APS to Implement New Journal Pricing Policies
Thomas McIlrath, APS Treasurer
To Promote the Advancement and Diffusion of the Knowledge of Physics. That is the noble purpose of the American Physical Society, as stated in its charter of 1899. In pursuit of that goal, the Society publishes the world's premier physics journals; Physical Review, Physical Review Letters, and Reviews of Modern Physics. Over 13,000 articles in 90,000 pages were published in 1999. Over 1.6 million articles were downloaded from Physical Review Online in 1999. In order to make the literature available to everyone from their desktop anywhere in the world, the entire corpus of work published in APS journals since their beginning in 1893 is being placed in an online archive, PROLA, a project which will be complete early next year.
The Cost of Publishing and of Subscribing
Today the publishing of APS journals is a $26,000,000 business. Between 10% and 15% of that expenditure is for direct costs associated with mounting the journals online. PROLA has cost approximately $2,000,000 to date and will cost another $1,000,000 to complete the task of taking the archive back to 1893. Maintaining online access and updating PROLA are permanent expenses. Eliminating page charges in the 1990's shifted more costs onto libraries and today over eighty percent of the cost of producing and distributing journals is paid by library subscriptions. Libraries range from those serving the large national laboratories and research universities, to small liberal arts colleges. Over 60% of the libraries are located outside the United States. In the past, the need for multiple subscriptions to service the far flung staff of the large institutions meant that large research institutions supported a larger portion of the cost of the publication enterprise than the small colleges with a single subscriptions. The availability of online access has changed that. Now the largest research universities typically have the same number of subscriptions as the smallest schools, namely one subscription. Distribution to multiple departments and research groups is accomplished through the campus wide online access which accompanies the subscription to the journals. The result over the past decade is to shift the burden of support for distributing the results of physics research away from the large institutions onto the smaller ones.
Multi-tiered Pricing for Journals
To redress these changes in publishing the physics literature, and to return the balance of support for publication of physics research literature back towards its historic pattern, the APS will provide its journals to smaller, non-research oriented institutions at a lower price than that charged to research intensive institutions starting in 2001. The pricing will depend on the research activity of the institution as reflected in its Carnegie Classification. The Carnegie Foundation classifies U.S. academic institutions according to their size and research activity. The largest and most research active institutions are classified as Research institutions. Institutions providing doctoral degrees but with significantly lower research funding and doctoral production are categorized as Doctoral institutions. The remaining institutions include Masters, Bachelors, Technical schools, etc. (see http://www.carnegiefoundation.org). Starting in 2001 there will be separate pricing for each category.
Online-Only Access Options
In 2001 the APS journals will be available for the first time to institutions as an online-only option. The base price for the online journal, which is the price for all domestic academic institutions below the Carnegie Research or Doctoral classifications, will be 13% below the 2000 journal price. For Doctoral institutions the price will be 6% below the 2000 price and for Research Universities the 2001 price will be 2% above the 2000 price. CD-ROMs will be available at $50 per disc. The traditional option of print-plus-online will continue to be available. The lower cost of the online-only subscription reflects the savings from foregoing print production and delivery.
Pricing for Traditional Subscriptions
For those institutions which choose to continue their print-plus-online subscriptions, the price increases for 2001 versus 2000 will be 2% for base-price institutions, 11% for the Doctoral institutions and 20% for Research institutions. There will be no separately priced print-only subscriptions. With this new pricing, approximately two thirds of the subscribing institutions will see a 13% decrease (online only) or a 2% price increase (online plus print) in 2001. This is made possible by the larger price increase for the remaining institutions.
Classification of Foreign Institutions
There are no convenient classifications for foreign institutions. Therefore, foreign institutions will be placed into equivalent categories with domestic institutions, and charged accordingly, based on a comparison of their online usage with the median value of usage by the domestic Carnegie categories. Multi-tiered pricing is not an attempt to introduce usage based pricing. Rather, it is a move to put the larger burden for distribution of research information onto the research institutions. Online usage is only used to distinguish foreign institutions in an effort to obtain an objective identification of research intensive subscribers.
It is recognized that the large price increases for the research organizations provides a real burden on tight library budgets. In order to provide a lower cost option to subscribers, the option of online-only access to the journal (no print copy) is being offered. As discussed above, this option provides a price reduction in 2001 for all subscribers below the Carnegie Research level. For the Research level institution it gives a 2% price increase in 2001. Foreign subscribers, paying air-freight costs, would see an even greater savings. The APS feels this will be an especially attractive option because of the availability of the Physical Review Online Archive (PROLA). PROLA currently contains all of the Physical Review from 1985 through 1996 (1997, 1998 and 1999 files are available on the current online journal platforms). By the end of 2000 the archive will contain Physical Review back to 1970, Physical Review Letters back to its beginning in 1958 and the Reviews of Modern Physics back to its beginning in 1929. Current plans call for all of the APS publications back to 1893 being in the archive by the end of 2001. PROLA will be continually updated to include all articles published more than three years before the current year. The more recent material will be on the current journal platforms. Negotiations are underway to maintain a fully current version of PROLA (including current issues) on several servers at institutional libraries to create a true archive. The maintenance of PROLA in a current and readily accessible form is a responsibility which the APS has assumed for the community. Access to PROLA is included in the price for the APS packages (PRALL and APSALL) and is available at a modest cost for subscribers of individual journals. The cost for PROLA covers maintenance of the archive and access to PROLA provides perpetual access to subscriber material.
There are tremendous pressures today on library budgets. The answer to that problem has to involve finding more efficient ways of distributing information. The APS strives to find the least expensive way of publishing the physics literature consistent with the highest standards of peer review publications. We cannot predict what the future will bring in terms of ultimate products and costs. It is inevitable that changes will occur in both the nature of the journals, as cost-cutting is implemented, and in the way costs are distributed among the diverse group of subscribers. We anticipate and welcome continued, spirited, discussions amongst the Society membership, the librarian community and other users as the changes evolve.
Librarians Speak Out
Editor's Note: The following are selected comments from librarians at various research and educational institutions around the country, directed to APS Treasurer Thomas McIlrath in reaction to the new APS journal pricing plan. The responses are indicative of the Society's ongoing "spirited discussions" with this community regarding journal pricing and electronic publishing. All quotes are reprinted here with permission.
"I fully support the new APS pricing structure. A 20% increase for research institutions seems eminently reasonable, given the large number of personal and institutional subscription cancellations over the past few years. Society publishers have long provided an exemplary model for the dissemination of scientific literature. Research libraries, in particular, should be sympathetic to their need to maintain a viable business model."
Dana L. Roth
California Institute of Technology
"There have to be better ways to disseminate science and technology information that don't entail the enormous amounts of money and inequitable distribution routes and rights currently owned by the publishers. Price increases like this make alternative publishing scenarios all the more attractive and I believe will only expedite their implementation."
University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
"I certainly have a lot of sympathy toward supporting smaller institutions, having recently come from one myself, and I think the Physical Review was pricing itself out of that market. I am glad the APS is remedying this situation. But I was under the impression this increase would be phased in gradually over the course of a few years, so there would not be a sticker shock from a one-time increase. A 20% increase for research institutions seems like a pretty big chunk to phase in all at once."
"These scholarly society publishers have acknowledged the economic crisis we have reported, and are doing their best to find the thread to the future, while still offering the peer review process and taking responsibility for long-term archiving. It is my opinion that we need to work together, across fields, types of organizations or institutions, libraries, and across alternatives in attempting to influence the best future for our scientist-scholars."
University of California, Berkeley
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Associate Editor: Jennifer Ouellette