Still More On Open Access | Chemical & Engineering News
Volume 89 Issue 1 | p. 5 | Letters
Issue Date: January 3, 2011

Still More On Open Access

Department: Letters

I’ve been following the ongoing discussion on open access to journals both in C&EN and elsewhere. My librarian friends first raised the red flag about changes in ownership in going from print to electronic journals. With journals in print, once you’ve subscribed and received them, they’re yours. Not so with most if not all e-journal subscriptions. You only have access to the full e-archives as long as you continue to subscribe.

I just found out that this policy also applies to personal subscriptions. I’ve subscribed to the Journal of Chemical Information & Modeling (JCIM) and its predecessors for decades. I’ve been on the editorial board, participated in choosing two editors, refereed manuscripts, and contributed several articles. Most recently, these publications have been reviews of books on chemical information. For the past seven years, I’ve subscribed to the e-edition only. However, with the decreasing coverage of chemical information in JCIM and the editorial decision not to publish book reviews, I regretfully decided to cancel my subscription beginning next year. I checked with the ACS Publications Division, and as I suspected, I will not have access to the electronic back file—even the portion acquired as a subscriber—after my subscription lapses.

I’m faced with the loss of access to seven years of journal copies, and I think this is unfair. Surely there are extant methods that would allow selective access to the archives. Because print subscriptions for individuals are no longer available as of this year, this draconian policy will affect many members, not just me. Currently, I can access (on-site) archives of this and other ACS journals at a nearby university. Others may not have this capability. I intend to confront ACS Publications with this inequity, and I hope other individual subscribers will do likewise.

Robert E. Buntrock
Orono, Maine

Robert Buntrock is correct in pointing out that as subscribers and readers around the world move from print to digital, the transition will call into question long-standing concepts and publishing models established during a previous era. Coincident with the planned cessation of print subscriptions for ACS members effective in 2010, ACS Publications has held constant for several years the special discounted prices for all electronic ACS member subscriptions—which enable access to content published from 1996 forward for each subscribed ACS journal—for an annual subscription fee of between $75 and $150 per title.

This price range represents not only a remarkable value for any chemistry professional without easy institutional subscriber access, but also a substantial savings in contrast to prices previously levied for discounted ACS member print subscriptions. The benefit of such member access and savings comes with both the need for trade-offs and a willingness to accept a shift in paradigms—particularly as our focus on service to customers and readers moves inexorably from physical ownership of content to digital services that bundle valuable features and functionality needed by active researchers.

We respectfully suggest that, if continued access to previously published journal issues is important to you, the most attractive and sustainable option for all is to remain an active ACS member subscriber.

Brian D. Crawford
President, ACS Publications and Society Staff Liaison to the Joint Board-Council Committee on Publications

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