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Cost-cutting librarians and computer-literate professors

are bypassing academic journals—bad newsforReed Elsevier.

The Internet's
first victim?
By John R. Hayes
IT'S H.\iw TO lALAGlNK a Sweeter business than publishing academic journals. The editorial content is contributed free of charge by scholars desperate to publish to get tenure. School
libraries are automatic customers—
professors insist on it. A one-year
subscription to Neuroscience, published .24 times a year, costs $3,775.
The 34-times-a-year Gene costs
$5,500. And Brain Research, at 114
issues a year, costs $14,000.
The titles mentioned above are just
3 ofthe 1,100 academic journals published by Reed Elsevier, the largest
such publisher in the world. Based in
London, Reed Elsevier is a joint venture between Britain's Reed International Pic. and Holland's Elsevier
N.V. Neither parent company has
significant assets other than their
holdings in Reed Elsevier.
With total revenues estimated at
$5.5 billion this year. Reed Elsevier
also publishes professional directories, medical publications and trade
magazines. It bought the Lexis-Nexis
database business from the Mead
Corp. for $1.5 billion in 1994, but
academic journals are far and away its
most profitable enterprise. On revenues last year of $600 million. Reed
Elsevier's academic publishing operation probably earned $225 million
before taxes, a pretax margin of nearly
40%. Last year the rest of Reed Elsevier earned 20% pretax on revenues of
$4.5 billion.
Is the party over.' It may be nearing
its end. The Internet is closing in.
Two years ago Louisiana State Universit)''s librar)' canceled subscriptions to 1,569 scholarly journals that
cost $446,000, of which $88,427
went to Reed Elsevier. In return,
200

Forbes • Decembe

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versus up to two years collapse. arc free to work for competitors. would force Reed Elsevier publicadon. but last year Stevan Har. wrote a program allowing the 200 or so researchers in his field to post their manuscripts. 10. A handful of universities and corporations now pay to receive and distribute articles electronically. to nearly 700 titles.need you?' " says Cinsparg. His [research] product is as good or better archiving and distribution software than anyone else's. a $10. They are academics.000 in article. a 40-year-old high energy' particle theorist at the Los Alamos National Laboratory'. 'Why do we expensive world of electronic publish. This kind of mariceting is unlikely to go down well with budgetsqueezed librarians.tions on his ser\'er eveiy day.announce plans for a formal electronnet.role. Average cost at LSU: $13 per cure these articles for just S25.092 articles Internet.has expanded to include 30 other vier Cochairman Ian Irvine. mathematics. "We're publishers to embrace the faster. a psychology professor at the Universit}' of Southampton in En. In Janunal Psyeoloquy.si' to professors and students within 24 libran.000 electronic transacgland and founding editor of the jour. That includes 142 peer reviewed electronic journals. That. UnCo\'er faxes the articles from 936 publications not in the l. Four years ago Paul Cinsparg.terested in seeing the whole system ically published manuscript is about [of commercial academic publishing] IH three months." sa\'s I. The proposal would undermine ic peer review process. Over the next year teachers and ti\' that puts tables of contents on the students requested 2. Reviewers. is Nuelear Physies B. need its products. Reed Elsevier sells electronic information for 110% of the price of a print subscription. For 140%.000 to 40. Turnaround time on an electron. There's flexibility in the Internet that's lacking in paper-and-ink journals." Forbes • December 18.tage of the print journals in his field.LSU's libraiy guaranteed copies of in. the number of electronic journals and newsletters has grown 66% in the past year.775-a-year That.SU libraiy's Assistant r\''s intermedian. a graciuate student \\ anted w ithin two Dcnxer-based article retrieval compadays.000 professors and grad students Reed Elsevicr doubts the trend will can log on to the Internet to browse turn into a rout.000 aca. 1995 for ink-on-paper journals. it the tables of contents of 17.cess up to 70. If he's right. subscribers can get both paper and electronic versions. peer reviewed articles on the Internet. computational linguistics and other fields where speed journal community'." says Reed Else.insists. The professors.of dissemination matters. "Tenure demic journals. The library was able to pro. the journal most at risk scripts and. As electronic publishing catches on among scholars. their finished.lieves. not publishers. new peer review committees are forming to review manuscripts published on the Internet. Harnad believes. less asking our publishers. will eliminate the key advandemics post their working manu. Today 35. "We're a little bit ahead of copyright and deli\ en' fees. According to the 1995 Direetory of Eleetronie fournals.hours." LEFT: Reed Elsevier's London cochairman..su clitninatcd the libra. "The disciplines and subdisciplines in physplace that happens is in the sciendfic ics." 201 .going. Now some Dean Chuck Hamaker. Reed Elsevier itself just completed a four-year experiment distributing journals electronically to 17 universities. posted what he tcrtns aiy Cinsparg expects his colleagues to "a subversive proposal" on the Inter. Ian Irvine "Academics are what they are.order anything not available on camdi\'idual articles that any professor or pus directly from the UnCover Co. "I'm ining. With a click they can depends on a peer group saying that a ABOVE: Reed Elsevier's Amsterdam cochairman. unpaid like writers. where the rest of the countiy is This year l." Maybe. Publishers who respond slowly may find their lock on the peer review process isn't watertight. he becommercial publisbers by having aca.000 users pronad. among them Thefournal ofArtifieial Intellijjenee Researeh and Psyeoloquy. later. Herman Bruggink "The market we serve is perfectly happy with the product we deliver.

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