In a bold bid to break the vicious circle of rising journal prices and cancelled subscriptions, academic publishers and the funding councils have agreed a pilot scheme under which the entire United Kingdom academic community will buy a national "site licence" to a publisher's entire list of journals in printed and electronic form, Tony Durham writes.
Three publishing groups - Academic Press, Institute of Physics Publishing, and a consortium of the Blackwell Publishing companies - are involved. All are finalising contract details with the Higher Education Funding Council for England, which has represented the four higher eduction funding bodies in negotiations. A typical deal would allow individuals or institutions in higher education to subscribe to a journal in printed and electronic form at a substantial discount. Rene Olivieri of Blackwell said: "I think we are talking about a discount well over 50 per cent."
Mr Olivieri explained that under the Blackwell deal, subscribers could make unlimited paper or electronic copies for non-profit use within their own institutions. Blackwell sees this as a way out of the spiral of rising journal prices, which increased 300 per cent in the 11 years to 1992. "We can protect our income stream and provide much better value for customers," Mr Olivieri said.
Sir Brian Follett, whose 1993 report unleashed a wave of change in academic libraries, welcomed the move: "The potential benefits from this initiative are enormous - a revitalised academic journal sector, providing real value for money gains for higher education, which in turn will give new stimulus to research in the United Kingdom. The use of electronic media in the pilot is very exciting, as I see this as the way forward for dissemination of research results."
The three-year pilot scheme will be launched on January 1.