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Format options and pricing models

As discussed in Chapter Four, the trend of academic libraries towards online-only journal subscriptions continues to accelerate, and individual society members are also growing increasingly comfortable with online-only access. As a result, a society’s pricing for a journal—in terms of its member publication benefit and institutional pricing—needs to anticipate the potential for significant institutional print cancellations and a shift in preference to online-only availability.

If a society incurs additional costs from publishing its journal online, it may elect to cover some or all of the cost difference by increasing member dues and/or institutional prices; lowering its print fulfillment costs by converting subscribers and/or members to online-only access; or through some combination of the two. Even if a society outsources the marketing and sales of its online journal to a publishing partner, which will often have its own preferences for structuring print and online pricing, a society should understand its options. To provide such perspective, we discuss below some of the member and institutional subscriber pricing options available to societies, along with their implications.

Individual member dues

While it seems clear that the demand for print by institutional libraries will continue to decline, the prognosis for personal print subscriptions is less evident. Although multiple studies indicate that researchers prefer online journals for many research activities, and local printing of articles effectively moots the online reading issue, few studies have addressed the specific issue of preference for personal print subscriptions. In disciplines that rely heavily on visual images, the demand for print will depend in particular on the quality of image delivery in the digital environment. As it is impossible to determine when, or even if, the demand for a print edition will disappear entirely, a society will want to price its online and print editions to help manage the potential transition, whether gradual or precipitous, from print to online.

The viability of increasing member dues or modifying the member publication benefit will depend on the particular financial and (often) political situation within the society. If a society’s dues level is perceived as high relative to similar societies, if it has a history of recent dues increases, or if it represents a secondary affiliation for many of its members, it may be constrained in increasing its individual dues levels or modifying the publication benefit.

A 2002 Stanford University survey examined the behavior of faculty users of electronic journals who had joined societies and who ordered or cancelled personal subscriptions in the previous year. Stanford University Libraries (2002), 21-22. The study indicates that the most frequent reason for faculty cancelling a journal subscription was an abrupt price increase rather than free access to the journal via an online library subscription. About 22% of respondents in the eJUSt survey reported having cancelled a journal in the previous year; 18% reported subscribing to a new journal. Stanford University Libraries (2002), 21.

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Source:  OpenStax, Transitioning a society journal online: a guide to financial and strategic issues. OpenStax CNX. Aug 26, 2010 Download for free at http://cnx.org/content/col11222/1.1
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