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Re: Open Access uptake prompts 9% price reduction for the EMBO Journal and EMBO reports

Dear colleagues,

The following press release was posted yesterday in the NPG Press 
Room, http://www.nature.com/press_releases/emboopen.html

Please see my comments below.


Open Access uptake prompts 9% price reduction for The EMBO Journal and
EMBO reports

12 November 2009

Contact: Grace Baynes
Corporate Public Relations, Nature Publishing Group
T:+44 (0)20 7014 4063

Prices for site licence access to The EMBO Journal and EMBO 
reports will be reduced by 9% in 2010, reflecting the increased 
publication of Open Access content in 2008. Nature Publishing 
Group (NPG) and the European Molecular Biology Organisation 
(EMBO) announced the decision today, following ratification by 
the EMBO Council.

We've taken into account all of the relevant data in reaching 
this decision, including the number of Open Access articles 
published in 2008," said David Hoole, Head of Content Licensing, 
NPG. "This change reflects the recent growth in the amount of 
Open Access content in both journals and the corresponding 
partial coverage of publication costs by author charges."

For the 2010 subscription year, there will be a 9% reduction on 
the 2009 site licence list price. This reduction is net of an 
annual inflationary price increase. Print and personal 
subscription prices are unaffected.

"We are delighted to be able to offer real savings to our library 
customers, based on the hybrid business model," said David Hoole 
in a letter to customers. "We hope this helps ease some of the 
pressure on library budgets, while increasing access to the 
academic literature."

For the 2011 subscription year onwards, both the site licence 
price and author fees will be considered in an effort to achieve 
equitable distribution of the costs of publication. This 
evaluation will involve an in-depth review of all factors 
relevant to the publication process, including the proportion of 
Open Access content and authors' ability to pay for Open Access 
and other publication-related costs.

NPG publishes and EMBO reports on behalf of EMBO. An Open Access 
option on both journals was introduced in January 2007. NPG has 
implemented hybrid models across many of its academic journals, 
and expects those titles to show price reductions in due course, 
as the volume of open access increases.

NPG will be contacting customers individually. Customers who have 
already paid for a 2010 subscription should contact their NPG 
sales representative or subscription agent to claim an 


Related links:

European Molecular Biology Organization announces an option for 
author-paid open access articles in The EMBO Journal and EMBO 
reports (December 2006) 


A statement like this will not be enough to keep libraries and 
funders like the Wellcome Trust from asking NPG for more 
transparency. As I wrote in my paper, EMBO and NPG should lay 
open their cards and make the financial basis and rational of 
their calculations transparent.

The netto price reduction with respect to 2009 is 9%, the brutto 
reduction, with respect to the originally communicated 2010 list 
price, taking into account this year's "annual inflationary price 
increase" of 4% (fully applied to the print price), is 12,5%. 
"Inflation", of course, is taken for granted, even if the journal 
itself doesn't grow but reduces its output, as EMBO did.

The price adjustment now announced may reflect "the recent growth 
in the amount of Open Access content in both journals and the 
corresponding partial coverage of publication costs by author 
charges", but even if we buy this logic, the 4% OA uptake in the 
first year and the corresponding partial coverage of publication 
costs by EMBO authors has been ignored and not passed over as a 
price reduction to subscribers. This was clearly "double 
dipping", and it would have been appropriate to increase this 
year's price reduction correspondingly. So we expect and ask NPG 
and EMBO to take it into account for next year's price reduction.

On the other hand, EMBO & NPG are anyway clearly not living up to 
their promise made upon starting the EMBO Open program in 
December 2006, when they told us that the site license price 
would be adjusted in line with the amount of content published 
under the subscription model annually. (And this is not a mere 
question of interpretation as NPG is well aware that they are 
departing from their original policy, which by the way is the 
same as that followed by Springer under their Open Choice 

Instead, what research libraries have witnessed since the 
changeover from Oxford University Press to NPG, was a price hike 
by a factor of 2 or above, immediately after takeover, a decision 
that greatly diminished institutional access to this journal. 
This was followed later by a reduction in published output of 
about 1/3, in waves, first after takeover, and then, following a 
short recovery in 2006, again starting with 2007, when the 
journal had gone hybrid. In 2007, initial editorial rejections 
went up steeply, rejection rate after peer review was reduced 
correspondingly, increasing efficiency and speed of publication 
whilst reducing cost. In 2008, the submission rate had decreased 
as well (by 9% comp. to 2006). However, instead of passing on 
part of these substantial savings to the research libraries, the 
cost to them have multiplied through the transfer and stay at 
that level, with only a marginal reduction - too late, too 
little. Articles that are no longer published in the EMBO 
journal, invariably end up in other journals (well over 80% at 
least) and still have to be paid by the scientific community.

Cost per page for a site license is now around 90 c/p for a 
typical large research university. For comparison, cost per page 
for a site license to the Journal of Biological Chemistry (ASBMB) 
is 9 c/p, for PNAS 11 c/p, for Molecular Biology of the Cell 
(ASCB) 14 c/p, for Molecular Biology & Evolution (SMBE, Oxford 
UP) 21 c/p, for Molecular and Cellular Biology (ASM) 26 c/p, The 
Journal of Biochemistry (Oxford UP) 28 c/p, for RNA and Genes & 
Development (Cold Spring Harbour Laboratory Press) 46 c/p resp. 
58 c/p, for Journal of Cell Biology (Rockefeller UP) 60 c/p, for 
Molecular Cell (Cell Press) a multiple of the price / page for 
the print edition, 39 c/p, typically a factor 6 (234 c/p), for 
Molecular and Cellular Biochemistry (Springer) 277 c/p, for 
Nature Cell Biology 311 c/p, for Nature Structural and Molecular 
Biology 355 c/p.

We probably could still not complain if the EMBO journal would 
now provide clearly better value for money and get cited more 
than before. Alas, according to all performance indicators I know 
of, the EMBO journal has so far further fallen behind (most 
journals brag with any recent increases in impact factor, EMBO 
does not - guess why...). And while we wish EMBO all success with 
its recently implemented changes and new initiatives, we clearly 
feel deceived by the failure of EMBO and NPG to keep up to their 
promises of 2006. If we had data to actually calculate revenue 
per article, we would see that it has risen sharply. I doubt 
whether that will convince funders that we see no "double 
dipping" occur here; pricing of NPG is and has always been 

Authors are also double paying now, through page and colour 
charges *and* EMBO OPEN publication charges on top of that. It is 
an anachronism that the EMBO journal and EMBO reports are still 
produced in print (according to NPG media data, circulation is 
2200 for EMBO Journal, 1000 for EMBO reports), especially that 
print is subsidized for personal subscribers at rather low levels 
(USD 340 for EMBO journal, USD 156 for EMBO reports), partly 
through advertising, but also through excessively priced academic 
site licenses, while only a few dedicated libraries with special 
archival collection duties can afford to main an archival print 
copy at 3000 USD (or even 3000 EUR for European customers outside 
UK) in addition to a site license. (The add-on cost for an 
archival print copy on top of a site license increased from GBP 
157 in 2006 to GBP 1878 in 2010, due to "decoupling of print and 
online," while the price for a combined subscription increased by 
a factor 3 - 5 (or, with the present 12,5% reduction, now 2,75 - 
4,5) since 2003, the year before the takeover by NPG was 
completed.) So please do away with print in order to get some 
real savings that can be passed on to libraries.

Bernd-Christoph Kaemper, Stuttgart University Library

P.S.: The Author Pays Hybrid Model - FAQs for Librarians and 
Subscription Agents (Jan 2009), URL: 
http://www.nature.com/libraries/site_licenses/faqs.pdf says:

What will happen to the subscription prices of these journals in 
2009? Print subscription prices will not be affected. Site 
license prices will be adjusted in line with the amount of 
subscription content published annually and this will be 
monitored throughout the year.

I just checked what happened to the print prices for 2010.

"Print subscription prices will not be affected," the NPG press 
release said. At least not in the sense that price increases are 
moderated. Au contraire. Apparently, the publisher hedges against 
possible losses (?) through the hybrid model by starting with a 
generous extra price increase (20%) for print in 2010. This 
affects 8 NPG owned titles out of the 12 journals new in the 
program: CGT, GENE, IJIR, JESEE, JHH, MP, PCAN, TPJ. Only one 
other NPG Academic Journal not in the program shows such a price 
increase in print for 2010, namely Gene Therapy. Perhaps this 
journal is going to join the program for 2010.

Price increases for Print for the other NPG academic journals for 
2010 are identical to their site license price increases and 
range from 2% to 9% (median 4%, average 5%).