Once upon a time (1845), there was a magazine called The Advocate of Industry and Enterprise, and Journal of Mechanical and Other Improvements.  Soon, with the mercifully shorter title of Scientific American, this publication became the way that the country kept informed about progress and events in science and technology.

Written for the layperson, Scientific American is a chronicle of American innovation. The phonograph, the automobile, televisions, computers, rocket ships, the artificial heart – SA’s writers, including more than 160 Nobel laureates, explain it all. However, at the end of 2009, Eisenhower Library stopped receiving print copies, and at the end of May of this year, we will no longer have online access to issues from January 1, 1995 to May 31, 2010.

This sad circumstance is the result of the sale of the magazine to Nature Publishing Group. Nature tripled the prices and ignored all pleas to reconsider its treatment of America’s oldest continuously published magazine. Libraries across the US are refusing to continue subscribing under these conditions, and MSEL’s librarians made this same decision, with heavy hearts.

MSEL does own many years in various formats, including online (1845-1908; 1998-2003), print (1927-2009), and microfilm (1845-2007). (Or, read articles from 1846-1869 at Cornell University Library’s “Making of America” site.)

We don’t yet know whether Nature will allow any other vendors to carry current issues, but we’ll keep you informed.

2 thoughts on “A Sad Farewell to Scientific American

  1. There must be individuals connected with JHU who would be delighted to donate their personal copies to the library instead of recycling them.

    Dear Paul,
    Thank you for your suggestion. However, for us the real issue is not getting donated copies, the problem is the consolidation in the scholarly publishing industry and subsequent pricing of content. For all content there has to come a point where the institutional price increase is simply unacceptable. Our decision to cancel Scientific American was when Nature Publishing Group pushed the price and availability of Scientific American beyond what we believe is reasonable. In an economy of flat or shrinking library budgets and growing prices for content one has to draw the line.

    Elizabeth Mengel
    Head, Collection Management
    The Sheridan Libraries and Johns Hopkins University Museums

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