Journal expense (was: Re: CHE reports new plan ...) Steve Black 26 Jun 1998 18:58 UTC

Mr. Henderson of Publishing Research Quarterly (seconded by Mr. Cohen of
Haworth Press) made important points concerning the need for
administrators to provide adequate support for library resources.  But the
other side of the argument is that journals should be cost effective.

The Chronicle of Higher Education article (June 16, 1988, p. A12) includes
a defense by Elsevier of the expense of their titles--"Running an
international journal with peer review and archiving are all very complex
issues.  They aren't simple or cheap."  We librarians understand that.
Sometimes I've wanted to put a banner up in a public area of the library
that says "Good Information is Expensive to Produce".  It's one of those
things we think everyone should know, but they don't.

My issue with Mr. Henderson's eloquently expressed point of view is that
libraries deserve to get what our administrators pay for, and that not all
publishers' journals offer good value.  For instance, if a journal is
supposed to have 4 issues per volume, there should be 4 real issues, not
combined issues manipulated to receive the full subscription price for
fewer issues than one would expect. If a publisher chooses to have
approximately 20 articles per volume, and pad each one with numerous pages
of self-promotional material, the subscription price should reflect the
amount of scholarly content being offered.

It is the proper duty of librarians, working with faculty, to determine
whether the price of a journal is justified by its scholarly content.  Of
course administrators should fund cost-effective journals.  But they
should not be expected to unquestioningly pay for journals no matter the
subscription price.

I think it would be to the benefit of all stakeholders if journal
publishers made public their costs.  Publishers stand on very solid ground
when high subscription prices are due to the expense of producing high
quality information.  So if the seemingly excessive inflation we are
seeing year after year is covering the cost of peer review, production,
archiving, etc., fine.  If not, we have reason to gripe, and reason to

These opinions are strictly my own, not those of my institution.

On Thu, 25 Jun 1998, Bill Cohen wrote:
> Dear Mr. Henderson:
> Bravo for the insightful piece of university self-serving in the midst of
> library budget cutbacks!
> Bill Cohen, Publisher
> The Haworth Press, Inc.
> <BCohen7719@AOL.COM>

Steve Black
Reference, Serials and Instruction Librarian
Neil Hellman Library
392 Western Ave.
The College of Saint Rose
Albany, NY  12203                                  "Cogito eggo sum"                     (I think, therefore I waffle)