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re: ACS backfile pricing/

It is good to see that ACS is willing to experiment with different pricing
models, but as for the merits of this one, I agree with Carl. Let me
propose a solution: give libraries a choice.

When I pay my dues to Sigma Xi, I have the option of a life-time
membership or paying each year, and many other organizations offer the

This wouldn't even be a precedent for the ACS. Back in the days of printed
indexes, the Chemical Abstracts Service offered a choice for the 5-year
cumulations. You could pay all in advance, or a proportionate sum each
year, or anything in between. It worked very nicely for libraries: at some
point in a 5 year period, you could count on having some money. I don't
know what the exact break-even point would be, but perhaps they could
charge $4500/year, or a one time payment of $50,000. Then they wouldn't
have to concern themselves on finding the best model; the subscribers
would decide.

David Goodman
Research Librarian and
Biological Sciences Bibliographer
Princeton University Library
dgoodman@princeton.edu            609-258-7785

On Wed, 3 Apr 2002, Carl Anderson wrote:

> Responding to part of the letter from Justin Spence:
> ...
> > The decision to limit current subscriptions to access to five years of
> > content was a difficult one.  After careful analysis, it became clear that
> > the complexities of administrating differing start dates (depending on the
> > year first subscribed) to differing titles for customers with changing IP
> > addresses would quickly become unmanageable.  Furthermore if we did not
> > specify a five year timeframe for current subscriptions, the design of an
> > interface that clearly defines for end users what is accessible and what
> > is not would become confusing and frustrating.  Lastly, it seemed
> > unreasonable for a new subscriber in 2020 to pay the same amount of money
> > for five years of access that a long term subscriber would for access to
> > 25 years of content.  It is our sincere hope is that the relative cost of
> > the Archives will be judged reasonable, making this issue less
> > problematic.
> ...
> Without judging the difficulty of maintaining a complex record of who is
> entitled to what titles from which periods of time, I note that other
> suppliers do it: CatchWord, for example.
> I don't think any of us objects to paying a reasonable amount for the
> services we buy, it's being forced to forego back volumes or buy into the
> Archive that's offensive.  When we subscribe to a journal in print, we
> have the backfile at no additional subscription cost twenty years down the
> line.  Nobody expects the publisher to show up at some point to haul the
> older volumes away unbidden.  By the same token, we do experience ongoing
> maintenance costs with volumes on the shelves that we're relieved from
> paying when our access is electronic - costs that the publisher is
> assuming in effect in continuing to maintain the backfile online.  If ACS
> needs to recover those costs annually rather than building them up-front
> into the price of a subscription, that's still a long distance from the
> $1500 to $4500 threshold to secure the first lost year.  At some point
> after experiencing the accumulation of incrementing annual maintenance
> costs, maybe a library would find subscribing to the Archive to be
> economical.  I'd rather face that choice gradually.
> As to the "unfairness" of a first-time subscriber getting five years of
> content while a longtime subscriber gets twenty-five years: How does that
> differ from the first-time print subscriber getting just one year while
> the twenty-one year subscriber has twenty-one years on the shelves?  It
> seems natural that one of the benefits of paying longer is having more.
> Carl A. Anderson
> Coordinator of Technical Services
> MCP Hahnemann University Libraries
> 215-762-1623
> Carl.Anderson@drexel.edu