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Cost of the Journal of Molecular Structure & others (2 messages) Marcia Tuttle 10 Dec 1999 23:59 UTC

>From kniesner@OHSU.EDU Fri Dec 10 18:56:45 1999
Date: Fri, 10 Dec 1999 09:07:05 -0800
From: Dan Kniesner <kniesner@OHSU.EDU>
Subject: Re: Cost of the Journal of Molecular Structure & others              (AlbertHenderson)

Albert Henderson wrote, in part, regarding Harold Varmus and his proposal
for E-Biomed at NIH:

>Perhaps E-Biomed fulfilled some dark campaign >promise. It didn't fly of
course. What's left is a >runtish shadow of the utopian dream he offered.

I cannot agree that E-Biomed is dead or that it is or was a utopian dream.
Instead, E-Biomed is what we really need.

Librarians in health sciences libraries who I've talked with were excited
by and supportive of E-Biomed.  It is a breakthrough concept: linking the
Pubmed citation database to full-text publications on servers and with a
guarantee of archiving, all on a v ery large scale.  Only OCLC has been
bold enough to offer a similar arrangement (its New FirstSearch).  The
private sector in publishing has been comparatively timid and ineffective
- - especially on the subject of archiving, which is of utmost importance
 to us librarians.

Dan Kniesner
Oregon Health Sciences University Library
Portland Oregon

>From NobleStation@COMPUSERVE.COM Fri Dec 10 18:56:45 1999
Date: Fri, 10 Dec 1999 13:27:02 -0500
From: Albert Henderson <NobleStation@COMPUSERVE.COM>
Subject: Re: Cost of the Journal of Molecular Structure & others (Claire              Duncan)

on Fri, 10 Dec 1999 Claire Duncan <claire_d@TEXMED.ORG> wrote:

> Mr. Henderson-
> I have yet to hear a valid defense for the skyrocketing cost of most
> scientific journals--you seem to blame only the institutions for
> cancelling journals - not the publishers themselves for raising prices
> every single year!

Thanks for a great question.

Turn on your garden hose and squeeze the open end. The more you
open the valve and the more you sqeeze, the more spectacular are
the results. Would you blame the water?

Perhaps you will consider the following 5 economic forces -

        1. Production inflation. Financial support of academic
        R&D in the U.S. (in constant dollars to remove the
        effects of dollar inflation) increased 7 times since
        1960. The number of articles generated also increased.
        Many journals increased the number of pages published
        to keep up with this output. PHYSICAL REVIEW, for example
        increased from 7000 pages to over 80,000 pages in this

        2. Currency exchange inflation. The value of the dollar
        has generally declined against European currencies during
        this period. There were 4 DM to the dollar in the 1960s.
        Now the rate is less than 2. The American Library Assn
        issued a Resolution on this in the late 1980s. I do not
        believe they did anything with it although the ARL
        reprinted it in its 1989 Serials Prices Project Report.

        3. Technology inflation. The academic library market has
        begged for publishers to invest in new technology. Many
        publishers are running parallel print and electronic
        editions because (A) the majority of customers do not wish
        to change and (B) the new technology is far from proven
        in terms of preservation and future access. Guess what:
        there are no savings. Investments must be recovered
        unless there is a grant from the A.W. Mellon Foundation,
        the Department of Energy, etc. Such grants usually cover
        experimentation and not ongoing operations.

        4. Circulation inflation. The result of choking library
        growth, starting around 1970, forced publishers to cover
        fixed pre-press costs with fewer copies. The reports of
        give precise figures, showing the nonmember circulation
        of PHYSICAL REVIEW dropping by half since 1968 or so. In
        1968 university managers also elected to withhold payment
        of page charges, putting the American Physical Society
        and others in the red. This outrage must have influenced
        many publishers to rely less on page charge income. The
        AIP 1985 annual report clearly an increased reliance
        on library subscription income to offset reduced page
        charges. [see PRQ 14,4:3-69. 1998/99]

        Government statistics indicate that higher ed profits,
        as a percent of revenue, increased while thet cut their
        spending on libraries the same amount. In 1987, they
        cut library spending by $110 million for no reason, raising
        profits by the same amount -- but hurting the sales of
        nearly every publisher. I say they take from knowledge assets
        to hoard cash and financial investments. I would believe
        there are considerable perquisites involved, based on the
        competition of brokers for university business. It is an outrage.

        5. Consumer Price Index inflation. Publishers compete for
        skilled labor. They must purchase supplies, energy, and
        other services. They pay rent. All of these contribute
        to raising fixed costs.

Given the hostility of librarians to price increases, do you
believe publishers raise their prices without due consideration?
I can tell you they think twice and then a third time. Those who
fail to raise their prices one year find themselves raising them
even more steeply a year or two later in an effort to catch up
and get out of the soup.

Let me say it again, the university managers are in control of
three out of the above five elements of inflation. They must
admit a major responsibility.

Best wishes,

Albert Henderson