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Three general approaches to e journals

One approach to electronic journals is for individual universities to
negotiate with publishers for individual titles. The limitation here is
that in practice, "negotiate" is a misnomer: publishers are not in general
at all willing to actually negotiate about price: they state a price,
which the library either pays or doesn't.  In some cases, they are not
even willing to permit separate pricing, but raise the price to include
both the print and the electronic version, giving the library the choice
of paying, or losing access completely. This may continue to motivate the
publishers to publish material worth subscribing to, but lessens overall
access as libraries are forced to subscribe to fewer and fewer titles.

Another is for large groups (consortia, states, or nations), to negotiate
prices for entire sets of journals with publishers. Here there is some
true bargaining power over the price, but the result of these contracts is
to abandon the concept that libraries will subscribe to good journals, and
replace it with the concept that they will subscribe to whatever a
publisher happens to publish, good or bad. This may ensure the survival of
the publishers, but insulate them from considerations of quality and
efficiency, with the predictable result being the decline in overall value
of the scientific literature.

A third approach is for researchers and libraries to establish direct
access at low cost to important journal articles independently of the
conventional publishers, as with xxx.lanl and e-biomed. If sufficient
major authors participate, the result is that the publishers will only be
able to sell what individuals and libraries actually want to buy, not what
they feel they must have to ensure basic access regardless of true value.
This provides access to the literature for all, and encourages the
publication of worthwhile projects.

All libraries are frustrated by the costs of the individual title
alternative; rather than resorting to blanket subscriptions, I urge those
responsible for planning to consider the direct access approach.

Of course, these are my own personal views only, though I suspect that
some of my colleagues at Princeton may agree.  -- 

David Goodman Biology Librarian, 
and Co-Chair, electronic Journals Task Force 
Princeton University Library 
phone: 609-258-3235 fax: 609-258-2627