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Re: An interruption (Re: Re[2]: Science Online model and Princeton)


Thank you Rick for summarizing so clearly what I have been feeling and
have not taken the time to sort out in this debate.

And you are also right about our feeling as if publishers have us over a
barrel.  The only discussion of actual costs I have seen was by a
nonprofit publisher.  We have no way of knowing what it actually costs to
publish a journal.  In Consumer Reports we can find out what the real
costs of a car are and what are "reasonable profits" for the dealer.  
However, we have no Consumer Reports of the publishing world to usggest
what the costs and "reasonable" profit margins might be for a journal.  
All we can do is cancel the title.  That in many cases is not a viable
option though it is becoming more and more necessary.

Trudy Gardner

-----Original Message-----
From: Rick Anderson <rick_anderson@uncg.edu>
To: liblicense-l@lists.yale.edu <liblicense-l@lists.yale.edu>
Date: Friday, December 04, 1998 8:36 PM
Subject: An interruption (Re: Re[2]: Science Online model and Princeton)

>I'd just like to interrupt this interesting exchange for a moment to make
>sort of a parenthetical remark.
>Here's what I think I'm hearing in this debate, in a nutshell:
>Publishers say:  "First of all, we're not realizing significant savings by
>presenting our materials in electronic formats.  Second of all, libraries
>should be willing to pay more for online access because electronic formats
>add value in the following ways: (a, b, c...)."
>Libraries respond:  "First of all, electronic formats may or may not
>provide us with significant added value.  Second of all, publishers need
>to be sensitive to our budget problems, which are considerable, and should
>set prices accordingly."
>I probably tend to force my perceptions of the world into artificially
>neat patterns, but it looks to me as if each side in this debate has one
>valid and one invalid point.  If publishers are finding that electronic
>formats are not, in fact, cheaper to produce than paper, then they should
>certainly say so.  Librarians should feel free to hypothesize about how a
>publisher might economize, but unless we're the ones balancing the books
>we probably need to take the publishers at their word when they tell us
>that electronic publishing is more expensive than we might think.
>However, by the same logic, publishers are wrong to lecture librarians on
>how much more those electronic products should be worth to us.
>Publishers know how much money they've put into product development, but
>they do *not* know whether that money was well spent as far as added value
>is concerned.  Only we, their customers, know that, and publishers should
>take us at our word when we tell them that, in fact, the online version is
>not worth the money.  Just because you invest more in a product does not
>necessarily mean that you increase its value.
>Libraries are right to tell publishers when a product is worth less to
>them than publishers think it should be worth.  The producer may set the
>price, but only the customer can determine the *value* of a product.
>However, I think it's a little silly for us to say "Quit setting prices
>that bust our budgets."  Publishers have to set prices that make sense in
>light of both their needs and ours, and we can't realistically expect them
>to say "Oh, is that too much?  Sorry, we'll just take a loss, then."
>I think part of the problem, however, is a lingering suspicion on the part
>of librarians that we're being gouged -- that despite all of publishers'
>protestations to the contrary, there really is no justification for the
>enormous price increases we see in subscriptions every year and for online
>access to information we often have already purchased.  Publishers are
>monopolies -- I can't buy Science Online from any other publisher -- and
>therefore have us over a barrel, so we naturally tend to assume that any
>price increase is due more to the publisher's advantageous position than
>to outside market pressures (real as those may be).  I actually suggested
>to one publisher recently that the solution to this particular problem
>would be for him to open up the books to his customers.  You say costs are
>increasing?  Show me.  Heh heh.  Actually, he didn't think it was that bad
>an idea, but then, he was a nonprofit...
>Okay, flame away!
>Rick Anderson
>Head Acquisitions Librarian
>Jackson Library
>UNC Greensboro
>1000 Spring Garden St.
>Greensboro, NC 27402-6175
>PH (336) 334-5281
>FX (336) 334-5399