Economics and Usage of Digital Libraries: Byting the BulletSkip other details (including permanent urls, DOI, citation information)
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For over three centuries, scientific scholarly journals have demonstrated remarkable stability. A large number of studies performed during the past few decades have shown their continued use, usefulness, and value. However, two phenomena have evolved over the last thirty years that have the potential either of destroying the scholarly journal system or substantially enhancing its considerable usefulness and value. These two phenomena are the maturation and integration of communication technologies and the economics of the journal system, particularly pricing of traditional journal subscriptions and access to digital full-text databases through site licensing and package "deals". Certainly, the new technologies should, if deployed with care, enhance the journal system (e.g., Tenopir et al., 2003), but contemporary pricing policies have been a greater threat to the journal system. Up to the mid-1990's rapid, and little understood, price rises posed a significant threat to the system and, and then more recently, policies of site licensing and negotiated journal packages have become commonplace even though little is known as to their sustainability.
The early pricing policies resulted in substantially reduced personal subscriptions, increased reliance on library access, library prices raised far higher than inflation or increased journal sizes would warrant, and libraries and scientists having to rely more heavily on obtaining separate copies of articles through interlibrary loan, document delivery, preprints, reprints, and photocopies or electronic copies from authors and colleagues. Recently, most academic libraries in the U.S. and many other types of libraries have negotiated licenses with individual publishers, library consortia, and other vendors to obtain access to multiple journals. While there are appreciable benefits to both publishers and libraries of such arrangements (King and Xu, 2003), there are considerable concerns as well (Frazier, 2001). One concern is that negotiation seems to vary from deal-to-deal and it is not at all clear that long-term revenue to publishers will be sufficient. In this chapter, we discuss the early pricing policies and why prices spiraled upward and we show that problems leading to this dilemma are also inherent to the current licensing policies.
This chapter provides some insights gained from analysis of over 15,000 responses from readership surveys of scientists; cost analysis of publishing, library services and scientists' communication patterns; tracking of a sample of scholarly journals from 1960 to 2002; and review of over 600 publications dealing with scientific scholarly journals. This chapter will attempt to dispel some myths concerning communication costs, system participants' incentives, and reasons for increased prices. It will also present perspectives on pricing that might help in an electronic age and provide some suggestions concerning subscription pricing, site licensing, and online access to separate copies of articles.