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FW: Price Increase of the EMBO Journal for 2004 (A reply to the open letter from SPARC Europe)

Forwarding from David Prosser, SPARC Europe ...

-----Original Message-----
Date: Fri, 23 Jan 2004 11:20:01 -0000
From: "David Prosser" <david.prosser@bodley.ox.ac.uk>

Dear All

Please find attached the response that SPARC Europe has received from
Professor Frank Gannon to the open letter we sent regarding the bundling
together of The EMBO Journal and EMBO Reports, and the subsequent price
increase (which for many institutions has been around 100%).

Best wishes

David C Prosser PhD
SPARC Europe

E-mail:  david.prosser@bodley.ox.ac.uk
Tel:       +44 (0) 1865 284 451
Mobile:  +44 (0) 7974 673 888


Subject:  A reply to the open letter from SPARC Europe 

I read with interest and concern your open letter related to The EMBO
Journal and EMBOreports. I would like to take this opportunity to balance
some elements of your message.  The open letter refers to:
  (a) the increase in the price of The EMBO Journal 
  (b) the coupling of the sales of The EMBO Journal and EMBO reports
  (c) the desirability of a move to open access publishing.

The increases in price that you refer to arises from a shift to a site
licence model that provides access to the electronic version of the
journals to all on a site.  EMBO has been one of the last groups to move
to this particular pricing structure but the logic of doing so has become
inescapable.  The reality is that at individual institutions, multiple
subscriptions for The EMBO Journal have been (not surprisingly) dropped by
libraries because complete institutional electronic access has been
available for the price of a single subscription.  Most of the smallest
institutions will pay less than 5% more for their site licence than they
did under the subscription model.  However, if a larger institution
previously reduced the number of its subscriptions, and now falls into a
higher size/price bracket, then the price will obviously increase.  For
very large institutions, this price change may indeed be a dramatic one.  
In fact, just as dramatic as the price reduction at an earlier stage.  
However, I think that a fairer situation has been reached through the
change to the site licence.  I can affirm that, apart from corrections for
inflation rate, the increase in 2004 is not planned to be repeated in the
future years. I trust that once this realignment has taken place, then the
widely accepted good value of The EMBO Journal will be again the
predominant message which will be sent by librarians to each other.  I
should also point out that EMBO continues to make its journals available
freely to all after 1 year and that they are immediately freely available
to scientists in the poorest countries of the world.

The obligatory coupling of the purchase of The EMBO Journal and
EMBOreports is more problematic, I accept.  The reality is that
EMBOreports is a top class publication as evidenced not least by the fact
that its initial impact factor was 6.0 and now is 7.7.  You will recognise
that achieving such a high impact factor immediately shows the quality of
EMBOreports.  Those who have not yet looked at EMBOreports perhaps should
do so to see that this is not just a journal that publishes focussed
scientific papers, but also one that contains much background information
about science and society and topics of very general interest to not only
the molecular biology community but all scientists.  The combination of
The EMBO Journal and EMBOreports is complementary with comments, reviews
and short papers in one journal and full papers in the other.  This
warrants their sale as a combination.  We also monitor the visits to the
EMBOreports site and the traffic there is extremely high.  Indeed the
increase in traffic on all sections of the EMBOreports site in the last
year has been remarkable.  Many parts of EMBOreports were freely
accessible following its launch.  The subscription uptake for EMBOreports
on the other hand, has remained resolutely disappointing despite all the
other indicators of success.  Our analysis is that the scientific
community would be well served by having greater physical and electronic
access to EMBOreports.  As the standard "sales procedures" had not been
sufficient, we have attempted to increase availability by selling it in
combination with The EMBO Journal at a price that, for most institutions
on the lowest price tier, is less than 5% more than for the two journals
combined last year.  All librarians will be provided with information on
the use by their institution of EMBOreports during 2004 and again we are
confident that this will show that the community is indeed very pleased to
have much more ready access to EMBOreports than has been the case in the

The final point in your message relates to open access.  As you are well
aware, the economic aspects of open access publication are complex, and
EMBO's position is currently completely open on how best to serve the
scientific community on this question.  We have recently established a
working party to look into all aspects of open access, including the
feasibility of launching a new open access journal, since any transition
from a traditional to an open access business model is likely to require
both careful analysis of alternative models and time to test them.  Even
the start of a not-for-profit new open access journal with a model in
which the author pays for publication carries with it a large number of
unknowns in terms of both the economic sustainability of such a journal
and the real costs to authors and their institutions.  Hence, although we
are very sympathetic and supportive of open access, we have not yet
completed the analysis that we feel such a step into uncertainty requires.  
When we have done so (in the next few months) we will be happy to let you
know of our plans.

I hope that the above paragraphs help to clarify the position of EMBO and
I remain open to further dialogue on this matter as is needed.

Yours sincerely,

Prof. Frank Gannon,
Executive Director, EMBO
Secretary General, EMBC