The German-speaking Serials Interest Group (GeSIG): The Serials Initiative for Germany, Austria, and Switzerland
The current situation of the serials market is one of extreme change which is a concern to everyone involved in this market, to the scientist, the scholarly association, the publisher, the database provider as well as to the trade and the libraries.
In the year 1999, more journals will be published than ever before. The digitization opens up new options for the production, the distribution, and the organization of data, in a dimension that had not been available to the market in the print era of journals. More and more publishers offer their journals in a print as well as in a digitized version. The agencies develop new products, distribution patterns, and services.
The expectations and the research habits of the users of professional data are likewise in a state of flux. Universities and libraries take advantage of management and business expertise and present themselves increasingly as modern service providers.
All the players of the serials market are called upon to cooperate in the organization of its future workflow and services.
The term "market" is used here to cover the entire range of participants involved in the journal process, from the author, producer, distributor, mediator, to the end user. Journal is the collective term to include all serial publications, such as scholarly periodicals, public interest magazines, series, annuals, newspapers and electronic journals.
In preparatory discussions with members of these interest groups, the following questions have been identified as a relevant and topical agenda:
- What is the future role or function that will be performed by the current players on the market?
- What is the impact of the electronic journals on the current structures in publishing houses, trade agencies, and libraries?
- How can standardization of interfaces, formats, and the copyright be supported on an international basis?
- How can acceptance of electronic data be improved on the users' side?
- What will the position of print journals be on a long-term basis?
- What will realistic business arrangements be like in future?
- How do changes affect the press in the current situation and in which direction will it move?
- Do we, the participants in the journal market, know enough about each other and how we are going to deal with opposing goals and concepts among the different interest groups?
- How do we convince representatives and decision makers in politics and business of the need to make professional and research data available without restriction and at a reasonable cost?
The GeSIG considers itself a platform for the discussion of the above agenda and for the development of pertinent solutions.
At a first meeting at the 1998 Frankfurt Bookfair, librarians and representatives of scholarly associations, subscription agents, book dealers, and publishers agreed that it is time to analyze all journal related issues by getting the participants of the entire serials market together around one table.
In the course of the IuK (Information und Kommunikation) meeting in Regensburg on February 4 and 5 of 1999, a group was established under the name of Forum Zeitschriften/German Serials Interest group (GeSIG).
Invited to act as members of the founding board were: Klaus Bahmann, Springer Verlag; Anne Bein, Swets & Zeitlinger; Werner Stephan, Universitatsbibliothek Stuttgart; Dr. Hartmut Walravens, Staatsbibliothek Preussischer Kulturbesitz Berlin.
The initial meeting of approx. 30 participants agreed on the following action points:
- To form a single platform for all players involved in the production, distribution, and reception of journals.
- To improve on the market conditions and terms for journals.
- To review, analyze and influence the activities on the international subscription market.
- To optimize the management of journals from the production to the final stage of reception of the data.
- To improve the level of professionality in the handling of journals.
- To support exchange and cooperation among international serials groups.
- To promote and organize continuing education for the participants in the serials market.
The forum plans to act as an interest group on all possible levels of social, cultural, scholarly, economic, and political significance.
Its activities are planned to include project groups, workshops, and information management meetings. First suggestions for a work program and further details can be found [at this Web site].
232.2 HAMAKER ON PRICING DECISIONS
Chuck Hamaker, Associate University Librarian for Technical Services, University of North Carolina at Charlotte, firstname.lastname@example.org
Eleanor Cook's reactions to discussions with MCB staff, reminded me of my experiences in talking with representatives from various presses. I think the most telling part of her report was this:
Everyone I talked to was anxious to know if I felt any better about the situation now that I had had a chance to discuss it with them. Yes, I do feel better because they do seem interested in making a difference.
I have to admit that from Chris Schneider (G&B) to Karen Hunter and John Tagler (Elsevier), to Jerry Curtis (Springer), and literally dozens more, I genuinely LIKE these folks. And I have spent many, many hours talking with them. I do not assume that any of them will or can have any direct impact on practices of their particular presses that I find oppressive, or destructive, or just wrong.
The problem isn't that the people Eleanor talked with weren't convincingly and genuinely interested in her opinions and willing to be open in discussing perceptions of MCB. They were, I'm sure, accomplished, dedicated, knowledgeable professionals quite concerned about how librarians feel about their company.
Such representations however do NOT mean changes in the pricing of international serial publishers. I do not look for Library Management, which Eleanor notes costs over $6,000, to change its price because of discussions at ALA. I don't expect MCB to change pricing behavior because of anything said to their representatives. That wasn't the goal of THEIR meetings at ALA. Eleanor's comment "MCB is actively attempting to change their image" is the nugget in all this. "Image is everything" is the Madison Avenue message. That is a marketing message, not a message of changing prices. It is a mark of change in selling posture, of attempting to change the corporate image. And every publisher I have ever talked to STARTED there. How long it takes to get past image to substance depends on one single issue. Cash flow, money, profitability, either current or future.
The person apparently directing many of the ALA contacts from MCB was, based on an email I received from her, MCB's Director of Customer Relationships. Such staff normally have little impact because pricing, let's face it, for international firms is not set in the U.S. or specifically to please U.S. librarians. It is set to maximize the profitability of the firm's products. Until a publisher's "bottom line" (pardon the pun) shows it to be necessary, change is unlikely. My guess is that MCB is trying to "smooth" their image to slow the decline in subscriptions and give new journals a chance at the gate, and to find it easier going in pushing their "consortial" products. They have a successful model, buy low, sell high, and get well known, even internationally recognized editors for new titles. Until that fails them, there is no reason to change and if they can retain subscriptions even a year or two longer than happens now, why, that's better. Or get librarians thinking kindly enough about their products to support consortial arrangements. How to make my company more profitable is the ONLY question any reasonable business would ask -- and yes, retaining customers even a year longer (because of their customer relations people, why else would they have them?) would increase profitability. Acceptance of repackaged journals (i.e., paper to electronic), why yes, that would help too. The bottom line, is the bottom line. Aggressive pricing, now matter how pleasant customer relations are, or how simpatico the representatives are, is still aggressive pricing. The proper response is to stop buying over priced material.
It doesn't matter how much I enjoy discussing pricing, or electronic journals, or trends in the industry with Karen Hunter (whom I respect greatly) such discussions do not determine pricing. The only message that matters to international corporations is the market message, not a discussion at Cafe du Monde.
I know no one in international publishing today that I enjoy talking with more than Keith Courtney of Taylor and Francis (now it's plus Routledge and a whole bunch of other companies). But I do not assume that any conversation with Keith will impact how T&F prices their journals or their books. Corporate policy makers might well notice what we talked about but I can assure anyone reading this that what will come out of the awareness of what I think is not likely to be what I want. It will be what makes economic sense to the company.
So I place little expectation that the bad boys of pricing, whomever we might identify in that category, will change their pricing a single iota based on how good the reps or even how bad the publicity. In fact the better the customer relations staff, the less likely the company will need to change.
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 Technology and Networks at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, as news is available. Editor: Marcia Tuttle, Internet: email@example.com; 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).
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.