University libraries in the United Kingdom and United States have joined forces in a novel electronic publishing scheme that will offer peer-reviewed academic journals at a fraction of the price charged by commercial publishers.
The brainchild of the US Association of Research Libraries, the initiative is represented in the UK by the Standing Conference of National and University Libraries.
First in Britain will be a new journal from the Royal Society of Chemistry. Robert Parker, RSCjournals' publisher, says the society wants "to produce some very sensibly priced electronic journals as competition to some very expensive commercial journals". The Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition, could stop commercial publishers "ripping out the market for journals with heavy pricing", he said. The cost of scholarly journals is on average rising by 10-15 per cent annually.
Under the agreement, university libraries have agreed to purchase the RSC journal PhysChemComm, dealing with physical chemistry and chemical physics. The journal will cost Pounds 200 and aims to compete head-on with a commercially produced journal dealing with the same subjects costing $8,000. The RSC has also committed itself to producing at least three more electronic journals over the next three years under SPARC.
Dr Parker said: "PhysChemComm will be peer reviewed and have all the advantages of electronic publishing. We will, for instance, be able to show rotating molecules, video clips - all sorts of things you cannot get in print."
He said there is "a lot of bad feeling" among university librarians about commercial publishers at the moment.
"This is the RSC hitting back, reclaiming the moral ground and reducing costs for libraries. With commercial publishing much of the profit is for the benefits of shareholders. At the RSC and many other institutions, income from academic publication goes back into supporting the subject," Dr Parker said.