotional use of a survey of journal prices did not constitute false or misleading advertising. The suit had been brought by Gordon and Breach Science Publishers S.A. and affiliates ("G&B") and alleged that a survey conducted by Professor Henry Barschall and published by the American Institute of Physics ("AIP") and The American Physical Society ("APS") should be enjoined. The survey showed that G&B's physics journals were, on average, far more expensive in terms of cost per thousand characters than those of other publishers.
Following a seven-day trial, Judge Sand issued a decision in August 1997 in which he stated that "Barschall's methodology has been demonstrated to establish reliably precisely the proposition for which defendants cited it -- that defendants' physics journals, as measured by cost per character and by cost per character divided by impact factor, are substantially more cost-effective than those published by plaintiffs." (The impact factor is a measure of citation frequency.) See http://barschall.stanford.edu for the decision, for background information, and for copies of the late Professor Barschall's original articles. Although G&B had raised a variety of issues in its appeal of Judge Sand's decision, the Court of Appeals found that none warranted specific mention. In an opinion that issued just two weeks after oral argument, the Court stated simply that "[w]e affirm for substantially the reasons stated by the district court in its opinion."
In setting the context for the dispute, Judge Sand had observed that "defendants introduced evidence that G&B has engaged in an aggressive corporate practice of challenging any adverse commentary upon its journals, primarily through threatened (and actual) litigation. This evidence persuasively demonstrated that the present suit is but one battle in a `global campaign by G&B to suppress all adverse comment upon its journals.'" Because the relevant statute allows the recovery of attorney's fees in "exceptional" cases, AIP/APS sought fees. Although the Court of Appeals observed that G&B's suit "may not have been strong on the merits," it affirmed Judge Sand's denial of fees.
Marc Brodsky, the Executive Director of the AIP, stated that "we are extraordinarily pleased with the outcome because it allows the free flow of information that bears on the difficult problems that libraries confront in dealing with the rising costs of journals." Tom McIlrath, the Treasurer of the APS, observed that "G&B has repeatedly attacked the societies for the publication of the Barschall survey and it is gratifying to have such sweeping vindication in the U.S. courts. Unfortunately, we are still under attack in French and Swiss courts for using exactly the same data and methodology that the U.S. courts found be completely acceptable."
The litigation was handled for the societies by Richard A. Meserve of Covington & Burling in Washington, D.C. Meserve commented that "the case is important because it shows that the full protection of the First Amendment applies to the publication of scholarly works, even in the face of alleged commercial motive." Meserve, who is both a physicist and a lawyer, is a Fellow of The American Physical Society.
For further information or questions, please contact Phil Schewe, (301) 209-3092.
215.4 STATEMENT FROM GORDON AND BREACH ABOUT LITIGATION
The Gordon and Breach Publishing Group via Marisa Westcott, email@example.com
[Received February 24, 1999]
Given that the French Supreme Court agreed with our position, we will live with the decision of the Appellate Court not to grant our request for an injunction, unless the societies decide to appeal their loss in the ruling on fees. Since the French ruling did not apply to future surveys, an appeal to the US courts was essential to stop any further dissemination of misleading information. Although we are not content with the final US decision, we believe that our challenge to the AIP/APS to prevent its dissemination of incorrect information will ultimately benefit science and the integrity of research data.
215.5 "FORUM ZEITSCHRIFTEN"GERMAN-SPEAKING SERIALS INTEREST
Pamela Bluh, Assistant Director for Technical Services and Administration, University of Maryland School of Law, firstname.lastname@example.org
[Received February 22, 1999]
In the fall of 1998, during the Frankfurt Book Fair, a group of librarians, agents, booksellers, periodical publishers and other interested parties met to consider the feasibility of establishing an organization whose primary mission centers on matters of concern to serialists. As a result of that initial meeting, a project team under the guidance of Anne Bein (Swets & Zeitlinger GmbH, Frankfurt, Germany) and Hartmut Walravens (Staatsbibliothek Berlin, Germany) was charged with drafting a constitution and bylaws.
The organization will be named "Forum Zeitschriften" - GSIG (German-speaking Serials Interest Group) and hopes to draw members from Germany as well as from Austria and Switzerland. During the formative period and until officers are elected, Ms. Anne Bein and Mr. Hartmut Walravens and Mr. Werner Stephan (Universitatsbibliothek Stuttgart) will represent GSIG. At least two representatives from GSIG will attend the joint UKSG-European Serials Conference in Manchester, April 12-14, 1999 where they hope to announce the new organization's goals, objectives, aims and programs.
During the Librarian Congress in Freiburg, Germany (May 25 - 29, 1999) GSIG plans to issue its 1st edition of "Forum Zeitschriften" and welcomes/invites all other serials groups to send their wishes/experiences/statements/expectations as a short notice to GSIG. The international feedback will be printed in our 1st edition.
For additional information about the creation of GSIG, please contact:
Swets & Zeitlinger GmbH
Frankfurt - Germany
Berlin - Germany
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.
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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: 215 Flemington Road, Chapel Hill NC 27514-5637; Telephone: 919 929-3513; Fax 919 960-0847. Editorial Board: Keith Courtney (Taylor and Francis Ltd.), Fred Friend (University College, London), Birdie MacLennan (University of Vermont), Michael Markwith (Swets North America), James Mouw (University of Chicago), David Stern (Yale University), and Scott Wicks (Cornell University).
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