Nuts and Bolts of Aggregating Journals (Midwinter 2000)

ALA Midwinter Meeting Discussion Forum
Nuts and Bolts of Aggregating Journals: Project Muse, ProQuest, SilverLinker
Sunday, Jan. 16, 2000
A Discussion Forum sponsored by the Products and Services Committee, RUSA/MARS

Panel Speakers:

J. Mark Nolan, Project Muse Manager, The Johns Hopkins University Press ( PowerPoint Presentation)

Jeff Moyer, Vice-President of Publishing, Bell & Howell Information and Learning ( PowerPoint Presentation)

Carol Meyer, Publisher Relations, SilverPlatter Information, Inc. ( PowerPoint Presentation)

On Sunday, Jan. 16, 2000 the RUSA/MARS Products and Services Committee sponsored a discussion forum entitled: "Nuts and Bolts of Aggregating Journals: Project Muse, ProQuest, and SilverLinker. Approximately 75 people attended the forum. The guest panelists were J. Mark Nolan, Manager, Project Muse; Jeff Moyer, Vice President of Product Development, for Bell & Howell; and Carol Meyer, Publisher Relations, SilverPlatter. Each addressed the issues of negotiating with publishers about adding journals to their databases; pricing models; archiving responsibilities and their company's position; future publishing trends; and future technology trends.

Mark Nolan, Project Muse, began by saying they don't consider themselves to be an aggregator, but more of a proxy publisher. They currently have 113 titles. When negotiating with publishers they insist that the journal is online before the print version is mailed and that each press maintains its own identity and offers the same price for both print and electronic. Project Muse deals with non-profit publishers only, and carries no commercial titles. Nolan indicated that their publishers once worried about losing print subscriptions but that is no longer a major issue with more and more publishing being electronic only, and with increased flexibility and granularity in pricing models.

Project Muse subscribers have access to the whole archived collection of titles. The goal is to have all titles archived back to 1995. In development is a program to allow subscribers who cancel to continue to have access to what they had paid for. Regarding trends in publishing, Nolan sees much more interest in linking to individual publishers' sites. He is also seeing more and more players in the electronic publishing arena and an increasing number of publishers going with electronic only (with no print counterpart). Technological trends include high speed modems for remote access, cable modems and DSL connections at home.

Jeff Moyer, from Bell & Howell, gave a brief overview of the history of Bell & Howell, which began as UMI with microfilming, then indexing and abstracting and now full-text. Today they have 7000 titles that are filmed and archived and offer 3600 titles delivered through ProQuest. Journals are loaded within 24 hours of receipt and newspapers are acquired through direct feeds from the publishers. Bell & Howell negotiates one-on-ones with each publisher, and feels that these relationships are critical to the success of their enterprise. Their goal is to receive redistribution rights (for vendors such as OCLC), as well as rights based upon type of format and coverage. The major issues are always the requirements of the ProQuest product (does the journal content fit the profile) and customer demands. Current pricing is based on FTE rather than usage, but there is a movement to consider incorporating usage into the formula.

Bell & Howell has always archived its material in microfilm and continues to do so. They are, however moving towards a digital vault which will improve access to archived material. Moyer sees the publishing trends continuing to move toward more electronic publishing, and a continuous stream of content being made available to users (rather than the current monthly, quarterly, etc. format). He sees the lines of who is/is not a publisher becoming more and more blurred, with scholarly publication taking place outside of the university environment. This has made many publishers worried. He also believes that the large aggregators have peaked and are on their way out.

Carol Meyer, from SilverPlatter, talked about their SilverLinker product which links to over 4000 titles. She emphasized that SilverLinker links to individual titles, not to a combined database. They are working on enhancements which would provide the ability to display or suppress journals and titles, have different display options, and the availability of access to customers coming in through the internet. They negotiate with publishers very carefully. Among the issues they consider are: the financial relationship (they allow no royalties); data format (it must come to them in a usable form); the update mechanism; joint marketing; the term of agreement, and termination process; and the access path (some publishers want direct access rather than access through an aggregator). Meyer said the hardest decision a publisher makes is whether to link at all. SilverLinker will negotiate with any publisher, however it makes decisions to include a publisher based on: the strategic fit (subject content); their work with other aggregators; customer requests; input from their sales force; and the technological readiness of the publisher. The pricing model is based on one annual fee with unlimited users. They do give consortial discounts.

Regarding archiving, Meyer noted that providing access in perpetuity is difficult for companies. However, SilverPlatter recognizes that the issue is a major one for libraries and is encouraging publishers to collaborate with them in providing archival access. SilverPlatter sees themselves as facilitating archiving by providing links to archives, and will provide copies of archived material on CD if requested. Meyer sees an increased trend toward linking to individual titles, and is finding publishers are cooperating with this trend. She also noted that there will be increased "carving up of products" (rethinking what constitutes a journal), more delivery via the web, and supporting a personalization of the needs of various communities. She sees a continued migration from CD-ROM to networked resources and believes that electronic books are coming.

Summary prepared by Rebecca Johnson, Reference Dept., Univ. of Iowa Libraries