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Elsevier Responds to IEEE News Release on High Priced Journals

:: As described in a previous entry, Commercial Journals More Than Twice As Expensive As IEEE Titles, a recent IEEE news release said that "studies confirm that IEEE journals, magazines and periodicals are less than half the price of competitive publications." The press release noted that "The Library Journal Periodical Price Survey singled out commercial publisher Elsevier, which has the highest overall median price in each of six subject fields. According to Library Journal, the most expensive journals in 2005 are from Elsevier Science, at an average cost of $1,070."

I received an e-mail today from Ross Graber of Elsevier Engineering Information, who forwarded me the following response from Mayur Amin, Director of Research at Elsevier in the UK. The response is reprinted here with the permission of Elsevier:

Dr. Mohamed El-Hawary
Director & Secretary
445 Hoes Lane
Piscataway, New Jersey
08854 USA

May 23, 2005

Dear Director

We have noted an IEEE press release that is published very prominently on the IEEE home page on 17 May as well as on the IEEE Publications Online site, under the heading "Studies Show IEEE Journals Less than Half the Cost of Commercial Publications".

Your report mentions that, according to a recent article in Library Journal, Elsevier has the highest overall median price in each of six subject fields; and that the most expensive journals in 2005 are from Elsevier.

In quoting this article, and singling out Elsevier for particular mention, you are perpetuating - unwittingly, I imagine - an error committed by its authors, who have failed to realize that the study at the basis of this analysis of prices, which was carried out by the Library and Information Statistics Unit (LISU) at Loughborough University in the UK, is incomplete and contains errors. (We have contacted the study's authors, outlining our concerns and requesting their comments, as well as the Oxford University Press which commissioned the analysis from LISU.)

Whilst we await LISU's response to our concerns on a number of issues, there are two in particular that we feel that you, your press office, and your members and readers should be made aware of at this stage.

Although the study is described in the Library Journal article as "exhaustive", there are some sizable publishers omitted. The inclusion of these omissions would have yielded very different results.

More critically, closer examination of the list of biomedical journals revealed that the LISU study included 57 Elsevier titles that are not scholarly journals but sections of abstracting and indexing databases or services. This is further compounded by the exclusion of over 290 legitimate biomedical journals. The result is that the median price for Elsevier biomedical journals quoted in the LISU study is overstated by 81%. This has, in turn, introduced major bias into the report's conclusions. Any comparison based on such a huge error is clearly misleading.

In view of the damaging mistakes that invalidate the Library Journal's conclusions and thus the IEEE's own report, please would you give this correction the same level of publicity that you accorded to your press release in explicitly naming our company. I should be grateful for a response to this letter.

Yours truly,

Mayur Amin
Director, Research
Langford Lane, Kidlington
Oxford OX5 1GB

cc: IEEE President's office
Ms Kathy Gentile

Ross confirmed that IEEE has responded to the letter.


A major problem with the journal prices of IEEE, is that they sell packages, and not single titles. Since we are only interested in a few journals, the sales strategy by IEEE let it happen that we still have print versions only.

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