EXPERIMENT IN LOWER JOURNAL PRICES | Robert K. Peet | NEWSLETTER ON SERIALS PRICING ISSUES | NO. 13 -- DECEMBER 3, 1989
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"13.9 AN EXPERIMENT IN LOWER JOURNAL PRICES Dr. Robert K. Peet, Department of Biology CB# 3280, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill NC 27599-3280; BITNET: URTICA@UNC.
Libraries are not the only institutions that feel the consequences of publishers' setting excessively high prices for serials. Professional organizations that publish serials want them to be widely distributed and available to as many readers as possible. If the price of a journal is too high, circulation will be held low and the journal cannot continue to grow in quality or prestige. This is the situation that was faced recently by the International Association for Vegetation Science (IAVS).
In 1947, IAVS started the journal VEGETATIO through a gentlemen's agreement with Dr. W. Junk, the Dutch publisher. Over the years the journal grew and prospered, and during this time Junk was purchased by and eventually merged with Kluwer Academic Publishers. Under both Junk and Kluwer the price of VEGETATIO was pushed steadily upward. By 1989 the price had reached $783 for libraries and $319 for individuals. Although neither Kluwer nor Junk was willing to release subscription statistics, it is clear that almost no individuals were able to subscribe and that library subscription rates were not climbing and may have actually started to decline. The publishers were also willing to relinquish very little control to the association or the editor.
Confronted with an unresponsive publisher who was unwilling to reduce prices, and lacking the copyright to its official journal, IAVS decided to start a new journal, JOURNAL OF VEGETATION SCIENCE. The editor and virtually all of the editorial board of VEGETATIO resigned to join the new journal, which will likely publish its first volume in early 1990. IAVS will retain title to its new journal but will contract initially with a new, low-profit publishing firm in Sweden for production. Size and content are expected to reach the size of the old VEGETATIO quickly, but prices will be kept to less than half the old level. Further, individual members of IAVS will be able to purchase personal copies at a considerable discount, making it possible for this to be a journal that will be widely read by the membership.
In the end, the success of the new JOURNAL OF VEGETATION SCIENCE and this experiment in reducing the cost of information for scholars and libraries will depend on the willingness of librarians to start new subscriptions to bold new ventures like JOURNAL OF VEGETATION SCIENCE in this day of extremely tight serials budgets."