Select Committee on Science and Technology Written Evidence


Memorandum from the Imperial College Library


  Imperial has very recently received an invoice for our subscription to the Nature e-journal bundle, renewal for which falls due in June 2004. Our bill for the 14 titles making up the core of the collection has increased by 52%. (Costs this year, including VAT, £ 19,635; proposed costs for next year, including VAT, £29,858).

  As far as we can tell, judging by messages that are appearing on various e-mail library discussion lists, this increase is not unique to Imperial, and is applying to a number of other institutions, both here and abroad (indeed, one other library has reported an increase for them of around 70%). This is one electronic bundle that has not been part of the deals negotiated by JISC on behalf of the UK HE community—not for want of trying. JISC's negotiators, despite lengthy discussion with Nature, have been unsuccessful in arriving at agreement over a national deal that was felt to be in the best interests of UK HE as a whole. As a result, it has been up to individual libraries to decide whether or not they wish to subscribe to the Nature bundle, and to negotiate terms directly with the publishers. It is therefore quite probable that there will not be a common renewal date for all or most of the UK universities that do subscribe to the Nature package, and that those of us who have received the recent renewal invoice are among the first to learn of the proposed price increases.

  I have heard two reasons being put forward by Nature in justification of the price increases:

    —  Their electronic journals were "underpriced" in the first place; and

    —  They are having to incur additional costs to make their usage statistics "COUNTER compliant" (COUNTER is the system that is starting to emerge as a standard for monitoring usage of electronic journals).

  Neither of these seems to us, or to other library colleagues, to justify the level of increase being proposed.

  This recent example of a very high price increase is being drawn to the Committee's attention as a further illustration of the problems that libraries are facing.

May 2004

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