Issue No. 16 

April 8, 2002

Paula Kaufman, University Librarian




 Plans to create one of the biggest reference libraries on the Internet were unveiled recently in Britain.  Reference work publisher Oxford University Press hopes to publish 1.5 million entries on 20 subjects on a subscription Web site by 2010.  "For us to have a future as an information provider we have to be doing it on the internet," David Swarbrick, the project director, told Reuters.  The OUP says the Web site, will dwarf existing general knowledge sources in print and could be the biggest on the Worldwide Web.


From astronomy to zoology, the Web site will cover everything from science and medicine to statistics and the arts.  Dictionaries, dates and quotations in four languages will also be offered.  About 200 people worked on the online resource, with much of the data being transferred from books to the web in India, the OUP said.  But the giant resource comes at a price: Annual fees start at $248.60 for schools and rise to $4,260 for large libraries.  The first part of the project was launched with 3,000 bodies across the world already signed up for free trials.


The OUP is the world's largest university press with its roots in the early days of publishing in the late 15th century.  It publishes more than 4,500 new books each year and employs 3,700 worldwide.;jsessionid=0VEHNCWVLIPNKCRBAEZSFFAKEEA




In the April issue of Information Today, Richard Poynder interviews Elsevier CEO Derk Haank.  Some highlights.  (1) Haank explains the rapid rise in journal prices through exchange rates and a vicious circle in which library cancellations force publishers to recoup their costs from a smaller subscriber base.  Elsevier profit margins are decreasing.  (2) His response to frustrated librarians and researchers is to deliver more for the price, not to decrease the price.  "The long-term solution today...lies in converting people to our electronic products, and then delivering a service where people say, 'Wow!'  If we can do this, then the money that our customers spend with us will be perceived as reasonable."  (3) He describes the ScienceDirect license as "too good to be true for users."  (4) What does he think of the Budapest Open Access Initiative?  "We consider open archiving to be in line with our policy of open linking, which we have always supported."  But doesn't this confuse standards of interoperability with free online access?  Perhaps, however, "[i]f people feel unhappy and want to develop alternatives, that is always possible.  But is it wise?"  He is confident that open-access journals will not be able to cover their costs.  (5) He implies that Elsevier allows author self-archiving of refereed postprints, but in fact it only allows the self-archiving of unrefereed preprints.  (6) He asks:  if users are employed by institutions that pay for their access to online journals, regardless of how much the institution has to pay and regardless of how many fellow researchers must do without, "[w]hat more would they want?"



Karen Hunter, Senior Vice President, Strategy, Elsevier Science, recently reflected on the year 2001 from Elsevier’s point of view.  Survival for journal publishers, particularly biomedical publishers, she writes, meant something a bit different in 2001.  They faced the “free literature” movement from the Public Library of Science (, a new strategy by BioMedCentral ( to charge authors to submit articles in lieu of charging end-users subscription fees, the need to get “very serious” about digital archiving, and development of new licensing models.  Elsevier also agreed to participate in the World Health Organization’s strategy to make medical journals available at no charge to libraries in the world’s poorest countries (but obviously supported by other revenue sources, such as subscribers’ fees – ed. comment).  Hunter comments on Elsevier Science’s acquisition of Harcourt’s science, technical and medical publishing businesses and the impacts of now running a “very large book publishing program” and she speculates on the penetration of hand-held devices in the medical market and the impact of this market penetration on delivery of books in electronic formats.  And, she notes the importance of publishers providing clear and accurate usage figures.  Read more in Against the Grain, February 2002.



Walt Crawford tracks 104 free online refereed journals from 1995 and finds that more than half are still publishing.  While this is a survival rate he finds promising, very few are included among ISI's indexed journals and very few can be called significant in their fields.  However, their survival rate proves that the economics can work.  "It's not easy, but it can work.  It does work....Libraries should pay attention to those journals and librarians should be part of the efforts to expand the field.  It is not a total solution, but it is one counterbalance to the power of the international journal publishers."



The University of Washington Libraries reports on ten years of data to investigate, inter alia, how the use of the library by science and engineering faculty differs from that of scholars in other disciplinesThe conclusion is no surprise, but the data and analyses are very interesting.  Faculty and graduate students in the sciences-engineering and health sciences were more likely to use the library remotely rather than visit, view desktop delivery as the highest priority for library support, and value journals (print and electronic) far higher than other resources such as books, archival resources etc.  Equally useful, survey results also showed a number of areas where there were similarities.  These included satisfaction, overall importance of libraries, frequency of remote use from a campus office, and value of print journals.  These survey results along with other input and performance measures have been used to change and improve library programs and services.  They have served not only as a measurement of perceptions of library performance by faculty and students but have also revealed changing use patterns and priorities.


California Digital Library Opens Online Repository

The California Digital Library has launched a web site ( and associated services to store and distribute academic research results and working papers.  Its initial focus will be on working papers from social science research units at Berkeley and UCLA.  CDL has built the repository in partnership with Berkeley Electronic press (bepress).




Yes, I know this doesn’t exactly fall within the topic of scholarly communication, but it’s an interesting development in trade publishing.  It appears as if Oprah, the “queen of daytime television” is abandoning the monthly fiction book club she launched six years ago.  She complains that it is becoming increasingly difficult to find titles she thinks are worth recommending.  Oprah’s final selection will be Sula, Toni Morrison’s 1973 novel.  Although some publishers and authors are mourning the end of the club, some publishers have pointed out that the influence of the club had been diminishing lately.  Oprah’s shows on which a selected book was discussed with the author have been drawing lower ratings than her other ones.  The club’s detractors have felt that she held too much influence and have been critical of her choices, which they characterized as tending towards the sentimental and heavily skewed to issues of race and women who overcome adversity.  Read more and see a list of all of Oprah’s selections at,6109,680588,00.html



Scholarly Communication Issues welcomes your input.  Please let us know what’s missing from our coverage.  And let us hear your comments about the issues themselves.  Does our current system of scholarly communication need to be changed?  If so, how should the academic community go about changing it?  Send your comments to Paula Kaufman at