NO 224 -June 9, 1999

Editor: Marcia Tuttle

ISSN: 1046-3410


224.1 AT NO EXTRA COST? Bernd-Christoph Kaemper

Bernd-Christoph Kaemper, Information Services Department, Stuttgart University Library,

Institute of Physics Publishing's online publishing model has been ground breaking, and this year's Pricing Bulletin (cf. its online version at ) offers more attractive news than ever, including a number of value added "no extra cost" services for institutional print subscribers: full electronic access with 6-year online archive and 30-year abstract archive for selected titles, HyperCite(TM) linking and STACKS(TM) link management system. And before giving the prices, they assure you again: "As in previous years, all institutional rates include online journal access at no additional cost." And when you read that ...

Full electronic access [...] is included with institutional rate subscriptions. This means that all readers at a subscribing institution are able to view our journals online from the library OR FROM THEIR OWN DESKTOP [emphasis added] at no extra cost.

... you haven't any doubt that subscriptions maintained by the university library may be accessed by authorised readers from anywhere on the campus, or have you? Since this has been our practice since January 1996, when Stuttgart University represented by its library signed the licence agreement and registered its site and the two class B networks forming its campus network (IOPP was informed in detail about its extent and structure), we did not pay attention to a rather cryptic remark first appearing in 1999, again under 'Getting started': "Do I need a Multi-Site Licence? If you are currently networking or wish to network your electronic resources between different sites and libraries within your institution, then you may require a Multi-Site Licence." You may start becoming suspicious, when you read on page 2 of IOPP's 1999 pricing bulletin "... from 1999, its Electronic Journals will be available in 3 year individual site licence. The Institute of Physics Publishing Site Licence provides full electronic access to all subscribed journals from any PC on a licenced institutional site. The Price of the Institute of Physics Publishing Site Licence is calculated by adding a 15% premium to the price of recent subscriptions held by the institution." Adding a 15% premium? Did they not just tell you full electronic access came at no extra cost when you register a site? Site Registration, Individual Site Licence, Multi-Site Licence? Confused? Don't look for a definition of what constitutes a site or a multi-site or an institution -- you won't find it. We thought we did not need a multi-site licence, until we got in early March an "Important Announcement" from IOPP telling us that "at no extra cost" and "full electronic access" is not (anymore) to be taken literally: "Whilst we recognise the benefit of networking, we do require payment of a fee (equivalent to 15% of the subscriptions held by the institution, duplicates included) in return for a licence to do so." When we asked IOPP what constitutes a site, we were told that it means a single institution subscribing to IOP journals. A university campus may thus consist of many institutions subscribing to IOP journals: university and branch libraries, laboratory or institute libraries, on one campus or at different localities. Access to the electronic version supplied at no extra cost is limited, we were told, to direct use by the subscriber, i.e. (in our case) the university library. Let's hope that does not mean "by staff only". However, it obviously means "in-house only": no more mentioning that readers at the subscribing institution have desktop access, no more "library without walls." For a campuswide networking, including all faculties, branch libraries etc., we are told, we need a multi site licence.

The 15% Premium, IOPP told us, is justified,

1. as a networking fee for "cross access"
2. as financial compensation for the possibility to cut existing multiple copies of any subscription without losing electronic access to the journal throughout the Multi-Site.

However, at our site, budget constraints and previous cancellations have since long reduced the number of multiple copies of IOPP journals to almost zero (the only one left arose a year ago because of package deal by the university library). What remains for us, are extra costs of about USD 4500 (incl. 16% taxes) just for networking our IOP Journals on campus. Since we don't have this extra money and faculty if asked will probably not opt for cancelling other or IOPP journals in compensation, we probably will stick with access restricted to workstations and terminals in our library. IOPP's electronic journals will become second rate (with respect to availability and ease of use, not quality) compared to AIP and APS journals that are still freely accessible from the scientist's desktop anywhere at our university at no extra cost. This is a step backward which our readers on campus will certainly regret. And we always thought that IOPP's publishing model was not about restricting communication, but opening it up.

One may only speculate on IOPP's motivations for this move and change in policy. I guess they try to recompensate part of the costs and investments for becoming INSPEC reseller (according to IOPP, their online research service AXIOM(TM) is "the cheapest globally-available, unlimited usage licence to the entire INSPEC Database") and of integrating INSPEC into their own Electronic Journals Database via their HyperCite(TM) technology and maybe they can only offer such good prices because they calculated in the Electronic Journals Networking Licence Fees to be paid in future by many universities. What makes us angry as a customer is that IOPP does not clearly state and explain its obvious change in licencing and pricing policy and still tries to suggest that it is offering its electronic journals "at no extra cost" (now only a marketing trick, nothing more). (Even our agent, Swets & Zeitlinger, was not aware of that basic change in policy.) Of course, no one really believes that libraries got their lunch free in the years before, so we wonder why this price increase was deemed necessary now. IOPP's failure to address these questions openly in a letter to the library community disappoints me. Is it symptomatic that IOPP's European Library Advisory Council (of which I had the honor to be a member) was not called in since 1997 and was not consulted in this question?

P.S.: IOPP has agreed to waive the Multi-Site Licence Fee for 1999 and leave unchanged our current networking agreement until December 31, 1999. IOPP also offers a 3 year consortium licence (basically similar to the Academic Press Print and Electronic Access License), but this was not the subject of my letter and has to be considered separately.

David Goodman, Biology Librarian, Princeton University,

On 5/27/99, I sent the following comment to the NIH on the E- Biomed proposal. In view of recent comments in this Newsletter, I think it might be appropriate to re-publish it here. On the basis of susequent discussion and developments, I have added an Addendum.

The Biology e-print server--is there a consensus?

a comment on:

There is general agreement about the need for a replacement or major change in the existing system of biomedical journals, and also general agreement that a system based on an e-print server such as LANL is an appropriate alternative. However, there remain some fundamental differences about the optimization of many of the specifics.

As a relative outsider to the details of these discussions, I suggest that it may not be appropriate to be concerned initially about defining or achieving the ideal system of scholarly publication, and that it would be more appropriate with our limited current experience to have the more modest goal of a generally acceptable initial step.

The criteria for what this should include should emphasize the areas on which there is agreement, leaving the necessary flexibility for the as yet unresolved areas, and providing a simple and inexpensive system that could be rapidly initiated with a minimum of special funding or administration. Otherwise, while we are trying to find the best way, the system will continue to deteriorate to the point of true collapse. Though this will certainly force us to adopt an alternative -- any alternative -- it is not likely to lead to an optimum one.

As I see this discussion, the area of general agreement is that the fundamental distribution of material should be via an e-print mechanism very similar or identical to LANL, operated on a cooperative basis. Fortunately, this is known to be achievable, is known to be inexpensive, seems to be fully adequate to future extensions and adaptations, and does seem to be acceptable to all the various parties -- even the commercial publishers seem to be able to live with it. This is the basic portion, and perhaps all that should be initially included.

The other portions, which involve areas for disagreement, include

the need for linked mechanisms for peer review or other alternatives for quality control,
the need for rudimentary quality control upon entry,
the need for formal archiving,
the possible role of print publications,
the roles of commercial publishers, professional societies, and universities,
the mechanism of funding via subscriptions, page charges, or hidden overhead.

The widely divergent but equally assured views on these matters are perhaps evidence that the best way to deal with these issues is to postpone them, while ensuring that the developing system will be open to any of the suggested solutions.

The peer review mechanism proposed by Varmus would seem a very good and practical one, but it is certainly not the only possible mechanism; since it does not seem to command universal assent -- essentially everyone has an individual choice of a favorite mechanism -- it might be advisable to implement this as a later optional addition, along with other alternatives.

The proposal for an initial quality filter does not also seem to have universal assent. I rather doubt that the lack of need for one in physics will prove the case in biology. But if it proves necessary, it can be added, at a level which will exclude only truly irrelevant material -- I suggest the mechanism in the Varmus proposal may prove unnecessarily elaborate.

Almost all librarians, are distrustful of the long term usability of a system without formal archiving arrangements. But since many of the scientists regard this as excessive caution, perhaps the existing stability provided by the mirroring of the LANL system is enough to start with. Print is not being immediately abolished, and we will have opportunity to devise more permanent long-term solutions.

It is apparently totally uncertain what the effects of this system will be on print journals, and on the commercial and society publishers. All possible views are represented:

those who foresee and perhaps intend that the conventional publishers will have no future role,
those who see them becoming at most merely editing and reviewing bodies,
those who accept a limited role for conventional publication for certain classes of material,
those who see a dual system, with the e-prints simply a preprint mechanism and the conventional paper and electronic journals continuing as before,
those who see e-prints being incorporated into the conventional system and operated by the established publishers.

The existing experience in physics is hardly decisive: the print journals and their formal electronic equivalents continue, though they are less used. This confirms the desirability of being able to adapt to any of the technological and cultural developments.

Some publishers may refuse to permit papers to be published in their journals if they are previously included in the system. This has not proved to be the case in physics, but there the most prestigious journals are published by a professional society, not a commercial publisher, whereas in molecular biology, many of the most prestigious journals are now part of a major commercial publisher. Similarly, some publishers already insist that only the preprint version, not the version as published, be included in the server. I suspect that either approach by a publisher will prove counterproductive, and authors will prefer those publishers who permit papers to be available in final form on the server.

Some scientists under the existing competitive conditions are uncomfortable with a system without the built-in time delays provided by publication, and it is possible that this may cause some to submit only their less important papers. If this proves to be the case, appropriate optional protection can be added -- as a minimum, a paper can be added to the system only at formal publication.

Before proposing elaborate financial or administrative arrangements, it might be better to see if they prove to be necessary. The basic portion of the system seems to be operable with very low direct costs, and it is at least possible that the total cost of the eventual system may be less than at present. The e-print proposal is not likely to fail altogether, but its low utilization would prove very detrimental to the chances of achieving meaningful reform. It is important for its success to be rapid, and unequivocal. This can most reliably be achieved by starting with the basic distribution mechanism only.


A news item in Nature 399:6734, 27 May 1999, p.292, "Europe's molecular biologists could join global e journal plan"; a group of articles in The Scientist, 13:12, 7 June 1999, pp.1-7, 13; and further personal discussions, have made it clear that there is in fact no consensus on the appropriate nature of a biology e-print server. It appears that at least 4 separate implementations will be forthcoming (the already available biology portion of LANL, the NIH proposal, a project from Highwire Press, and a project from Current Science group, now part of Elsevier). Viewed optimistically, the resulting chaos might lead to the evolution of an effective system. It will also offer us as librarians the challenge of maintaining access for our users during the period of disorganization.

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The Newsletter on Serials Pricing Issues (ISSN: 1046-3410) is published by the editor through Academic Technology and Networks at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, as news is available. Editor: Marcia Tuttle, Internet:; 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 Subscription Services, Inc.), James Mouw (University of Chicago), Heather Steele (Blackwell's Periodicals Division), David Stern (Yale University), and Scott Wicks (Cornell University).

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