Preliminary Analysis of Financial Impact
This paper reports on the early stages of a three-year study funded by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. The study includes analysis directed at testing the viability of consortial access versus ownership for cost savings as well as the potential long-term solution that would derive from emergence of a new core of electronic titles. A complete financial analysis of the impact of consortial, electronic access to a core collection of general purpose periodicals and an econometric analysis of over 2,000 titles on the impact of electronic availability on pricing policy will issue from the study conducted under this grant. Some interesting issues have emerged with preliminary results of the study.
The Palladian Alliance is a project of the Associated Colleges of the South funded by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. This consortium of 13 liberal arts colleges-not just libraries-has a full-time staff and organizational structure. The Palladian Alliance came about as result of discussions among the library directors who were concerned about the problem described in this paper. As the project emerged, it combined the goals of several entities, which are shown in Table 14.1 along with the specific objectives of the project.
The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation awarded a grant of $1.2 million in December 1995 to the ACS. During the first half of 1996, the librarians upgraded hardware, selected a vendor to provide a core collection of electronic full-text titles, and conducted appropriate training sessions. Public and Ariel workstations were installed in libraries by July 1996 and necessary improvements were made to the campus networks to provide access for using World Wide Web technology. Training workshops were developed under contract with Amigos and SOLINET on technical aspects and were conducted in May 1996. During that same time, an analysis was conducted to isolate an appropriate full-text vendor.
After comparison of the merged print subscription list of all institutions with three products-IAC's InfoTrac, EBSCO's EBSCOHOST, and UMI's Periodical Abstracts and ABI/Inform-the project team selected UMI with access through OCLC. A contract with OCLC was signed in June for July 1, 1996, start-up of FirstSearch for the nine core databases: WorldCat, FastDoc, ERIC, Medline, GPO Catalog, ArticleFirst, PapersFirst, ContentsFirst, and ProceedingsFirst; and for UMI's two core indexes, Periodical Abstracts and ABI/Inform, along with their associated full-text databases. This arrangement for the UMI products provides a general core collection with indexing for 2,600 titles, of which approximately 1,000 are full-text titles.
The UMI via OCLC FirstSearch subscription was chosen because it offered several advantages including the potential for a reliable, proprietary backup to the Internet, additional valuable databases at little cost, and easy means to add other databases. The UMI databases offered the best combination of cost and match with existing holdings. UMI also offered the future potential of full-image as well as ASCII text. After the first academic year, the project switched to access via ProQuest Direct in order to provide full image when available.
Students have had access to the core electronic titles since the fall semester in 1996. As experience builds, it is apparent that the libraries do have some opportunity to cancel print subscriptions with financial advantages. The potential costs, savings, and added value are revealed in Tables 14.2 through 14.4. Specific financial impact on the institutions during the first year is shown in Tables 14.5 and 14.6. It should be noted that the financial impact is based on preliminary data that has been extremely difficult to gather. Publisher and vendor invoices vary considerably
between schools on both descriptive information and prices. Therefore, these results will be updated continually throughout the project.
At the outset, the project benefits the libraries in a significant way because of the power of consortial purchasing. Only a few of the larger libraries might be able to afford to purchase access to both full-text databases were they constrained to individual purchases. Added together, individual subscriptions to ABI/Inform and Periodical Abstracts accompanied with the full text would collectively cost the 13 libraries $413,590 for 1997/98. By arranging consortial purchase, the total cost to the ACS is $129,645 for this second year. Because the libraries can then afford their share of the collective purchase, the vendor benefits from added sales otherwise not available and the libraries add numerous articles to the resources provided their students. More detailed accounting of the benefits are determined in the accompanying tables.
These tables are based on actual financial information for the consortium. Table 14.2 summarizes the project costs. These calculations will be corrected to reflect revised enrollment figures immediately prior to renewal for the third year. The project was designed to use grant funds exclusively the first year, then gradually shift to full support on the library accounts by the fourth year.
As the project started, the ACS libraries collectively subscribed through EBSCO, FAXON, and Readmore to approximately 14,600 subscriptions as shown in Table 14.3. Of these subscriptions, 6,117 are unique titles; the rest are duplicates of these unique titles. Were the ACS libraries collectively merged into one collection, it would therefore be possible to cancel more than 8,000 duplications and save over $1,000,000. Since this merger was not possible, the libraries contracted for electronic access to nearly 1,000 full-text titles from UMI. Over 600 of these UMI titles match the print subscriptions collectively held by the libraries. As Table 14.3 indicates, canceling all but one subscription to the print counterparts of the UMI titles could save the libraries about $137,000 for calendar year 1996. Canceling all the print counterparts to the electronic versions would save nearly $185,000, which is about equal to the licensing costs for the first year per Table 14.2.
For calendar year 1996, the libraries canceled very few titles. In part, this came about because of reluctance to depend upon an untested product. There was no existing evidence that UMI (or any other aggregator) could maintain a consistent list of offerings. To date, cancellations for 1997 have also been fewer than expected at the outset. Furthermore, the project has begun to show that products such as ProQuest Direct come closer to offering a large pool of journal articles than they do to offering full electronic counterparts to print subscriptions. However, these products do provide significant benefits to the libraries.
The project adds considerable value to the institutional resources. The schools had not previously subscribed to many of the titles available through UMI. As an
illustration, Table 14.4 lists the number of print subscriptions carried by each institution and indicates how many of those are available in the UMI databases electronically. The fourth column reveals the potential savings available to each school were the print counterparts of all these electronic journals to be canceled. The column labeled Added E-Titles shows the number of new journals made available to each institution through the grant. The final column indicates the total titles now available at each institution as a result of the consortial arrangement. Comparison of the final column with the first reveals that the electronic project nearly doubles the journal resources available to students.
Table 14.5 details the preliminary financial impact on the ACS institutions for the first and second calendar year of the project. While the opening premise of
the project suggests that canceling print subscriptions would pay for consortial access to UMI's aggregated collections, actual practice shows otherwise. The data is still being collected in the form of invoices, but preliminary summaries of cancellations show meager savings. Total savings across the 13 campuses is little more than $50,000 per year. This savings is not enough to pay for the first two years of the project, which is over $350,000. However, the added value to the combined collections exceeds $2,000,000 per year as measured by the cost of print counter-parts to the UMI titles. Furthermore, additional action by some institutions, as shown in Table 14.6, reveals better outcomes.
Comparing the savings shown in Table 14.6 with the subsidized cost reveals that in the cases of Trinity and Millsaps, even without Mellon support, the consortial provision of the OCLC/UMI databases could be paid for by canceling indexes along with a few print subscriptions. In Trinity's case, two indexes previously purchased as CD-ROMs or direct links to another on-line source were canceled for savings of over $5,000 in the first year. Trinity canceled a CD-ROM subscription to a site license of ABI/Inform, which saved expenditures totaling over $6,000 per year, and an on-line general purpose index that previously cost over $12,000. The Trinity share to the Palladian Alliance project would have been just over $13,000 per year for the first three years. Similarly, Millsaps canceled one index and 74 periodical titles that overlapped the UMI content for net first-year savings of nearly $9,000. On this basis, the project more than pays for itself.
Added interesting outcomes of the project at this point include a couple of new
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pieces of important information. First, canceling individual subscriptions to indexes provides a viable means for consortial pricing to relieve campus budgets, at least in the short run. Were it necessary for Trinity to pay its full share of the cost, canceling indexes alone provided sufficient savings to pay for the project. Just considering trade-offs with indexes alone, Trinity's net savings over the project life span total nearly $18,000.
Second, on the down side, canceling journals and replacing them with an aggregator's collection of electronic subscriptions may not be very reliable. It is apparent that the aggregators suffer from the vagaries of publishers. In just the first few months of the project, UMI dropped and added a number of titles in both full-text databases. This readjustment means that instead of full runs of each title, the databases often contain only partial runs. Furthermore, in some cases the publisher provides only significant articles, not the full journal. Therefore, the substitution of UMI provides the libraries with essentially a collection of articles, not a collection of electronic subscription substitutes. This result diminishes reliability and discourages libraries from being able to secure really significant cost savings.
It should be noted however, that several of the libraries independently subscribed to the electronic access to Johns Hopkins Project MUSE. In contrast to an aggregated collection, this project provides full-image access to every page of the print counterparts and guarantees access indefinitely to any year of the subscription once it's paid for. This guarantee means that reliability of the product is substantially improved, and it provides reasonable incentives to the libraries to substitute access for
collecting. While it may be acceptable to substitute access to a large file of general purpose articles for undergraduate students, Project MUSE promises better results than the initial project for scholarly journal collections. The final report of this project will include information on the impact of the Project MUSE approach as well as on the original concept.
Third, the impact of on-line full-text content may or may not have an impact on interlibrary loan activity. Table 14.7 summarizes the searching and article delivery statistics for the first six months of the project compared to the total interlibrary borrowing as well as nonreturn photocopies ordered through the campus interlibrary loan offices. The change in interlibrary loan statistics for the first six months of the project compared to the previous year show that in some cases interlibrary borrowing increased and in other cases it decreased. Several variables besides the availability of full-text seem to affect use of interlibrary loan services. For instance, some of the institutions had full-text databases available before the project started. Some made more successful efforts to promote the project services than others. It seems likely that improved access to citations from on-line indexes made users more aware of items that could be borrowed. That effect probably offset an expected decrease in interlibrary loans that the availability of full text makes predictable. Regardless, statistics on this issue yield inconclusive results early in the project.
Fourth, it is curious that secondary journals in many fields are published by commercial firms rather than by professional organizations and that their publications are sold at higher prices. Libraries typically pay more for Haworth publications than they do for ALA publications. Haworth sells largely to libraries responding not to demand for content but for publication outlets. Libraries are willing to pay for the Haworth publications. This fact helps explain why secondary titles cost more than primary ones. Demand may be more for exposure of the contributor than it is for reading of content by subscribers. The econometric analysis included in the project may confirm this unintended hypothesis.
At this point, a meaningful econometric analysis is many months away. A model based on Lerner's definition of monopoly power will be used to examine pricing as journals shift into the electronic sphere. The model calls for regressing the price of individual titles on a variety of independent variables such as number of pages, advertising content, circulation, and publisher type, and for including a dummy variable for whether a journal is available electronically. Data is being collected on over 2,000 of the subscriptions held by Trinity for the calendar years 1995 through 1997. Difficulties with financial data coupled with the time-consuming nature of data gathering have delayed progress on the econometric analysis.
It would be desirable to conduct an analysis on time series data to observe the
consequences in journal price changes as a shift is made to electronic products. This analysis would provide a forecast of how publishers react. Lacking the opportunity at the outset to examine prices over time, a straightforward model applying ordinary least squares (OLS) regression on cross section data, similar to the analyses reported by others, will form the basis of the analysis. Earlier models have
typically regressed price on a number of variables to distinguish the statistical relevance of publisher type in determining price. By modifying the earlier models, this analysis seeks to determine whether monopoly power may be eroded in the electronic market. The methodology applied uses two specifications for an ordinary least squares regression model. The first regresses price on the characteristics of a set of journal titles held by the ACS libraries. This data set is considerably larger than those utilized in previous studies. Therefore, we propose to confirm the earlier works that concentrate on economic journals across a larger set of disciplines. This specification includes the variables established earlier: frequency of publication, circulation, pages per year, and several dummy variables to control for whether the journals contain advertising and to control for country of publication. Four dummy variables are included for type of publisher with the residual being commercial. A second specification regressing the difference in price for libraries compared to individuals will be regressed on the same set of variables with an additional dummy added to show whether given journals are available electronically.
The ACS libraries collectively subscribe to approximately 14,000 title. Where they duplicate, an electronic set has been substituted for shared access. We anticipate that at the margin, the impact on publishers would be minimal if ACS canceled subscriptions to the print counterparts of this set. However, the national availability of the electronic versions will precipitate cancellations among many institutions in favor of electronic access. Prices will be adjusted accordingly. Since most publishers will offer some products in print only and others within the described electronic set, we expect the prices of the electronic version will reflect an erosion of monopoly power. Thus the cross section data will capture the effect of electronic availability on monopoly power.
Since the data set is comprised of several thousand periodical titles representing general and more popular items, several concerns experienced by other investigators will be mitigated. The only study found in the literature so far that examines publishers from the standpoint of the exercise of monopoly power investigated price discrimination. This project intends to extend that analysis in two ways. First, we will use a much broader database, since most of the previous work was completed on limited data sets of less than 100 titles narrowly focused in a single academic discipline. Second, we will extend the analysis by assuming the existence of price discrimination given the difference in price to individuals versus libraries for most scholarly journals. With controls in the model for previous discoveries regarding price discrimination, we will attempt to test the null hypothesis that monopoly power will not decrease in the electronic domain.
In the data set available, we were unable to distinguish the specific price of each journal for the electronic replacement, because UMI priced the entire set for a flat fee. This pricing scheme may reflect an attempt by publishers to capture revenue lost to interlibrary lending. Alternatively, it may reflect publisher expectations that
article demand will increase when user nondollar costs decrease. Thus, monopoly power will be reflected back on to the subscription price of print versions. As a result we will use the price of print copies as a proxy for the specific electronic price of each title.
An alternative result could emerge. In monopolistic competition, anything that differentiates a product may increase its monopoly power. For example, firms selling products expend tremendous amounts of money on advertising to create the impression that their product is qualitatively distinguishable from others. Analogous electronic availability of specific titles may create an impression of superior quality.
The general model of the first specification is written:
where y equals the library price (LPRICE) for journal j = 1, 2, 3, ... n. The definitions of independent variables appear in Table 14.8 along with the expected signs on and calculations of the parameters b1 through b17 to be estimated by traditional single regression techniques.
The general model of the second specification is written:
where y equals two different forms of monopoly power (MPOWER1; MPOWER2) defined as measure i = 1 and 2 for journal j = 1, 2, 3, ... n. Again, the definitions of independent variables appear in Table 14.8 along with the expected signs on and calculations of the parameters b1 through b17 to be estimated by traditional single regression techniques.
The variables listed in Table 14.8 are suggested at this point based on previous studies that have demonstrated that they are appropriate. Testing with the regression model is required in order to determine those variables ultimately useful to this study. Additional variables will be introduced should experiments suggest them. A very brief rationale for the expected sign and the importance of the variables is in order. If the difference in price between what publishers charge libraries versus individuals represents price discrimination, then a variable for the individual price (IPRICE) will be a significant predictor of price to institutions (LPRICE). Higher individual prices will shift users toward the library, thus raising demand for library subscriptions, which will pull institutional prices higher. The sign on this variable is expected to be positive.
One group of variables deals with the issue of price discrimination based on
the monopoly power that can be exercised by foreign publishers. Publishers in Great Britain (GBRITAIN), western Europe (EUROPE), and other countries outside the United States (OTHER) may have enough market power to influence price. Therefore these variables will carry a positive sign if a sizable market influence is exerted. Some of these publishers will also be concerned with currency exchange risks (RISK), which they will adjust for in prices. However, since they offer discounts through vendors for libraries who prepay subscriptions, this variable will carry a negative sign if the price to individuals captures most of the financial burden of risk adjustment.
It is expected that commercial publishers discriminate by price more than their nonprofit counterparts do. Therefore, in comparison to the commercial residual, associations (ASSOC), government agencies (GOVERN), university presses (UNIVPR) and foundations (FOUNDTN) will capture generally lower prices of these nonprofit publishers. Negative signs are expected on these.
All the publishers will experience production costs, which can be exposed through variables that control for frequency (FREQ), total pages printed per year (PAGES), peer review (PEERREV), submission fees (SUBMISSFEE), processing/communication expenses and copyright clearance registration expenses (CCCREG), and the presence of graphics, maps, and illustrations (ILLUS), all of which will positively affect price to the extent they are passed along through price discrimination. Circulation (CIRO) will capture the effects of economies of scale, which those publications that are distributed in larger quantities will experience. Thus this variable is expected to be negative. Similarly, the inclusion of advertising (ADV) will provide additional revenue to that of sales, so this variable is expected to be negative since journals that include ads will have less incentive to extract revenue through sales. New entries into the publishing arena are expected to experience costs for advertising to increase awareness of their products, which will be partially passed on to consumers. Therefore, age (AGE), which is the difference between the current date and the date the journal started, will be a negative predictor of price and monopoly power.
Previous studies have developed measures of quality based on rankings of publications compared to each other within a given discipline. Most of these comparisons work from information available from the Institute for Scientific Information. Data acquired from this source that shows the impact factor, immediacy index, half-life, total cites, and cites per year will be summarized in one variable to capture quality (QUALITY) of journals, which is expected to be positive with regard to both price and monopoly power.
The prices of journals across disciplines may be driven by different factors. In general, prices are higher in the sciences and technical areas and lower in the humanities. This discrepancy is understandable when we consider the market for science versus humanities. As stated earlier, there is essentially no market for scholarly publications in the humanities outside of academe, whereas scientific
publications are used heavily in corporate research by pharmaceutical firms and other industries highly dependent on research. As a result, two additional dummies are included in the model to segment the specification along discipline lines. HUMAN and SOCSCI will control for differences in price among the humanities and social sciences as compared to the residual category of science. These variables are expected to be negative and strong predictors of price.
Finally, a dummy variable is included to determine whether availability of each journal electronically (ELECTRONIC) has a positive impact on ability to discriminate by price. Since we have predicted that monopoly power will erode in the electronic arena, ELECTRONIC should be statistically significant and a negative predictor of monopoly power. However, to the extent that availability of a journal electronically distinguishes it from print counterparts, there is some expectation that this variable could be positive. This would show additional price discrimination by publishers who are able to capture lost revenue in the electronic environment.
The data set will be assembled by enhancing the data on subscriptions gathered during the planning project. Most of the additional data set elements including prices will come from examination of the journals and invoices received by the libraries. Impact and related factors will be acquired from the Institute for Scientific Information. The number of subscriptions supplied in print by two major journal vendors, FAXON and EBSCO, will be used as a proxy for circulation. An alternative measure of circulation will be compiled from a serials bibliography. The rest of the variables were obtained by examination of the print subscriptions retained by the libraries or from a serials bibliography.