Monday, November 12, 2012

Why does ACS Publications increase its journal prices?

From this week's C&EN, a long and interesting article by Lila Guterman about ACS Publications and its customers (mostly university librarians) who are pretty unhappy with ACS' price increases:
Jenica P. Rogers, director of libraries at the State University of New York, Potsdam, said the price of ACS’s all-journals electronic licensing package would have consumed more than 10% of her 2013 acquisitions budget. It was, she said, outside the range of what her small university could afford. Her blog posting received more than 100 responses in comments, Listserv postings, and blog posts by other librarians. In October, Rogers posted on her blog that other librarians had told her they intend to cancel as well. ACS says it has seen no uptick in cancellations in recent years. [snip] 
...ACS’s price increases in recent years, [ACS Pubs President] Crawford says, have been “well within scientific publishing industry norms.” For its all-journals package, the increases in both 2010 and 2011 were 7%; in 2012, the increase was 6%; and in 2013, it will be 5%—except for smaller academic institutions and community colleges, which will see no price increase. These price increases include the seven new journals ACS has introduced since 2010. However, customers seeking relief had the option to decline the new titles and, as a result, would have seen smaller increases of 5% in 2010 and 2011, and 4% in 2012. No new-title increment was added to the 2013 subscription fees. 
Explaining the yearly increases, Crawford says, “Manuscript submissions for consideration continue to rise at double-digit rates, and our published article output increases upward of 5% annually, with concomitant costs.”
If you read further in the article, you'll see that instead of charging a flat fee, ACS Publications charges you a rate based on your usage level (among other things). The more you use, the higher the fee apparently. If you read the whole thing, you'll see that ACS proposed to one small college an 1,800% increase in fees, that seemed to have gotten bargained down to a series of increases in a year (that included a 70% increase for the 2012-2013 year.)

Does anyone have a good answer as to why they do this (other than "because they can?") It seems apparent to me that they're burning up a lot of good will on the part of professors and librarians (not that anyone in DC cares about that, apparently.) I would expect this sort of behavior from Comcast, not a titular non-profit.

[2nd question: does anyone know something prominent at ACS that's funded substantially by ACS Publications? Like maybe there's a $30 million picnic for sick kids that takes up all of ACS Pubs' profits -- yeah, that's the ticket...]

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