Nature Publishing Group Defends Its Price Increase for U. of California

June 09, 2010

The Nature Publishing Group has responded publicly to the challenge issued on Tuesday by the University of California system over a proposed 400-percent rise in the cost of Nature and the group's other scientific journals.

In a long, strongly worded statement released to the news media on Wednesday, the publisher disputed assertions that it was unfairly increasing its prices in California's case. It accused the California Digital Library, which negotiates the UC system's subscription licenses, of sensationalism and spreading misinformation. And it said that the digital library's threat to cancel its subscriptions and organize a faculty boycott of the Nature group's journals had taken it by surprise.

"This has been a shock to us at Nature Publishing Group, in terms of the sensationalist use of data out of context, misrepresentation of NPG pricing policies, and the fact that we were under the impression we were in an ongoing confidential discussion," the publisher said in its statement. "The implication that NPG is increasing its list prices by massive amounts is entirely untrue."

The Nature group said that it has capped annual list-price increases at 7 percent and that the California system has enjoyed "a very large, unsustainable discount for many years, to the point where other subscribers, both in the United States and around the world, are subsidizing them." The publisher added that it "stands by its position that CDL is paying an unfair rate."

In the statement, the publisher sought to reassure other institutional customers that the California Digital Library's situation was unique. "We would like to confirm our ongoing commitment to cap site-license list prices for 2011," it said.

The Nature group also said its intent "has always been to reach a fair agreement" and that despite the digital library's "unwarranted actions, Nature Publishing Group will continue to do all it can to bring the world's best science to scientists around the world, hopefully working in cooperation with a more realistic CDL."

Laine Farley, the digital library's executive director, told The Chronicle that the library was preparing a response to the Nature group's statement.

[Update (6/10, 1:29 p.m., Eastern time):] The University of California has now posted a response to the Nature group's statement.