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Conflating Price Containment with Publishing Mode (Re: EMBO posting)

In reaction to SPARC Europe's Position on EMBO Journal/Reports Pricing:

The position of SPARC Europe regarding EMBO Journal/Reports conflates the
argument of price containment with the argument for Open Access. The
basis of the argument stems from a large price increase in this product
and a bundling of the Journal and Reports into a single package,
especially at a time when European and North American libraries are
suffering from budget problems. This increase in price, Bas Savenije
argues, shifts the balance from wide access to profit maximization. The
second part of the email focuses on examples of publishers working toward
Open Access journals. While not explicitly stated, the email reads as if
Open Access is SPARC Europe's solution to price containment. These two
issues need to be separate and not conflated.

I don't know why EMBO increased its cost, although it was somehow
coincidental with the journal's move from a well-established university
press to a commercial publisher. Readers of liblicense would easily be
able to cite many other examples of price increases when journals move to
commercial publishers, or when smaller commercial publishers are purchased
by larger commercial publishers. The issue here is profit maximization at
the expense of access. Bas Savenije argues this point very eloquently.

What does not necessarily follow is Open Access as the solution to price
containment. In essence, *it conflates the publishing mission with the
publishing mode*. The mission of non-profit society and learned
association publishing is to disseminate information as broadly as
possible while containing prices and supporting the goals of the
organization. This is not congruent of the mission of publicly-held
commercial publishers. The mode of publishing here is inconsequential. Open Access as a mode has no intrinsic qualities that would enable it to
contain prices if held in the hands of a for-profit publisher. To date,
the largest player in the Open Access journal market is a for-profit

I must state that I am not categorically opposed to Open Access
publishing. I am arguing that this new mode of publishing is not
intrinsically different than our current subscription model in its ability
to contain price increases and provide relief to institutions that are
finding it increasingly difficult to provide access to scientific
knowledge. The issues of publishing type and publishing mode need to be
kept separate. If we embark down a new mode of publishing, we will need
to prevent the same price containment issues that we are currently

Respectfully submitted,

Philip Davis, Life Sciences Bibliographer
Mann Library, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853
(607) 255-7192 ; (607) 255-0318 fax

At 11:38 AM 1/7/2004 -0500, you wrote:
Forwarding from David Prosser, SPARC Europe ...

-----Original Message-----
Date: Mon, 5 Jan 2004 13:28:46 -0000
From: "David Prosser" <david.prosser@bodley.ox.ac.uk>

Dear All

You may be interested to see the e-mail below that we have just sent to
Frank Gannon, Executive Director of EMBO.  Many of you will have seen a
massive increase in the cost of subscribing to The EMBO Journal in 2004
and the open letter is intended to bring home to Professor Gannon the
problems that this will bring to the library community.

A list of editorial board members for THE EMBO Journal is given at:


If you feel that this price rise is unacceptable, you may wish to check
whether any of the Board members are at your institution and raise the
issue of the price with them!

David C Prosser PhD
E-mail:  david.prosser@bodley.ox.ac.uk

-----Original Message-----
From: David Prosser [mailto:david.prosser@bodley.ox.ac.uk]
Sent: 05 January 2004 13:18
To: 'Frank.Gannon@embo.org'
Subject: Price Increase of the EMBO Journal for 2004

An open letter to Professor Frank Gannon on behalf of the International
Research Library Community

Dear Professor Gannon

I am writing to you to expresses the dismay of the international research
library community at the extreme rise in price for The EMBO Journal in
2004.  The decisions to bundle The EMBO Journal and EMBO Reports into one
'take it or leave it' package and to move to a 'full-time equivalents'
pricing model means that many libraries are facing a doubling of the price
of The EMBO Journal in 2004, at a time when throughout Europe and in the
US we are working with reduced library budgets.

While there is no doubt that The EMBO Journal is one of the world's
leading titles, it is inevitable that a price rise of this magnitude will
result in fewer libraries being able to subscribe, so narrowing the
dissemination of the research published in the journal and consequently
decreasing the impact of each paper published.  It is hard to see how this
can be in the interests of either the journal's authors or readers.  We
also recognise that profits from The EMBO Journal are used to benefit the
molecular biology community.  However, there must be a balance struck
between these benefits and the ability of libraries to afford to purchase
the journal.  A price rise of 100% shifts the balance too far to profit

It is ironic that EMBO should choose to impose such an increase (far in
excess of what we have been used to even from commercial publishers) at
the time when many are looking to new financial models to support
scholarly communications.  Many publishers are either launching new open
access journals (e.g., BioMedCentral, the Public Library of Science) or
attempting to convert existing journals to open access (e.g., the Company
of Biologists, the American Physiological Society).  Funding bodies are
becoming increasingly supportive of open access with major statements
coming in recent months from the German funding agents, the Wellcome Trust
in the UK, and the Howard Hughes in the US.

Publication in open access journals gives authors wider dissemination of
their research and greater impact. EMBO could, considering both its
position at the heart of European molecular biology and the reputation and
standing of The EMBO Journal, be at the forefront of open access, bringing
great benefits to authors, readers, and molecular biology in general.
Instead, the new pricing policy will reduce access to The EMBO Journal and
restrict the free flow of scholarly information.  We therefore call on
EMBO to reconsider this excessive and damaging price rise.

Yours sincerely

Bas Savenije
Chair, SPARC Europe