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Home :: Archive :: 1997 :: April ::
Re: OED and CD-ROM Pricing
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 8.0505.  Tuesday, 29 April 1997.

[1]     From:   Alan Young <
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        Date:   Monday, 28 Apr 1997 14:22:10 AST4ADT
        Subj:   Re: SHK 8.0500  Re: OED

[2]     From:   Steve Neville <
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        Date:   Monday, 28 Apr 1997 15:25:36 -0400 (EDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 8.0500 Re: OED

[3]     From:   Douglas M Lanier <
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        Date:   Monday, 28 Apr 1997 19:27:24 -0400 (EDT)
        Subj:   CD-ROM Pricing

[4]     From:   Brother Anthony <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 29 Apr 1997 10:15:49 +0900 (KST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 8.0500  Re: OED


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Alan Young <
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Date:           Monday, 28 Apr 1997 14:22:10 AST4ADT
Subject: 8.0500  Re: OED
Comment:        Re: SHK 8.0500  Re: OED

This is in response to Jeff Myers' comments on the pricing of CDs such
as the OED and the Arden Shakespeare.  It should be clear that, for the
most part, publishers of such items are not really interested in
assisting individual academic researchers, nor, it seems to me, are they
interested in the needs of students. The key concern is to re-coup costs
and make some money as quickly and easily as possible.  Charging several
thousand dollars for a product works, because there is a sufficient
number of large institutional budgets that can pay that kind of money
would appear to be the way to go. The alternative marketing route would
be to use a very modest price and sell to individual academics and to
class upon class of students.  But why bother?

The result of such marketing policies is that individual researchers and
teachers are "priced out", as are small institutions like my own. So, if
you work as teacher, researcher or student at a small institution, and
if you do not live close to a large wealthy institution, you will be at
a disadvantage if you want to make use of the Arden Shakespeare on CD or
if you want to work with one of the wonderful Chadwyck-Healey
productions, to name two obvious examples.

What do other people think about this situation?

Alan R. Young
(Acadia University, Wolfville, Nova Scotia, Canada)

[2]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Steve Neville <
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Date:           Monday, 28 Apr 1997 15:25:36 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: 8.0500 Re: OED
Comment:        Re: SHK 8.0500 Re: OED

In a message dated 28/04/97  15:01:20, Jeff Myers wrote:

<< You really think so?  Considering that the cost of reproducing a
CD-Rom
 was less than $10.00 (last I heard), I'd say it's an outrageous
 rip-off.  If they charged a reasonable price ($50-100), everyone would
 buy it, and they'd recoup pre-production costs in no time. >>

It was me who described the CD-Rom as a bargain. I still think that it
is, though, like you, I resent the mark-up and would be far happier
buying it for less (who wouldn't?) . The fact is that if you want the
OED you can  pay one thousand six hundred and fifty pounds, which puts
twenty very nice looking books on your shelf, and makes looking up a
word and it's many definitions a daunting process. Monkey,  as a simple
example, takes up nine whole pages.  Or you can have the whole lot on a
single CD-Rom. It's fast, it's portable, you can cross reference with
ease.

Bargain is a relative term. Sixteen hundred and fifty pounds OR three
hundred pounds (at OUP prices).  Moving from Monkey to Callitrichidae by
getting down another volume, OR  highlighting the word Callitrichidae
where it appears under Monkey and going straight to it? So, it is a lot
cheaper, easier to use, and portable.

Beware, however, of buying the work direct from Oxford Press. Since my
first post I have hunted through computer magazines and have found it at
least fifty pounds cheaper through software dealers. What is a
reasonable price for a brilliant piece of software? Microsoft Office
costs  more, yet is bought without question as it is probably the best
(though I'm not prepared to argue for it). You say, Jeff, that if it
sold for fifty or one hundred dollars, everyone would buy it. I doubt
it.

Rearguards,
Steve Neville

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[3]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Douglas M Lanier <
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Date:           Monday, 28 Apr 1997 19:27:24 -0400 (EDT)
Subject:        CD-ROM Pricing

Dear SHAKSPERians,

I want to second the spirit of Jeff Myers' posting on the high prices of
some academic CD-ROMs, and I would encourage a discussion of this topic
on the list.  (To Jeff's list of the OED-not as badly priced as some-and
the Arden Shakespeare CD-ROM, I'd like to add the new series of CD-ROMs
produced by Chadwyck-Healey, as well as others I've learned of from
various flyers and promotions.)

I see the extraordinarily high pricing of academic CD-ROMs as having a
number of wide-ranging effects.  First, it prevents many of us from
making these available to our students in our classrooms, and thus
prevents our students from seeing CD-ROMs as serious academic tools
(rather than game-delivery devices);  in the end, this means that
CD-ROMs become at best a marginal part of our work as teachers of
Shakespeare.  Second, it prevents many of us from using them in our
research, since high prices means they are available typically only on a
single machine or highly limited network, both of which limits easy
access.  Third, and most important, the high pricing widens (rather than
narrows) the resource gap between well-funded universities and those
that are not as well-funded, the latter, of course, being the larger
group by far.  Indeed, from what I've seen this kind of pricing has a
kind of domino effect:  since academic CD-ROMs are so expensive, many
schools won't consider the technology as a potential tool and thus won't
invest in the basic hardware (i.e., CD-ROM drives in computer clusters)
to use that technology, the result being that even future CD-ROMs, no
matter how useful, simply won't be a possibility.  There is, in other
words, an institutional politics worth considering here.  If electronic
media were supposed to give us easier and more democratic access to
information, to make resources more available, the trend in pricing
CD-ROMs threatens to have the opposite effect.

One might argue that the World Wide Web will solve this problem, but
there are indications that the opposite is beginning to occur.
Companies running academic sites have begun to charge fees for access,
either on a per-session basis (often very expensive over time, with
costs being unpredictable and potentially astronomical) or on a
site-license basis (with the subscription fees charged being quite
high).  The librarians I've spoken with are wary of this trend, because
i) the fees, like journal subscriptions, have had a tendency to
escalate;  ii) the information at many of these sites is typically also
available in a university library in print form (though, to be fair, one
can search the information in ways one can't with print-cf. the OED,
where a library having it on-line almost certainly has a print copy in
its reference section);  iii) such fees are continuing, and unlike
journal subscriptions, one tends to get access not to new information
from year to year (i.e., new issues of a journal), but to the same
information from year to year (one of the reasons the term "service,"
not "information,"  is preferred by companies);  iv) the demand for
passwords and such tends to work against free access to information, an
ideal to which most librarians are committed (rightly, in my view).
Imagine asking for a student's social security number and their PIN
before letting them look something up in the library's print OED!!

Lest I seem too pessimistic, I should add that we are in a position to
affect these trends for the better, since the electronic information
revolution is in its infancy and we (as a group) are often the persons
in our departments and programs who are consulted when CD-ROMs are
proffered.  I would urge colleagues to tell these companies-not merely
the salespeople but also the company leadership-that we will not pay
such prices for these resources.  I would (and have!) argued to company
representatives that such pricing structures are finally
counter-productive to their own self-interested long-term goal of having
us regularly use the technology and, not coincidentally, their
products.  It may be too much to hope that even with pressure from us,
the prices will plummet on products already announced, but a writing or
e-mail campaign will at least let companies know why their over-priced
products are not being widely adopted or embraced (because of price, not
because of the product itself).  Individual letters won't do the trick;
companies will, however, listen to groups of academics.  Writing of this
sort may also generate enough publicity within the industry to encourage
companies to rethink their marketing strategy or new companies to spring
up and fill in the gap.  If we let companies know that we ARE interested
in buying these products for individual use and we might even assign
them in our classes, the companies may change.

On the positive side, I also think that we should let companies know
when they have produced CD-ROMs that are useful and well-priced, so that
they are encouraged to continue to do so.  On that count, let me sing
the praises of the National Gallery Complete Illustrated Catalogue with
CD-ROM, published by Yale UP.  It is a well-made CD-ROM, easy to
navigate and very comprehensive, with a wonderful feature that allows
you to study details of paintings.  Not exactly inexpensive, it is
nonetheless well within the price range of a mere mortal, and in my
estimation well worth what it costs (around $150, as I remember, and it
comes with the print version of the catalogue to boot!).  I should add
that I'm not affiliated with Yale UP or the editors, etc., etc.

One of the great promises of electronic media such as CD-ROMs and the
World Wide Web is that it can make information easier to access and
available to a wider range of people.  (There's much more to be said
about the politics of these media, but I've already gone on too long.)
I'm certainly not against companies making a reasonable profit on their
products, but I feel strongly that the great promise of this technology
should not get lost in the process.

Were some of the papers at the SAA session on "The Politics of
Electronic Text" addressed to this issue?  I would be interested in
others' discussion of these matters.

Cheers,
Douglas Lanier

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[4]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Brother Anthony <
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Date:           Tuesday, 29 Apr 1997 10:15:49 +0900 (KST)
Subject: 8.0500  Re: OED
Comment:        Re: SHK 8.0500  Re: OED

In calculating the price of the CD-Rom OED please remember that people
ordering it from outside the United Kingdom from suppliers inside the Uk
do not pay VAT. I got mine from Blackwells through the WWW at the basic
price plus mailing (and do remember that "Accelerated Surface Mail" gets
things across oceans at airmail speed for near surface prices)

Br Anthony
Sogang University, Seoul, Korea
 

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