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I'm glad to know that librarians are following our activities at Science
closely, and your note has been helpful in that it points out some areas
where our literature may need some clarification. Your comment leaves the
impression--perhaps generated by some confusing wording in our own
subscription materials online--that institutions subscribing to Science
Online only get to look at the 51 issues we publish during their one-year
subscription. This is not the case. All active Science Online subscribers,
whether individual or institutional, have full access to ALL Science
articles that have been published online. Full text dates back to October
of 1995.
Your note raises two other more serious issues, and I would like to offer 
some response here, as well as invite listserv subscribers to contact me 
directly if they have more questions. The issues you raised are:
1)  there is no permanent archive which survives the subscription term; 
2)  you don't see the value of Science Online when comparing the pricing to 
the print journal.
Your understanding is correct that dropping the subscription would entail
a loss of access, even to the issues published during the licensing term.  
This permanent archiving problem certainly is not unique to Science. We
share your concern about it, and are open to discussing better solutions
for the future. The recommendation to retain print Science is actually a
reflection of my discussions with librarians, who generally have said they
have no intention of dropping the print anyway, and furthermore, would
expect to retain online access indefinitely as well. Nevertheless, no one,
including us, considers print to be a final and complete answer to the
archiving problem, especially since the Online journal contains some
content and functionality that never appears in print.
On point #2, we venture into an area that has more to do with perception
and opinion than with fact. I am aware of your position on Science Online,
since you and I discussed it at length by e-mail and phone some months
ago, and I respect your decision to make judgments about the quality and
usefulness of the journals you purchase - whether in print or online. I am
disappointed, naturally, that you have concluded that Science Online isn't
worth its price.  And, naturally, I disagree with you. Apparently, so do a
lot of your fellow librarians, because we are getting a lot of orders as
libraries prepare their 1999 purchases.
Science Online is not just a digital copy of Science in print, so
assessing its value by a facile comparison to the print price raises a
classic apples to oranges problem. Not only are its economic drivers
different from those of Science, but so are its functions, features, some
of its content, availability, and reader usage patterns.
Science Online provides benefits that cannot be replicated by the paper
subscription, including additional content, breadth of access, immediate
availability of new content on the date of publication, full-text keyword
searching across issues, and extensive hyperlinking to additional
resources, citations, and supplementary materials. Preparing and
supporting all these features is expensive. These benefits represent new
work and new cost that does not flow out of the print journal production
Science Online is also subject to other costs and economic factors that
are not faced by the print journal, and which drive the cost of
institutional access higher:
1)  fewer buyers - it isn't pessimism to project fewer buyers for Science
Online than Science has enjoyed, it is a merely a recognition of the
unique composition of our print subscription base. In fact, we are
experiencing vigorous demand for Science Online, but it is a foregone
conclusion that it will not reach anything like the level of paying
subscribers the Science has. Science in print is a very unusual scientific
journal in that it serves a paying readership of about 140,000 members and
19,000 library subscriptions. This vast readership base enables us to
distribute `first copy' costs very broadly among our readers. Science
Online is expected to be principally an institutional buy, rather than an
individual one. And we believe there are scarcely more than a few thousand
separate research institutions, corporations and government agencies which
will comprise the market for site licenses to Science Online. If one
considers the "per person" cost of serving these institutions, the cost of
providing Science Online to its user community is very low indeed (often
under $1 each). But since there are fewer entities to spread the costs
among, the gross cost per institution is significantly higher than the
cost for the print journal, which has a broader and more varied revenue
2)  fewer advertisers - we're pleased with the interest our advertisers
have displayed in Science Online, and their support is growing rapidly.  
Nevertheless, in gross dollars, advertising online does not yet provide a
substantial portion of the cost of the product. Furthermore, the
development costs to create the kinds of capabilities we need to offer
advertisers are not inconsequential. Since we cannot yet command very high
ad rates online, the margins here are quite small.
3)  new costs to support Science Online - Besides the costs of creating
the additional content and functionality of Science Online, we are
anticipating very significant increases in our technology and customer
service costs.  Again, I must reiterate that Science is not like other
primary scientific journals. The two pieces of `evidence' we have at this
point are: a) our customer service inquiries shot up 50% in 1997, with the
introduction of individual Science Online access; and b) our audited page
requests for Science Online were 4.7 million. This figure is extremely
conservative, as it eliminates all gifs and multiple hits due to the
structure of a file, in order to estimate the actual number of articles or
other discreet items requested. Combine with these facts the anecdotal
evidence we have from librarians that Science is one of their most broadly
read and requested periodicals, and that there is substantial demand from
library users for Science Online to be provided. I don't think it's
unreasonable for us to expect unusually high customer service and
technology costs.
4)  library subscription losses - As I mentioned earlier, librarians tell
us they don't intend to drop print Science. However, we do expect to see
some losses of `second' institutional subscriptions to the print. We are
not assuming that all of the library copies will be canceled - if we made
that assumption the prices would be significantly higher. In a few cases
where a library has numerous copies of Science, we are considering how we
might provide a discount for Science Online if the librarian will agree to
retain all the copies.
No doubt this is more than you or your colleagues wanted to hear about
Science Online pricing! I hope that this information will help clarify
some of the differences between Science and Science Online, and that this
dialogue can continue on a productive basis. Again, I do hope to hear from
you or other readers of the listserv if you have further questions.
     Michael Spinella
     Science and Science Online 
         Circulation Director
     1200 New York Ave., NW
     Washington, DC 20005
     ph: 202 326-6424
     email: mspinell@aaas.org