Subscription trends and e-reprints
Report to the Executive Committee of the Florida Entomological Society

Thomas J. Walker, 3 August 1998

Since November 1994, all articles in Florida Entomologist have been posted on the Web a week or so after the printed issues are mailed. Clients of research libraries increasingly have easy access to the Web. Because of escalating journal costs, research libraries are continually faced with having to cancel some of their journal subscriptions. Therefore, the Florida Entomological Society should expect to eventually experience significant declines in revenue from institutional subscriptions. The Executive Committee should plan how it should change its e-reprint policies when this decline occurs.

Any decline yet?
Table 1 shows subscription trends for Florida Entomologist from 1994 to 1998. FES business manager Teresa Duchene supplied the data for institutional subscriptions. The data for other subscriptions were calculated from the statement of circulation that is published in each December issue (by subtracting institutional subscriptions from the total subscriptions for the September issue).

Table 1. Florida Entomologist subscriptions.


Institutional Subscriptions

Member & Exchange


% Decline




















no data

From 1994 to 1998, Florida Entomologist institutional subscriptions declined by 3%. In 1995 and 1998 there were increases of 4 and 5%.

Figure 1. Trends in institutional subscriptions for 1994 to 1998 for Florida Entomologist and for four Entomological Society of America journals.

Although institutional subscriptions have declined slightly since e-reprints were initiated, the sequence of annual changes does not suggest that e-reprints are responsible. To put these data into a larger context, one should look at subscription trends in entomological journals that do not make all their articles immediately and freely accessible via the Web. Fig. 1 compares the trend for Florida Entomologist with trends for the four principal journals of the Entomological Society of America. Institutional subscriptions to those journals have continually declined from 1994 to 1998. Percent declines are12, 14, 22, and 23, with the average being 18%.

How might a decline be stopped?
FES should monitor the effects of e-reprints on income from institutional subscriptions, and when this income is threatened by its present policy of immediate posting, it should implement a plan to stop the loss.

How to monitor. FES should continue collecting data as in the tables above. Any loss of institutional subscriptions at a greater rate than to ESA's journals would suggest that our immediate posting of all articles is a likely cause. In addition, our business manager should query institutions that cancel their subscriptions as to their reasons. Those who indicate that our present policy of immediate posting is a reason should be told what we plan to do should our institutional subscriptions sharply decline.

A plan. Here is a plan that, if adopted, should prevent significant loss of income from institutional subscriptions: Give authors the choice of delayed posting of their e-reprints or paying a charge for immediate posting. Those who choose delayed posting will have their e-reprints posted one or two years after publication. If libraries intend to enable their clients to get all Florida Entomologist articles as they are published, they will have to maintain their subscriptions. In fact, if we tell librarians that we will start a delay of more than a year if forced to, many might retain their subscriptions who would otherwise drop them.

How much should FES charge? By making the charge for immediate posting of e-reprints the same as the charge for 100 traditional reprints, FES will generate significant new revenue. FES could charge much less, since its profit margin will be 100%. However, if all authors should buy immediate posting, FES would once more be in danger of losing library subscriptions. Thus the charge should be at least enough to compensate for losses of institutional subscriptions. If all authors bought immediate posting at the 100-paper-reprint price, the revenue would approximately equal FES’s annual gross revenue from library subscriptions (ca. $5,200). This means that if FES eventually decides to end central printing and stop selling institutional subscriptions, it can maintain revenue without changing its charges to authors. In the meanwhile, it would be earning extra income. [Note: FES presently makes nothing from the sale of paper reprints, because Painter Printing handles all the problems and reaps all the profits. Thus authors can cease buying paper reprints without affecting FES revenues.]

Summary. FES can maintain and even increase its revenues from Florida Entomologist while keeping its leadership in making research articles freely accessible on the Web.