NASIG 2011: Polishing the Crystal Ball — Using Historical Data to Project Serials Trends and Pricing

Speakers: Steve Bosch & Heather Klusendorf

The Library Journal periodicals price survey was developed in partnership with EBSCO when the ALA pulled the old column to publish in American Libraries. There is a similar price survey being done by the AALL for law publications.

There is a difference between a price survey and a price index. A price survey is a broad look, and a price index attempts to control the categories/titles included.

[The next bit was all about the methodology behind making the LJ survey. Not why I am interested, so not really taking notes on it.]

Because of the challenge of getting pricing for ejournals, the survey is based mainly on print prices. That being said, the trends in pricing for print is similar to that of electronic.

Knowing the trends for pricing in your specific set of journals can help you predict what you need to budget for. While there are averages across the industry, they may not be accurate depending on the mix in your collection. [I am thinking that this means that the surveys and indexes are useful for broad picture looks at the industry, but maybe not for local budget planning?]

It is important to understand what goes into a pricing tool and how it resembles or departs from local conditions in order to pick the right one to use.

Budgets for libraries and higher education are not in “recovery.” While inflation calmed down last year, they are on the rise this year, with an estimate of 7-8%. The impact may be larger than at the peak of the serials pricing crisis in the 1990s. Libraries will have less buying power, and users will have less resources, and publishers will have fewer customers.

Why is the inflation rate for serials so much higher than the consumer price index inflation rate? There has been an expansion of higher education, which adds to the amount of stuff being published. The rates of return for publishers are pretty much normal for their industry. There isn’t any one reason why.

ER&L 2010: Developing a methodology for evaluating the cost-effectiveness of journal packages

Speaker: Nisa Bakkalbasi

Journal packages offer capped price increases, access to non-subscribed content, and it’s easier to manage than title-by-title subscriptions. But, the economic downturn has resulted in even the price caps not being enough to sustain the packages.

Her library only seriously considers COUNTER reports, which is handy, since most package publishers provide them. They add to that the publisher’s title-by-title list price, as well as some subject categories and fund codes. Their analysis includes quantitative and qualitative variables using pivot tables.

In addition, they look at the pricing/sales model for the package: base value, subscribed/non-subscribed titles, cancellation allowance, price cap/increase, deep discount for print rate, perpetual/post-cancellation access rights, duration of the contract, transfer titles, and third-party titles.

So, the essential question is, are we paying more for the package than for specific titles (perhaps fewer than we currently have) if we dissolved the journal package?

She takes the usage reports for at least the past three years in order to look at trends, and excludes titles that are based on separate pricing models, and also excluded backfile usage if that was a separate purchase (COUNTER JR1a subtracted from JR1 – and you will need to know what years the publisher is calling the backfile). Then she adds list prices for all titles (subscribed & non-subscribed). Then, she calculates the cost-per-use of the titles, and uses the ILL cost (per the ILL department) as a threshold for possible renewals or cancellations.

The final decision depends on the base value paid by the library, the collection budget increase/decrease, price cap, and the quality/consistency of ILL service (money is not everything). This method is only about the costs, and it does not address the value of the resources to the users beyond what they may have looked at. There may be other factors that contributed to non-use.