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Is it time to stop printing journals?

The American Society for Cell Biology (ASCB) is considering 
discontinuing the print version of its journal Molecular Biology 
of the Cell (MBC). We welcome comments from the library community 
about the value of print journals and the adequacy of LOCKSS, 
Portico, and PubMed Central as archives of electronic journals. 
We are also curious about whether librarians would be interested 
in a print-on-demand option for obtaining archival print copies 
if regular print subscriptions were discontinued.

The impetus for discontinuing the print edition is a desire to 
reduce author charges, especially for color figures. The cost of 
producing the print edition greatly exceeds revenue from print 
subscriptions. Author charges (page charges and color charges) 
are the largest source of revenue for the journal. In effect, 
authors are subsidizing the print subscriptions.

We suspect that it is not feasible to raise the print 
subscription rate enough to cover the cost of print. The 
many-fold increase in the subscription rate that would be 
required would likely launch a vicious cycle of declining 
subscriptions and escalating subscription rates and would be 
tantamount to discontinuing the print journal anyway, but in a 
sloppy, uncontrolled manner. The online version of MBC is the 
journal of record and is rich in material not found in print: 
More than 60% of the articles include supplemental data or videos 
online.  Since 2000, print subscriptions have been available only 
to institutions that also have online subscriptions (and to ASCB 
members, who receive access to the online journal as a benefit of 

The online institutional subscription rate is on the low side: 
$578 for approximately 5400 pages per year.  The print 
subscription rate is ridiculously low:  an additional $83 for a 
U.S. institution.  For 2007, the rates were increased for the 
first time since 2002.  As we strive to maintain the journal's 
financial viability while maintaining a fair balance of revenue 
sources, we ve had to take a hard look at the value of the print 
journal, which seems to be expensive to produce and perhaps 
unnecessary. We have been soliciting comments from authors, 
editors, and ASCB members and would also like to hear from 

Thanks in advance for your advice!

W. Mark Leader
Director of Publications
American Society for Cell Biology
phone: 301-347-9317
fax: 301-347-9350