Re: Just a thought . . . Joanne Romano 08 Oct 2009 14:44 UTC

Price increases from publishers are typical with each renewal year, to cover their production, advertising, profit margins, etc...Librarians understand that publishers have costs they need to cover...However, that doesn't justify the sometimes astronomical and downright ridiculous increases seen in some journals...Scientific American has been mentioned numerous times since the print price jumped from $39.99 to $299.  A 650% increase in one year for any journal is outrageous.   I'm sorry, but I just don't believe that production and advertising costs went up that much in one year...Most of that would seemingly be for profit, then.  The flat pricing that many publishers offered in 2010 in response to the economic downturn was a welcome change, and obviously, was also in response to the reduced budgets many libraries faced across the nation.  Whether or not we will all pay for that in 2011 is remains to be seen.

Perhaps the ugly spiral wouldn't be so prevalent if all publishers refused to charge unreasonable increases;  that's the reason cancellations occur, and there is no formula for Tiered or FTE pricing that makes it fair to anybody..

Joanne V. Romano, MLS
Licensing and Serials Coordinator
Houston Academy of Medicine-Texas Medical Center Library
1133 John Freeman Blvd.
Houston, TX  77030
fx:   713-799-7180

-----Original Message-----
From: SERIALST: Serials in Libraries Discussion Forum [] On Behalf Of Sarah D. Tusa
Sent: Thursday, October 08, 2009 8:54 AM
Subject: Re: [SERIALST] Just a thought . . .

But the price per subscription for Applied Physics Letters was the same.
Your institution decided it needed more than one subscription,

Yes, the more prices continue to rise, the more libraries will have to
cancel, and then the remaining subscribers have to pay more the make up
the difference.  This ugly spiral is not news, unfortunately.

Sarah Tusa, Associate Professor
Coordinator of Collection Development & Acquisitions
Mary & John Gray Library, Lamar University
PO Box 10021
Beaumont, TX  77710-0021

Ph:   409/880-8125
Fax: 409/880-8225
-----Original Message-----
From: SERIALST: Serials in Libraries Discussion Forum
[] On Behalf Of Douglas LaFrenier
Sent: Wednesday, October 07, 2009 5:00 PM
Subject: Re: [SERIALST] Just a thought . . .

My own organization has tiered pricing, so, while we don't charge based
on the
number of users, we do charge based on the degree of use. (I'm grossly
simplifying our tiering methodology.) For us, it's a question of
fairness for
the smaller, or less research-intensive, institutions. Why should a
liberal arts college with 100 downloads in a year pay the same price as
University, which might have 10,000 downloads in a year. With that
greater value at the latter institution, isn't it fair that they should

Unfortunately, the "production cost" that you refer to has to be borne
by a
finite number of academic institutions, R&D firms, and government
institutes. These are not growing in number -- in fact, universities are
or merging in Japan, one of our biggest markets, because of demographic
That's why cancellations lead to price increases -- if fewer
subscribe, the remaining ones must still pay the fixed production costs
them. (Add "profits" or "surpluses" to "production costs" if you like,
doesn't change the basic dynamic.) So it's terribly important that
pricing does
not punish smaller institutions, who will then cancel, which will then
add to
the price for the bigger institutions.

It is a myth, by the way, that all institutions paid the same for print
subscriptions. Princeton at one time had eight subscriptions to just one
of our
titles (Applied Physics Letters), which were distributed among the main
the physics library, the engineering library, and so on. So Princeton
was paying
many multiples of the same price that a smaller institution paid for one
copy, a
de facto tiered-pricing arrangement. This was extremely common, and
pricing for electronic access rightly mirrors that phenomenon: bigger
institutions should pay more to meet the needs of larger populations.
It's not
about the price, it's about the value -- in a really correct tiered
scheme, each institution would pay about the same in terms of price per
use to
meet the needs of its own user population.


Douglas LaFrenier
Director, Publication Sales & Market Development
American Institute of Physics
2 Huntington Quadrangle
Melville, New York 11747
Phone: +1-516-576-2411
Fax: +1-516-576-2374

From: 	"Sarah D. Tusa" <Sarah.Tusa@LAMAR.EDU>
Date: 	10/7/2009 4:36 PM
Subject: 	Re: [SERIALST] Just a thought . . .

I respectfully disagree.  I don't see how it costs any more to give
access to a campus of 25,000 than it does to a campus of 1,000 students.
What does the number of students have to do with production cost?

And when the same journals were strictly available in print, and anyone
could walk into the library (we don't restrict entry until midnight),
the number of students and/or faculty who used the same journal and even
the same article did not seem to make a difference in the price.   We
all paid the same price then.  The potential  usage doesn't escalate
that exponentially just because the same journal is online.  The usage
just shifts from walk-in usage of the print to authorized log-in access
segment of the campus population is going to use the same
subject-specific titles that they always did.  Yes, they may use it a
tad more because it is more convenient, but the usage doesn't grow
enough to justify setting the price based on campus population or on
"potential users".  Furthermore, The value of the information doesn't
change with the number of users.  It's the same kind of content that
used to have a fixed price when it was in print.  The nature (and thus
the value) of the content hasn't changed.  The contributors get no
direct remuneration from the publishers.  (The integrity of the content
would be compromised if the authors were paid, and it would definitely
sully the field if peer reviewers were paid, so that leaves whatever
production cost is actually incurred to host the content and make it
available.   If the cost of production has increased, then I can
understand a moderate, overall price increase.  However, I will never
agree that the value of the content has any logical connection with the
"potential" or actual number of downloads on any given campus.

Sarah Tusa, Associate Professor

Coordinator of Collection Development & Acquisitions

Mary & John Gray Library, Lamar University

PO Box 10021

Beaumont, TX  77710-0021

Ph:   409/880-8125

Fax: 409/880-8225

From: SERIALST: Serials in Libraries Discussion Forum
[] On Behalf Of Rick Anderson
Sent: Wednesday, October 07, 2009 1:55 PM
Subject: Re: [SERIALST] Just a thought . . .

> Shoot.  There's nothing "potentially infinite" about our campus
> population or even the number of "potential users."

"Unlimited" would be a better word than "infinite," I guess.  What's
functionally unlimited is not the number of users, but the amount of use
that a given population of users can make of a content service when no
download limit is imposed.  When you sell a loaf of bread, what you're
providing in exchange for the purchase price is a single loaf of bread.
When it's gone, it's gone, and if the customer wants more he has to buy
another loaf.  When you sell site-based access to an online service,
you're providing a functionally unlimited number of downloads.  In that
circumstance there's nothing irrational about pegging the access price,
in some degree, to the number of people being served.  (How high or low
the price itself should be is a separate question, of course.)

Now granted, it doesn't cost a publisher twice as much to provide two
downloads as it does to provide one download.  But it does cost
significantly more to give access to a campus of 25,000 students than it
does to give access to a campus of 1,000 students.

Just to be extra clear: I'm not defending any particular publisher's
pricing practice.  Just pointing out that it makes no sense to compare
selling a loaf of bread to providing an ongoing service like an

Rick Anderson
Assoc. Dir. for Scholarly Resources & Collections
Marriott Library
Univ. of Utah
(801) 721-1687