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SAE Drops Print Publication of SAE Handbook

.: In a move I find shortsighted, the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) International, has decided to no longer issue the print edition of its very important, three-volume SAE Handbook. The Handbook includes the complete set of J-reports, also known as the Ground Vehicle Standards (GVS). The 2005 edition, released in June 2005, was priced at US$595. The 2006 edition will be available in CD-ROM only, at the same price, according to our EBSCO Canada representative.

The options left to libraries who need the SAE Handbook in their collections include subscribing to the SAE Digital Library, where the GVS are available for a US$7,500 annual subscription price. SAE also issues "JPaks", an online service designed to give access to J-Reports, Recomended Practice, and Information Reports, which comes with a customized subscription plan, based on the number of downloads and the number of users - great for a company with a fixed number of employees, not necessarily good for an educational institution. The SAE Ground Vehicle Standards on CD-ROM is the only other option I can find, priced at US$1,850, with more than 1,700 documents included. It is not clear to me what the difference is between this CD-ROM, and the SAE Handbook on CD-ROM, which also includes the full set of GVS.

The CD-ROM format is of little to no use to most educational institutions, which are moving or have migrated completely away from offering any and all major reference works in CD-ROM format to their users. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, this format served library users well, even if it did limit them to using one terminal at a time. For over ten years, all our major indexes and abstracts, and now handbook, manuals, encyclopedias, etc., are online, as is the SAE Handbook, via the SAE Digital Library. But for many of us with strained budgets, we cannot afford a 1,260% increase in subscription price to anything, let alone a major reference tool like the SAE Handbook.

This is not the first time an important engineering organization has stopped issuing its standards in book format, and switched to CD-ROM. ISA, The Instrumentation, Systems and Automation Society, no longer publishes its Standards Library for Measurement and Control in print format. At the request of an engineering professor, I ordered the CD-ROM in 2003, only to discover that the licence did not even allow us to network the product on a one-user station. The CD-ROM has been sitting in my office every since, never used. It is the last CD-ROM I will purchase as such. ISA no longer issues the CD-ROM version either, but offers what appears to be access options for ISA members only as well as limited network access.

I am writing to SAE to express my concern and displeasure with this decision. Who will use the SAE Handbook on CD-ROM? Engineers working in the field, who will access it on their desktops or laptops - in other words, the professional working engineer. This is another example of a society or organization seemingly losing site of its future customers, clients and members - the students who are studying to become engineers and require access to SAE standards now, but also when they graduate and find employment primarily with companies in industry. Students may make up a small percentage of SAE's membership, but consider that all current SAE members were once students. Iin the non-profit environment of the educational institution and on behalf of students, many of whom will become SAE members, consideration must be given to reasonable pricing for and reasonable access to publications like standards, which are so critical to an engineer's education. We will not purchase the 2006 SAE Handbook on CD-ROM - we are not interested in loading CD-ROMs onto workstations, especially when we are in the age of desktop delivery, and the CD-ROM restricts use to one station in one building. Technical support for networked CD-ROMs is virtually non-existent anyway. This leaves the very reasonably priced paper edition as the only other option for many of us, and when that option is removed, it is the students who are denied access to a resource critical to their studies.

If you are interested in sending SAE a comment, please e-mail Nancy L Weinschenker, Executive Assistant, SAE International: nancyw AT sae DOT org.

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