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6 Publishers Will Give Poor Countries Free or Discounted ElectronicAccess to Journals

This article from The Chronicle of Higher Education.  Ann Okerson


  Tuesday, July 10, 2001

  6 Publishers Will Give Poor Countries Free or Discounted
  Electronic Access to Journals

  Six of the world's leading medical journal publishers have
  announced plans to provide poor countries with free or
  low-cost electronic access to more than 1,000 medical and
  scientific journals.
  At least 600 institutions in developing countries --
  principally universities, medical schools, nursing schools and
  research centers -- will benefit from the initiative, which
  will take effect in January. Each publisher will set its own
  terms, but access typically will become free in many of the
  world's 60 poorest countries, and heavily discounted in more
  than 30 low-income countries. Journal subscriptions tend to be
  expensive, sometimes exceeding $1,500 annually.
  "We have enormous potential for reducing the gap in access to
  health information in rich and poor countries," said Gro
  Harlem Brundtland, director-general of the World Health
  Organization, at a news conference here. The W.H.O. has pushed
  strongly for the effort, which follows international efforts
  to improve poor countries' access to western medications,
  particularly in sub-Saharan Africa.
  The six publishers are Blackwell, Elsevier Science, the
  Harcourt Worldwide STM Group, Lippincott Williams & Wilkins,
  Springer Verlag and John Wiley. Some also plan to make
  electronic textbooks	available to developing countries under
  similar terms.
  For publishers, heavy investment in electronic media over the
  last few years has made differential pricing possible. "Total
  costs [of electronic publishing] don't come down, but what
  does come down is the marginal cost," said Derk Haank, chief
  executive of Elsevier Science, of electronic publishing. 
  "It is only in the last two or three years that a commercial
  volume of medical research information has actually been
  available to the marketplace," said Jon Conibear, executive
  director of Blackwell Science.
  Concerns remain, however, that access to computer equipment
  and reliable Internet connections is problematic in many
  developing countries, something the W.H.O. says it plans to
  deal with.
  Absent from the initiative were several important American
  publications, including The Journal of the American Medical
  Association and The New England Journal of Medicine. The
  British Medical Journal, a leading biomedical publication, is
  already available online for free.

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Copyright 2001 by The Chronicle of Higher Education