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Re: pricing questions

I believe that the explanation for a major part of the difference in the
annual subscription price of Elsevier's journal BRAIN RESEARCH and the
society-owned JOURNAL OF BIOLOGICAL CHEMISTRY is the difference in the
number of paid subscribers. I am not currently privy to these figures, but
believe that BRAIN RESEARCH has a paid circulation of not much more than
1,000. I suspect that those of JBC are 2-3 times as much. As you must
appreciate, total unit costs fall precipitously, almost exponentially,
when you can spread them over larger numbers of subscribers.  I know that
many will want to believe that the major reason for the difference stems
from the fact that one publisher is a society while the other is a
commercial corporation which is concerned with the price of its stock
(incidentally, Elsevier's stock has taken severe hits this year and is
trading at historic lows), but I do not think that is the major cause of
the discrepancy.

One might argue that given the enormous number of pages published annually
in BRAIN RESEARCH and its small and almost wholly institutional subscriber
list (which I believe has been declining over recent years as costs rise),
a very good argument could be made for saving some money (not as much as
one might think) by abandoning the print edition and making it entirely an
electronic journal. However, it is a fact that there are still many
authors who would be nervous about archiving their major research papers
on a computer. This will change, especially if authors, publishers, and
librarians could work together to insure the long term permanance and
security of digital archives. But that is another and very complex story.

Alan M. Edelson, Ph.D.
(retired) President and CEO,
J.B. Lippincott Company


Lloyd Davidson wrote:

> I have a great deal of respect for Karen Hunter, who is an excellent and
> fair spokesperson for Elsevier, and I have no idea what production costs
> are for Brain Research, or whether it is, in fact, overpriced based on its
> production costs.  I would note, however, that the Journal of Biological
> Chemistry (JBC) publishes twice as many pages as Brain Research,
> approximately 36,000/year, and yet costs only about $1,600/year, or 10% as
> much as Brain Research's $15,000.  Its pages cost, therefore, about $.05
> each, compared to Brain Research's $1.00/page.  How is it possible for
> production and mailing costs of these two journals to differ by a factor
> of 20 times?  I would like to see a better explanation of why there should
> be such a price discrepancy between them, confirmed by an independent
> auditor, before I could agree that the subscription price for Brain
> Research is fully justified.
> JBC also has a significantly higher impact factor than Brain Research and
> a circulation of about 6,000, a figure publicly posted on Ulrich's and in
> its journal.
> As to its use, I find it hard to believe (though I have no firm data) that
> each issue of Brain Research is read by 40 researchers at Northwestern, in
> spite of the fact that we have a major Neurosciences department here.  It
> was this department, after all, that seriously proposed that we consider
> dropping our subscription to this journal, which they considered
> overpriced for the use they make of it, a suggestion I have so far
> resisted.  If Elsevier can truly demonstrate that there are "... an
> average of 40 scientists/students using each subscribed copy", then surely
> these 40,000 to 60,000 or more readers should serve as a major enticement
> for advertiser dollars.
> Of course Brain Research is a favorite whipping boy, as Karen correctly
> calls it.  The fact that it is the most expensive life sciences journal in
> most library collections guarantees that it will catch the attention of
> every bibliographer and university cost accountant.  The fact that its
> circulation figures and production costs are confidential merely makes it
> that much more obvious as a target and leads to speculation in a vacuum.
> I sincerely appreciate the information that its circulation figures are
> closer to 1,500 than 10,000, if that is what Karen meant to say. There is
> a feeling among many librarians, myself included, that Elsevier takes a
> high-handed approach in its dealing with us, and that leads to an
> unfortunate undercurrent of resentment and distrust.  Perhaps some of the
> changes that seem to be occurring in the PEAK program, and the better data
> that could become available about actual use of the electronic versions of
> Brain Research and other journals, will help to allay some of these
> antagonisms and lead to a more positive and mutually beneficial
> relationship between libraries and commercial publishers in general.
> Lloyd A. Davidson
> Life Sciences Librarian and Head, Access Services
> Seeley G. Mudd Library for Science and Engineering
> 2233 N. Campus Drive
> Northwestern University
> Evanston, IL  60208
> Ldavids@nwu.edu  (847)491-2906 (Voice)   1-847-556-0436 (fax)