[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]

Decision making by Libraries on serials and monographs and useage (re puzzled by self-archiving thread)

With reference to the recent emails, the list might be interested 
in the following figures extracted from the 2006 DEST funded 
study, Houghton, John and Steele, Colin and Sheehan, Peter (2006) 
'Research communication costs in Australia : Emerging 
opportunities and benefits'. Centre for Strategic Economic 
Studies, Victoria University, Melbourne. 

"Those Australian university libraries reporting to CAUL reported 
total expenditure of almost AUD 500 million during 2004, of which 
AUD 182 million was spent on content acquisition - AUD 125 
million on serials and AUD 56 million on non-serials. In 2004, 
total acquisition expenditures amounted to around AUD 5,180 per 
FTE academic staff. On a per item basis, access to serials titles 
cost an average AUD 76 each, while non-serial items cost an 
average AUD 60.

Based on averages derived from an analysis of almost 5,000 
journal titles, the implied cost of providing higher education 
access per journal article under CAUL subscriptions was less than 
AUD 1 (i.e. 63 cents). However, it should be noted that this 
estimate is no more than approximate because not all serial items 
are journals and some of the articles included within the 
subscription packages may be open access (i.e. free within the 

The cost per download for a sample of seven of the larger 
publishers' packages subscribed to through CAUL during 2005 
ranged from a low of around AUD 1.24 to a high of AUD 10.11 
(weighted mean AUD 3.60, unweighted mean AUD 4.49).  These 
compare with the mean costs per download across four major 
publishers reported from a sample of UK academic research 
libraries of AUD 3.25 to AUD 7.30 (unweighted mean AUD 5.00) 
(Woodward and Conyers 2005).

Table 3.3 Implied download costs for CAUL subscription packages, 

         	Downloads(Full Text, 2005)      Cost Per Download(AUD)
Publisher A     172,353 				9.02
Publisher B     234,082 				10.11
Publisher C     339,282 				1.24
Publisher D     555,148 				2.07
Publisher E     1,067,069       			5.31
Publisher F     1,046,072       			1.53
Publisher G     323,543 				2.16

Mean of packages                			4.49

Weighted mean of downloads              		3.60

Note: These publishers account for around half CAUL libraries' 
serials expenditure. Not all parties to the consortia are 
Australian higher education institutions. Source: CAUL (Council 
of Australian University Librarians)


With reference to some of the comments made by Rick Anderson and 
Sandy Thatcher, Australian University libraries had major 
experiences of serial cancellations in the mid-1980s and 
mid-1990s. This process was echoed in other countries, such as 
South Africa, but at that time US libraries remained relatively 
unscathed and perhaps uninterested in the global picture. The 
Australian cuts were due firstly to the devaluation of the 
Australian dollar in relation to the major currencies of serial 
subscription invoices and secondly Governmental cut backs to 
university funding in the mid 1990s.

ANU's academic community,organised in subject disciplines, made 
the serial cancellations and these were often influenced by 
serial price rises, particularly by Elsevier at that time. Useage 
was much more difficult to measure then but of course electronic 
usage is now more relevant. It was quite clear that the 
importance adjudged to serials, and the influence of scientists 
on campus, led to a decline in the monograph vote which was 
subsequently affected also by 'The Big Deals'.

Ironically, in the early years of 'The Big Deals' it was the 
journals that the academic community had previously deliberately 
cancelled that were most heavily accessed when they reappeared! - 
a factor that was replicated elsewhere as I understand. The 
subsequent rise in the Australian dollar and the Jekyll and Hyde 
syndrome reflected in the academic as author/reader led to a 
diminution in their zeal for details of the scholarly publishing 
process, although this is now being reinvigorated, perhaps for 
the wrong reason, by the citation importance in the Research 
Quality Framework here - RAE in UK.

In relation to Sandy Thatcher's comment that "Many of the large 
commercial publishers now provide substantial funding for the 
operation of editorial offices on campus. This is the funding 
that will disappear and need to be replaced." It would be good if 
actual financial details could be provided - maybe this is 
commonplace in America but certainly in discussions here we have 
been unable to come up with details of "substantial funding for 
the operation of editoral offices on campus".

Elements of the editorial process have been supported by the 
academic community through misguided? feelings of collegiality, 
although as the Editor-in-chief of Nature recently said, this may 
well come under threat as pressures on time and competition 
increase between scientists.


In relation to the monograph and its decline within the 
Acquisition Budget, there seems to be two pathways, one 
exemplified by the Head of Melbourne University Press who 
recently was quoted in 'The Australian':

"With a feisty chief executive in Louise Adler, MUP is 
reinventing itself, morphing from a fusty, highly specialised 
academic publisher to a headline-grabbing publisher of 
nonfiction. Adler boasts that "the whole business has been 
transformed in four years and our growth has been extraordinary".

Output has grown from about 50 books a year before the 
restructure to 75 this year. This upswing follows the 2003 
overhaul in which the country's oldest university press replaced 
almost all of its staff and broke away from the university 
bookshop, making its own accounts -- including the loss-making 
books -- more transparent...Despite fears commercialisation would 
threaten MUP's identity, most of its titles are still written by 
academics. Adler says "our first impulse is to look within the 
university sector for talent. There are remarkable riches within 
the academy, and it is incumbent on us to work out ways in which 
these ideas can be published. Our mission is to contribute to 
public debate."

So, is her new order making money? She concedes "we are funded 
extremely generously by Melbourne University". Just how 
generously, she won't say, but she admits MUP works in ways "no 
commercial publisher would tolerate". Still, she seeks to "bring 
a commercial rigour to what we are doing". In the past, she says, 
MUP resembled a vanity publisher; academics would obtain 
publication grants and use them to subsidise their books, no 
matter how paltry the sales: "We could not go on selling 200 or 
100 copies (of a book) ... That is the reality of the entire 
academic publishing sector."

Despite this, academics still get more points from their 
employers for getting a book published traditionally than in any 
other format. "The academy itself needs to recognise the new 
publishing environment," Adler asserts. Booksellers don't want to 
know about scholarly books that sell 300 or 400 copies. Says the 
straight-talking MUP boss: "We can stand on our heads (to try to 
change their minds), but it will not make any difference."

The second approach is exemplified within the public good 
institutional settings as a number of Australian university 
epresses are doing . The words of the recent US ACLS 
Cyberinfrastructure Report are relevant here, eg page 22.

"Scholarship cannot exist without a system of scholarly 
communication: the cost of that system is a necessary cost of 
doing academic business. One could say that every part of this 
system is subsidized-from faculty to presses to libraries-and one 
could equally well say that every part operates under significant 
financial constraints.In the case of university-based publishers, 
institutional subsidy has declined in recent years, forcing 
university presses to behave more like commercial entities. If, 
however, we take a longer view of the informationlife cycle in 
universities, revenue from sales may not be the best measure of 
the value of scholarship.It may make more sense to conceive of 
scholarly communication as a public good than as a marketable 

As mentioned in our DEST report all elements need to be linked in 
the scholarly communication process including innovation 
outcomes,, but have been rarely addressed as such. Engaging the 
academic community in ownership of the process is essential. The 
signs in 2007, for whatever reason, are a little more optimistic 
than they were, ie in addressing the issues holistically rather 
than simply reacting to a 'serials cancellation crisis'.


Colin Steele
Emeritus Fellow
The Australian National University
Canberra  ACT 0200
Tel +61 (0)2 612 58983
Email: colin.steele@anu.edu.au

University Librarian, Australian National University (1980-2002)
and Director Scholarly Information Strategies (2002-2003)