21:3 (2006:09) 21st Conference: Journal Pricing 10 Years Later

August 31, 2006 at 3:02 pm | Posted in Conference Reports, Strategy Sessions | Leave a comment


Journal Pricing 10 Years Later

Tina Feick, Vice President for Customer Relations, Swets Information Services Inc.; Bob Boissy, Manager of Agent Relations, Springer; and Leslie Knapp, Director of Client Relations, EBSCO Information Services
Reported by Michael Twigg 

Tina Feick, Bob Boissy, and Leslie Knapp presented an entertaining and informative review of the current journal pricing cycle and a discussion of the impact that electronic titles are having on publishers, agents, and libraries.  The presentation was an update of a similar session presented at the 1994 NASIG conference in Vancouver. 

In the traditional publisher model, journal costs were largely determined by paper, postage, binding, and other production costs.  Pricing was relatively straightforward with little negotiation required between publisher and library.  Steady increases in prices were mainly due to increased numbers of pages or changes in frequency. Publishers primarily kept their focus on the publishing side of the business with an emphasis placed on the quality of the journal and with relatively little invested in the marketing and sales side. 

The presentation made clear what a large volume of information subscription agents deal with, as many as 100,000-300,000 records from 20,000-78,000 publishers.  The core of most agents’ work revolves around approximately 75,000 journal subscriptions and the 50-60 largest publishers. 

The basic timeline for journal pricing has not changed since Vancouver.  Quality and completeness of information received by agents from publishers remains varied and somewhat inconsistent.  Electronic standards and transmission of information have yet to produce the improvements desired by publishers, agents, and libraries. 

Pricing by agents is still largely a manual process involving printing, stamping, and scanning publisher price lists.  Pricing for a single journal may also need to be broken down by other factors including geographical region pricing, institutional vs. individual rates, or special charges for shipping.  

Agents currently rely on publisher discounts and library service charges to arrive at their 5-10% profit window.  Library service charges are principally determined by the difference between the publisher commission and the 5-10% profit goal for the agent. 

Publishers are currently in a state of flux as the numbers of electronic titles increase.  It is now widely accepted by publishers that electronic will not necessarily reduce costs.  Publishers are hiring more technical personnel as well as more marketing and sales staff to deal directly with institutional customers.  Publishers continue to experiment with new licensing models to meet the demands of end users. 

Pricing models for electronic items are just as complicated from the agents’ perspective.  Agents must now deal with individualized pricing models for electronic titles.  The complex pricing structure can often lead to mistakes or misunderstandings.  Agents are discovering that some publishers are beginning to turn to the agent to handle the complexities of negotiating electronic deals with libraries. 

The audience and panel discussion at the end of the session revolved largely around continued price increases, the potential impact of open access titles, and communication problems between publishers and agents.


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