Re: Savings from Converting to On-Line-Only: 30%- or 70%+ ?

From: Albert Henderson <> <harnad_at_COGSCI.SOTON.AC.UK>
Date: Tue, 22 Sep 1998 05:27:29 -0400

On Sun, 20 Sep 1998 Arthur Smith <apsmith_at_APS.ORG> wrote:

> Since we've always been non-profit (ie. revenue equals costs to within
> roughly 10 percent) the cost per published page can be estimated by
> multiplying the subscription price by the circulation numbers...
> this product (price/page * number of library subscriptions) has been
> almost constant, probably for the entire 50 years, to within about
> 25 percent

This is interesting to me mainly because you are using circulation data.
It is also good methodology because you are comparing PR with itself.
Other good studies that compared journals with themselves (and each
other ) in the context of exchange rates and inflation found similar
results: (A) for 20 titles over the period 1959-1969, including PR,
by J M Matarazzo (Special Libraries, Feb. 1972:53-58), and (B) for
370 titles during the 1967-1987 period by K E Marks et al. (College
& Research Libraries 52(2)March 1991: 125-138). They did not, of
course, have circulation data.

Based on your figures (if I understand them), page counts from
the AIP catalog, and the notion of a constant per-page price in
constant $ times circulation, I surmised the following:

                 PRICE Constant
year pages curr.$ const.$ price/page CIRCULATION PPPxcirc deflator
1950 4000 $25 $172 $0.043 5628 242 0.1453
1997 83710 $10120 $10120 0.121 2000 242 1.0000

Is this correct? I would have guessed both circulation figures were much
lower, based on various accounts I have run into over the years.

At any rate, the data also indicates the ravages of "resource
sharing" via library photocopying and fair use. My recollection
is that APS membership doubled and redoubled during this period.
Circulation per-member thus plunged even more sharply and should
be a subject for study because the member circulation of PR also
dropped to less than 1000 copies. The Xerox 914 plain paper copier
was first marketed in 1959.

C Tenopir and D W King call the drop in subscriptions per scientist
and its impact on publishers "devestating." (J Schol Publ. 1997)

> ...a 30% reduction in costs over the next decade... is almost certain
> (99% probable) because print distribution will disappear...
> Improved authoring tools hold the promise of cutting another 30% off
> the per-page costs by obviating a lot of the copy-editing and other
> manual labor required in handling manuscripts...
> The fact that our per-page costs have stayed almost constant (in 1998
> dollars) over 50 years while the number of papers handled has grown by
> almost two orders of magnitude indicates that the fundamental costs
> associated with performing peer review to an acceptable degree have not
> changed significantly in all that time. These costs are not going to
> suddenly evaporate in a year or two just because of some change in the
> way journals are funded and distributed - yes there will be changes,
> but it will really take one or more decades to make any substantial
> difference.

Fixed costs don't go away unless you abandon quality assurance and management.
Harnad seems to say eliminate library income and charge the authors. What
will that do to your pricing?

Received on Tue Aug 25 1998 - 19:17:43 BST

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