Onlangs heb ik via deze lijst de aanzet gegeven tot een discussie
omtrent MCB - en ook weer afgesloten. De lezers van NEDBIB wil ik
evenwel attenderen op het volgende artikel in de NEWSLETTER ON SERIALS
PRICING ISSUES, NO 195 - November 12, 1997
MCB UNIVERSITY PRESS, "INTERNET CONTINUOUS PUBLISHING," AND JOURNAL
Bernd-Christoph Kaemper, Stuttgart University Library,
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Another "favourite" publisher, with price increases that even put G&B to
shame. I wonder whether other libraries have had similar experiences
with other MCB titles during the last two years. Ours is with the
International Journal of Numerical Methods for Heat & Fluid Flow (HFF).
When we began subscribing in 1996, it was priced at GBP 450 + VAT; for
this year we paid GBP 699 + VAT, and the price for 1998 will be GBP
939 + VAT (as I was just told by MCB's customer services department).
Can anyone explain how on earth MCB might justify a price increase by
more than a factor of 2 (109%) in just 2 years? HFF went electronic in
1997. Access (via Emerald (MCB's "Electronic Library")) is cumbersome
(in the beginning, you even had to fill out a long online-questionnaire
before getting even a glimpse of their site, and quite a lot of links
went nowhere and sometimes ended at the wrong TOC pages). I anticipate
that MCB might say that these are temporary problems in the startup
phase of the electronic journals service which will be overcome soon.
However, MCB is the first and only publisher I know who charges
(heavily!) for their customers to act essentially as a Beta-Tester for
their bold venture into electronic publishing.
Time for some quotes: In June 1997, we received a letter from Emerald,
addressed to "Dear Business Librarian" (sorry but we are Academic
Librarians here, and, alas, not able to simply pass on our costs of
operation to our clients from the faculty). "You may ask 'why should I
log on?' Well, there is nothing more to pay (...) there are no hidden
costs!" we were told. "A key part of my role," the salesman told us in
his letter, "is to ensure that you squeeze the maximum possible value
for money out of your subscription -- you don't need me to tell you that
subscribing to journals is not a decision you take lightly." Indeed, it
is not. This year we had to cut about 20 to 25% of our serials
expenditures. But... No hidden costs? They must be kidding! (Who is
squeezing whom or what?) The figures given above speak another language.
A price increase by a factor of 2.1 in two years means that we are
forced to look twice at what we get for our money. So let's look for the
value": For 1997, HFF has been announced with "Extra Pagination: *" ...
and, as they tell their subscribers, an asterisk "indicates that
pagination has increased by up to 30%."
Great! The reality is this: Based on the first half on the year the
number of pages seems to have increased by about 12%. I say "it seems"
because at the same time they have switched over to a larger font and
the printed width of the page has decreased, giving a combined effect of
a 25% reduction in characters per page. So in reality MCB is publishing
13% less than before. In fact, the number of articles published in this
journal has gone down by approximately 20%, based on the first half of
HFF has been announced with "Internet Continuous Publishing." As they
tell their subscribers, this means that "MCB has included
continuous publishing via the internet in a number of titles and this
allows each title's content to be updated on a much more frequent basis
than the print version. The Internet sites of each journal will be
updated on a monthly basis (...) Articles may be viewed either on an
'issue' basis or retrieved by author, subject or posting date."
The reality is this: Vol. 7 issue 4 arrived here on June 7, 1997. On
June 20, when I wrote a letter to MCB that never got answered, the full
text of that issue was still not available on Emerald. I never spotted
an article that had not yet appeared in print. Not even forthcoming
contents pages are provided.
HFF has been announced with "Limited Internet Archive," meaning that
"... the archive will contain abstracts and page images of the articles
published in 1994, 1995 and 1996 volumes." The Archive now contains
abstracts from these years but NO page images. It is not clear to us
whether the document delivery option offered by MCB is free for the
library (i.e., included in the journal's subscription) or not (I got no
answer upon my query).
At present, MCB Electronic Journals (at least HFF) seem to be little
more than electronic delivery of paper journals. I didn't spot added
features like links to references, lists of citations to the article,
links to entries from A&I services, or other supplementary material
(apart from the Internet Conferences "sponsored" by the journal which
are however not yet available for HFF). Since we ask ourselves why we
spend money for services and added value promised but not delivered, HFF
is high on our list of possible cancellations. This doesn't mean that
there aren't interesting sites at MCB; e.g., I appreciate much of the
material offered in the Internet Free Press, Internet Research and
Library Link Forums.
P.S.: As I learned from Faxon's Survey of "Selected Publisher Price
Increases in US Dollars, 1991-1995, MCB University Press had the highest
overall price increase per year, amounting to 31.5% (per year!).
Astonishing! (Seems to be quite a stable trend, judging from the figures
quoted above for HFF.)
Met vriendelijke groet,
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