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RE: pricing questions: perspective from a publisher

In general and as a smaller academic library, I agree with the opinions
recently expressed by J Tousley and Anne Liebert and the frustration in
pricing offers from publishers (and Elsevier in this case) based on mass
offerings without regard for local library needs that are more selective.

At the same time, I am reminded of our recent participation through NERL
in Academic Press' IDEAL program. The cost of IDEAL was based in large
part on our record of participation in print. That print record already
reflected our selective participation in Academic Press titles, of course.
Through IDEAL, that print-based price gave us electronic access to the
entire stable of IDEAL journals. Thus, for a price that was only slightly
more than our print price, we now had electronic access to many, many more
AP titles. For a smaller college library this was (and still is) a
compelling advantage.

One could argue that we did not offer these titles in print format in the
past for good reason. True, but also true that one of those reasons for at
least some of these titles could well have been cost -- an issue now
resolved due to the electronic program. I want to emphasize that we were
able to buy in to the whole enchilada because it was only slightly more
than our already-selective print-based cost. Taken together, all the
elements of this specific pricing approach was a compelling advantage to

My intent in making this comment is not to sing the praises of the
Academic Press model nor suggest that all vendors should buy in to that
approach -- this model comes with other disadvantages and concerns -- but
the comparison with Elsevier's approach and cost matrix is interesting.
How is it that one publisher can offer one price, based in large part on
the print-based record and offer electronic access to the entire stable of
publications for a slight increase in cost over the print -- while another
publisher makes a very different set of assumptions and arguments.

I would pose one answer to my own question -- they don't know. I think
it's clear that publishers are experimenting with a lot of different
models and are as anxiously awaiting, as we are, what provides a
"reasonable" measure of profit while still enabling libraries that need it
to buy access (or is that ownership?). This suggests that we all face
especially important decisions at this time. Our decisions to participate,
or not, in these various schemes are sending early messages to publishers
that we will see reflected in the future. Ms. Leibert is correct when she
writes that we are sending strong messages to publishers about what we
want if we "capitulate" to schemes we don't want. I would suggest that in
some cases, even if we can afford it, buying in may not be the best
decision long-term... Tough calls.

I would also agree wholeheartedly with J. Tousley's comment that
publishers need to offer "choices and a variety of plans for acquiring the
information they publish. No two libraries have the same needs nor the
same funding." Amen. I hope we begin to see such flexibility from

David Carlson, Director of Libraries
Maxwell Library, Bridgewater State College
Bridgewater, MA 02325
Email: dcarlson@bridgew.edu <mailto:dcarlson@bridgew.edu> 
Voice: 508/531-1256
Fax: 508/531-1349