Re: The True Cost of the Essentials (Implementing Peer Review)

From: Fytton Rowland <J.F.Rowland_at_LBORO.AC.UK>
Date: Tue, 31 Jul 2001 12:50:21 +0100

At 12:34 PM 7/26/01 -0400, David Goodman wrote:
>About the likely factors, from the standpoint of a librarian:
>Librarians will not cancel the conventional journals if they are used. They
>will (at least if they are rational) cancel them when they show no use. It
>is also of course likely that they will cancel them because of cost,
>especially if the cost per use figure is particularly high.
>What good librarians should and do look at, is not primarily the opinions
>of their users, but the actual beavior of their users. Expensive unused
>publications get canceled. The most any library can expect is enough money
>to buy what the users do use, and not also everything they think they are
>using or think they ought to be using. We do not buy for our own personal
>reading; we buy as agents for the users to acquire what they need in the
>format they prefer.
>This applies no matter what route the progress towards a free system takes.
>All it needs is for people to make use of it and stop using at least some
>of the conventional publications. We keep measuring use and many of us are
>eagerly anticipating the change, but we cannot act until the scientists do.

There is another element to the "library cancellations" issue which has not
yet been mentioned here. Many academic library purchases of electronic
journals are now covered by consortium licensing deals. At present,
typically these specify that an academic library that buys some print
journals from a publisher pays a small premium (say 10%) on their
subscription and then gets electronic access to all that publsihers'
journals. This works to the benefit of small institutions; one UK one
(Edge Hill University College) now has five times as many journal titles as
before. Of course this charging mechanism can only be transitional -- in
2010 it won't make any sense to base charges on what an institution spent
in 1997. So work is in progress on developing usage stas-based charging
systems -- in any one year, what you pay will be based on how much use was
made of that publisher's titles in that university in the previous year.
[This has the paradoxical implication that librarians should make lots of
e-js available but should simultaneously try to discourage their use, so
that the price won't go up next year (8-) .]

Of course, the institution may not actually want all these extra titles --
the London School of Economics probably doesn't want microbiology journals,
say. But usage statistics seem to show that many previously "unwanted"
titles actually get used, to librarians' surprise.

But there is a big downside. The more of these "package deals" a library
makes with big publishers, the less flexibility it has when it comes to the
annual journal cancellations exercise. They can't cancel titles from the
major publishers, which they buy en bloc (or rather, they would save no
money by doing so). So all the cancellations have to come from the titles
published by small publishers -- and disproportionally these will be the
smaller not-for-profit learned-society publsihers, whose prices are usually
much more reasonable! The virtuous lose. Some of us who are
unreconstructed old-fashioned socialists might say this is monopoly
capitalism at work in its typical way.......

Fytton Rowland.

Fytton Rowland, M.A., Ph.D., F.I.Inf.Sc., Lecturer,
Deputy Director of Undergraduate Programmes and
Programme Tutor for Publishing with English,
Department of Information Science,
Loughborough University,
Loughborough, Leics LE11 3TU, UK.

Phone +44 (0) 1509 223039 Fax +44 (0) 1509 223053
Received on Wed Jan 03 2001 - 19:17:43 GMT

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