It is very clear that computer based information technologies
will both enhance and alter the present communications system
of scientific information. At present, we need to distinguish
between modernization and transformation of scientific information.
Modernization is defined as the use of a new technology
to continue to do the same thing, but presumably in a more cost
effective or efficient manner, whereas transformation is
the use of a new technology to change a process in a fundamental
We are in the middle of an information revolution and the latest
statistics show more than 125 million people worldwide have access
to the Web. There are over 2 million home pages that enable shopping,
reading of the daily news and the ability to search for an almost
endless amount of information.
Librarians and academic officers began in the early 1990s to explore
the capabilities of electronic technologies as solutions to the
problem of scholarly communications in print form. The advantages
of electronic publications are numerous and have been widely discussed,
hence, we will only briefly enumerate them:
I would now like to comment on how the changing economics of the
information industry are influencing publishers, subscription
agencies and information aggregators and what this will mean for
libraries and their consumers of scientific information.
More and more publishers are making their paper journals electronically
available and most publishers will allow subscription agencies
to function as an intermediary. Two major STM publishers, Academic
Press and Elsevier Science, so far prefer to deal directly with
libraries. This strategy is based upon the fact that libraries
all over the world are forming consortia, not only regional but
also in some areas even national and most recently even transnational.
We at EBSCO however believe that this policy sometime in the future
will change as many individual libraries worldwide will remain
that are no part of any consortium and rely on the banking function
that subscription agencies historically have been offering. You
all know that most publishers require payments in advance before
any piece of information is being delivered. For those libraries
that cannot pay in advance subscription agencies will do this
for them and this will be no different in the world of electronic
information. It is interesting to share with you some concerns
which were raised by the University of Wisconsin-Madison which
has signed an agreement with Elsevier. In the paper world they
subscribe to about 600 of the 1,200 titles which Elsevier has
offered via their Science Direct program to the University of
Wisconsin in Madison. However, as I understand it rather than
having access in electronic format to the 600 journals they used
to subscribe to in paper they will get electronic access to all
the 1,200 titles.
The cost will be based upon the number of Elsevier print subscriptions,
calculated at the 1997 prices, plus an annual surcharge. The contract
would run for three years. First year cost: 1997 list price plus
7.5%. Second year: cost of first year plus 9.5%. Third year: cost
of second year plus 9.5%. In 1997 they paid Elsevier $844,677
for the 600 print subscriptions they take. The administration
of the university estimates that this formula would result in
a price in excess of one million dollars for the first year of
the deal. Therefore, it appears that Elsevier would collect an
additional $449,348 over the three year period. Moreover, the
initial estimate for the cost to a library of mounting the database
is between $70,000 to $100,000.
WHAT'S WRONG WITH THIS PICTURE
It seems obvious to that this deal is designed to carry Elsevier's
enviable profit margins safely into the electronic era. Or, seen
from the perspective of a librarian, it is a way to perpetuate
the "serials crisis" into the indefinite, electronic
future. Admittedly, some universities might find this very seductive.
Imagine! All that access and Elsevier locked into what might be
considered modest increases for this publisher for two years.
But just how valuable is this access? The libraries should keep
in mind that they are being asked to pay not only for the more
successful titles that they have been forced to retain despite
their mind boggling prices, but also for all the low-use, high-cost
titles that many of them have canceled years ago. It seems that
publishers have hit upon a brilliant, "back-to-the-future"
strategy, a return (via electronic vehicle) to the good old days
of sum-sufficient serials budgets when librarians eagerly subscribed
to every promising journal, knowing that the money would not come
out of library budgets, but from some vaguely understood but seemingly
limitless central library fund.
The publishers, of course, such as Elsevier and Academic Press,
can hardly be blamed for wanting to make lots of money. They have
only done what successful companies do: identify a promising new
market (growing numbers of scholars/scientists who must publish
to survive), devise a product to meet the need (new journals),
and then charge as much as the market will bear.
Every company is a collection of activities that are performed
to design, market, deliver and support its products or services.
All these activities we call a value chain and the way a company
performs individual activities is a reflection of its history,
its strategy, its approach to implementing its strategy and the
underlying economics of the activities themselves.
The changing economics of information threaten to undermine established
value chains in many sectors of the economy requiring virtually
every company to rethink its strategy, not incrementally but fundamentally.
At EBSCO we have been making fundamental changes. Still many publishers
are not thinking about electronic journals. Therefore, EBSCO has
been working for over ten years now to obtain the rights from
publishers to put their journals in an electronic file. At present
we have over 3,100 journals which are not available directly from
the publishers and therefore only available electronically via
EBSCO. At present, we therefore differ from other subscription
agencies who are operating globally, such as Blackwell's, Dawson
Our historical competitors such as Swets and Blackwell's and Dawson
so far have only made some incremental changes in developing an
online journal system which offers access capabilities for end-users
and administrative functions for librarians. However, EBSCO Online
does the same but will give access to more, as through EBSCO Publishing
we will have full text data which none of our historical subscription
competitors will have.
The basic functions that an electronic journal subscription handling
system will offer are:
We already have technical complications here as so far there are
no standards. At present basically three major software packages
to obtain access are being used by the publishing community. Those
1. Acrobat from Adobe
2. IBM Tech Explorer
3. Real Page from Catchword
We are facing other practical problems as outlined by Richard
Luce, Director of Carmel Los Alamos National Laboratory Research
Library last year during an EBSCO seminar in Boston.
To give you an idea of the scope of what they are doing, they
currently track 5,200 electronic based journals (some of these
are self-published items from the Los Alamos physics community
network). They have a database that includes 13.5 million citations,
95 million hyperlinks and 200 million cited references. The citations,
hyperlinks and cited references are all linked together with their
online catalog and this is done through robotically generated
lines of software code from a program that they have developed.
In developing these links they are guided and driven by the effort
to build databases around how people need to get to the information.
Everything is integrated with their catalog and citation databases
and the bottom line for them is speed. He indicated that their
customers (researchers) expect web access with links and integrated
with the library catalog so that they have one place to go and
one common user interface. They expect everything to be hyperlinked,
with new associations and easy to view on the screen with printing
capability. Their user community also wants an alerting service
based upon their own personal interest profile and they expect
to be able to search and retrieve full text from their databases
regardless of who the publisher is. A checklist of concerns he
reviewed are as follows:
An information aggregator signs individual agreements with publishers
in order to obtain the rights for a particular journal to abstract,
index and also to obtain the rights for full text. This can be
obtained from the publisher if it is available or the information
aggregator receives the permission from the publisher to convert
the full text from print format into an electronic format. This
information is then being packaged by subject and sold under different
names to the marketplace worldwide. The major companies which
are offering scientific information in packaged format are:
Those parallel developments are certainly very exciting but offer
additional challenges to those companies which are either functioning
as an intermediary or as a packager of information.
The packagers will have the full text of many a journal residing
on their servers. The companies which are offering an online subscription
service program most likely will have to link to numerous individual
publisher servers in order to offer access to the information
preferably to the end user from their workstations.
At EBSCO already we are matching the two together and in EBSCO's
MEDLINE for instance, the new version which just came out, via
the MEDLINE database we offer direct access to the full text of
61 journals in the medical sciences, all residing on our servers
in Boston. Later this year we will link all other titles which
are full text available from the various publishers and to which
the library using this service has the rights to access the full
text. One can imagine that this is not an easy job to accomplish
as when a publisher's server is down the results cannot be obtained
and we have to have systems in place to monitor this and to retrieve
again what has not been submitted.
Last but not least, the problems of access as well as archiving
if one looks at the tremendous volume of bits and bytes which
will be accumulated on an annual basis, will not be easy to deal
If the information is stored on a floppy disk, optical disk or
tape, one must first have the hardware and software to accommodate
the medium such as an optical reader or system with appropriate
disk-to-tape drives, and the correct version of the software program
used to store the data. If the information is stored in a remote
location, but is accessible through software, one must have the
necessary software to locate and retrieve or download it. Additionally,
one must have the necessary software to access or read the data.
This introduces many problems and questions. Electronic journals,
just like print journals, are produced with a variety of software
programs that run on several different hardware platforms. As
electronic journals become more sophisticated to include photos
or graphics or even become multimedia, the number of formats will
likely increase. Many programs or formats for these journals will
come and go, just like word processing products have done and
continue to do.
"Technology refreshing, whereby electronic information
is transferred from one waning medium to an emerging one, will
need to be practiced. It will be a challenging task for the group
or person who wants to archive and provide easy, universal access
over the long run.
The Information Age has done much to change the way we look at
our industry and the library profession and the way in which we
deliver information. Changing times call for a changing mind set.
But all the new technology which we are developing must be with
the end user in mind as otherwise it will become useless. The
problem we are facing at present is whether we can construct a
system that users will find comfortable in making broad use of
electronic journals as a substitute for printed ones, not only
for today's information, but for all the information we have produced
and will be producing from now onwards until many generations
in the future.
If we are not successful in not offering access to what has previously
been recorded, I could end this presentation by using an interesting
thesis from the book Die Stadt hinter dem Strom by Herman
Thank you for your attention,