Nature Publishing Group has responded to the potential boycott of its products by the Universities of California [Nature vs. The University of California]. Here's what they have to say for themselves ... [Public statement from Nature Publishing Group regarding subscription renewals at California Digital Library (CDL)].
The implication that NPG is increasing its list prices by massive amounts is entirely untrue. We have been publishing our academic site licence pricing for several years on our librarian gateway. Dollar list price increases have been reasonable (averaging roughly 7 % over 4 years), and publicly available throughout. A 7% cap on annual list price increases is currently in place.Translation: It's completely untrue that NPG is increasing its prices. It's only massively increasing prices for the Universities of California. Price increases for other schools are "only" 7%.
The complication with CDL is that they have been on a very large, unsustainable discount for many years, to the point where other subscribers, both in the US and around the world, are subsidising them. The origins of this discount can be found in the lack of clear definitions around consortia and 'single institute, multisite' subscribers, as well as previous accommodations of CDL's budget limitations.
If we regard CDL as a consortium of multiple libraries (not least suggested by CDL's membership of International Coalition of Library Consortia (ICOLC), and the libraries' ARL listings), the CDL discount on list price is 88%. By their own figures, CDL receives average discounts of 55% from publishers. After several attempts, we are now trying to bring them close to a 50% discount (although this leaves CDL on better terms than many other consortia). We do recognise the situation can be viewed from different perspectives, and we remained committed to ongoing discussions.
Question: Is it true that the prices to other universities have increased because CDL has been getting a bargain? That's the only way to interpret the statement that, "... other subscribers, both in the US and around the world, are subsidising them"? If so, then if the new contract with CDL results in a huge price increase, doesn't it follow that the prices for all other subscribers should go down? That means the University of Toronto will get a price reduction when CDL and NPG reach agreement, right? Or am I missing something?
Our own projections show CDL will be paying roughly $0.56 per download under the new prices. This represents incredible value for money across any publisher's range of titles. We now call on CDL to reveal how much it spends with all the major publishers, and how this translates into cost per use, and/or other indicators of value. If NPG represents poor value for money, we will work with CDL to readjust their pricing. If, as we expect, NPG represents good value for money compared with other publishers, even at the new proposed pricing, we want to work with CDL to have this reflected in our agreement. We sincerely hope that no boycotts will occur, not least because it is detrimental to the advance of science, but we will not be bullied into continuing CDL's subsidy by our other customers.Translation: We're embarrassed and we probably will be bullied into making a much lower offer to CDL. Furthermore, we equate the advance of science with the business of publishing. It's it reduces our profits then it must be bad for science.
The one good thing that will come of this is that it will stimulate many universities to get together and form bargaining groups. That will give them a lot more clout. I'm sure all the other publishers will be thanking NGP for making this such a prominent issue.