Current Contents on Diskette: a ripoff?

rybicki at uctvax.uct.ac.za rybicki at uctvax.uct.ac.za
Wed Oct 28 09:30:59 EST 1992

Re:   ISI and Current Contents on Diskette - a multiuser ripoff?

I am posting this in an attempt to determine whether or not there
are any like-minded souls out there in Netland, who are as
annoyed as we are at our University over the pricing and
networking policies of ISI (Institute for Scientific
Information), the people who publish Current Contents on

Those of us who know and love (or at least, tolerate) CCOD can
vouch for its convenience (although searching individual issues
every week was a pain), wide coverage of journals, and general
usefulness: for example, I have a personal bibliographic database
of over 7 000 references culled over the last five years from
CCOD, that I find indispensable for teaching and research.  At
the University of Cape Town, we have graduated over the years
from PC single-user versions to a PC network version,
administered by our central library.  This is an excellent
arrangement, as we subscribe to three different CCOD
compilations, each of which can be accessed by users anywhere on
the network: on the Life Sciences 1200 package, for example, we
potentially have 200-odd users, counting all postgraduate
students and staff in the 15 Departments that would find it of
interest.  This represents excellent usage (from our point of
view) of an indispensable, but expensive resource: people grumble
that Universities all over the world suffer from "library grant
shrinkage"; however, outside the northern hemisphere, where we
are so much further from the sources of the information, and
grants generally are much smaller, efficient utilisation of
available resources is no longer a goal but a necessity.

Now, of course, everything is about to change - and mostly for
the worse.  On the plus side, ISI have apparently updated the
software so that one may now search more than one issue (up to
five?) at a time.  However, the down side more than outweighs the
plus: ISI now want

          - US$ 540 per year per single-user subscription

          - US$ 2245 for 1 - 10 users

          - US$ 3325 for 11 - 20 users

          - US$ 21 650 for 21+ users, and

          - US$ 23 000 for 21+ users with abstracts.

This may not all sound so bad - after all, everyone expects to
pay more for more users on a network version of any software.
For example, we use LAN versions of Harvard Graphics and Microsoft
Word for which we willingly pay the extra premium demanded for 5
SIMULTANEOUS users - we have 50-odd POTENTIAL users, but have
never needed more than 5 simultaneous accesses.

HOWEVER, for reasons best known to themselves, ISI have specified



- meaning that, since our libraries can only afford the 11-20
user licences, our geographically-dispersed campus will now have
only 20 specified terminals for 500-odd potential users, among 15
Departments, for Life Sciences alone.  In our Department, where
we have 20 LAN-linked PCs and 50 users, we will be lucky to get 1
dedicated terminal - which will have to be booked, and which is
also supposed to be used for other things.  People who should
know reckon that the Life Sciences package might, on a good day,


have five simultaneous users.  Thus, we will be forced to pay for
15 idle "licenced" terminals, in widely-spread locations, when 5
"mobile" simultaneous-user terminals would do.

At a stroke, ISI have removed all the convenience of network use 
of CCOD, for no good reason that can be seen.  How difficult would
it be to be like other software vendors, and give licences
for simultaneous users, rather than specific terminals?  Do they
object that we in the demi-monde of the not-quite-Third World
attempt to maximise use of - what is to us, at any rate - an
expensive resource?  Has this policy been thought through

           Does anyone else have a similar moan?


Email Ed Rybicki at the address below, and we'll try to twist the
corporate arm.  Failing that, we'll explore options like
subscribing to Reference Update!

                    Ed Rybicki, on behalf of:

    The UCT Anti-ISI CCOD Perceived Ripoff Ad Hoc Committee.

 | Ed Rybicki, PhD             |    "Now you've got the hang of it    |
 | (ed at micro.uct.ac.za)        | There's nothing you can't do with it |
 | Dept Microbiology           |        If you're very into it        |
 | University of Cape Town     |         You can't go wrong...."      |
 | Private Bag, Rondebosch     |                                      |
 | 7700, South Africa          |               -Mad John              |
 | fax: 27-21-650 4023         | (Ogden's Nut Gone Flake, Small Faces)|

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