Journal pricing in these hard times: are publishers listening?

As I've mentioned, science libraries are very much in financial trouble just as their parent institutions and other organizations are right now.  There have been many calls for publishers to hold the line on price increases and some have done so. Some, like SPIE, have decreased prices -yay them! Others, like a chemistry database that was recently purchased by a large publisher, have given my parent institution a quote that raises our subscription price over 40% over the period of the contract. Nature Publishing Group has raised institutional subscriptions for Scientific American from about $40 to about $300.  NPG has also taken over publishing Polymer Journal (Japan) and has doubled the price.

MLA, the medical library association, has a page listing some of the price freezes. Some of these are more impressive than others. For example, with IOP you get less. You can get e only in 2010 for the 2009 e+print price.  Springer has apparently decided to ignore all of this and increase their prices.

Most of the publishers are listening.  But they're still introducing new journals. This isn't the time for that, frankly.

 

Over the years, Dana Roth, a librarian from Caltech, has encouraged us to consider the price per page or article, per impact factor. On that note, my colleague Joe Kraus of the University of Denver has posted some slides from Gene Sprouse of APS. We see that the average cost per article for NPG is $30 whereas the society publishers are less than $10.

Dana posted an analysis of 2008 data for physics journals on PAMnet listserv. Some highlights PRL (physics review letters) is $0.92/article and has an IF of 6.9. Nuclear Physics-B is $38.02/article and has an IF of 4.2. As he also points out that Nuclear Physics-B has reduced its subscription price by 46% from 17k to 9.2k (I kid you not!). But apparently the journal publishes a third less and has has lost 40% of its impact factor.

 

Societies have a choice of who to get to publish their journals. AIP will, IOP will, Elsevier will, Wiley-Blackwell will, and Nature will. Is it worth it? Stepping over the bodies of the laid off librarians to get more money for society programs that comes from commercial publishers - is that really a win?

Tags

More like this

Economic recovery has not yet made its presence felt at public universities in California. (Indeed, at least in the California State University system, all things budgetary are going to be significantly worse in the next academic year, not better.) This means it's not a great time for purveyors of…
This morning, when Nature Publishing Group responded to the University of California library's broadside, I contemplated taking the response apart piece by piece in a bit of "... translated into English" satire. I'm glad I didn't have the chance. I'm much, much happier for people to read the…
And that's Nature as in Nature Publishing Group rather than the narrative strategy. I missed the story when it broke earlier this week in The Chronicle -- I was attending the absolutely fantastic Canadian Engineering Education Association conference in Kingston from Monday to Wednesday. And when I…
So I'm turning over the California/NPG situation in my head, because I—okay, because I'm obsessive, are you happy now? (Just don't ask how late I was sending email last night.) The very cynical portion of my brain notes that it's almost certainly easier to persuade faculty to inaction than action.…

This is very sad and frankly quite dangerous on the publisher's part. First, adding more journals now is foolish since the whole reason that journals are sold to libraries in bundles is that most are not individually profitableâonly by bundling them with the few journals that make large profits can they even exist. Adding more journals stretches this model to its limit.

Someone is eventually going to have to break and frankly, as someone who works in supply chain, publishers like NPG which are hiking prices double-digits now are misreading the economic signals. Grants are being cut, library funding is spiraling down, but they think they can squeeze more money from piggybank?

I remember reading once (I think in a book on Irving Langmuir) that in the 1930s the editor of the Physical Review had a form that subscribing scientists could fill out that would allow them to receive the journal for free if they were in extremely difficult financial circumstances. Somehow I donât expect that kind of altruism today.

By Lord Phat (not verified) on 05 Oct 2009 #permalink

I've mentioned, science libraries are very much in financial trouble just as their parent institutions and other organizations are right now.

By acı çehre (not verified) on 09 Oct 2009 #permalink

I remember reading once (I think in a book on Irving Langmuir) that in the 1930s the editor of the Physical Review had a form that subscribing scientists could fill out that would allow them to receive the journal for free if they were in extremely difficult financial circumstances.