I thought that Bill deserved a new subject line more appropriate to his fine
As the number of independent consulting firms grow, the one inequality that
occurs is that the cost of reference materials is higher for a small firm
than it is for a large firm based upon the amortization of cost by the
number of employees who use the materials. Therefore, the overhead to
compete is not equivalent and the small firm carries greater burden by being
unable to justify these growing expenses.
The software industry must have realized this from the start as the cost of
software was based on license to use. Additional network licenses were not
equivalent to the original cost of software, but represented a sometimes
reasonable royalty for each additional workstation that used the materials
at the same time.
Is this not a fair concept for the book industry? Larger firms pay a larger
percentage of the cost to use the reference materials because they purchase
fewer books for a greater number of people?
Let me suggest some historic standards and also ask some questions as to
acceptable use without infringing copyright. Is copyright only a protection
against copying and distribution or against more than one person viewing the
materials at one time (electronic information idea)?
1) A reference is purchased by one person and loaned to another. Legal ?
Infringement of copyright?
2) One person purchases a number of reference materials and allows others to
borrow the books or comes into his place of business to use his library
3) The database is placed on the Internet by a person who paid for the
information. He posts the database and allows others to view the material
but will not allow it to be copied or downloaded. Legal? Infringement?
4) Copying from a book is acceptable as long as it is reasonable and
acknowledged. For example, a school library will not copy a chapter of a
book for distribution to all students in a class, but will copy enough for
two or three students. There are rules that were given to me by the college
where I teach. Do these same rules apply to business use of the materials?
There should be some responsible solutions and the non-profit organizations
need to be aware of our dissatisfaction with the market for selling
information for a monthly fee.
Some responsible suggestions are:
1. Reduce the materials to electronic format and make them available to the
profession for a reasonable fee equivalent to the true amortized cost of the
materials minus publishing and distribution costs. Non-profit organizations
can not collect surpluses - they must be able to spend the money as the
collection of profits is not allowed. This does not justify abuse and
2. Price the services based on the size of the firm (licensed per user as
might be done with software on a network).
3. Create an online professional library. Ideally, make the information
accessible for free but unable to be downloaded or copied. Less ideal but
acceptable, charge on reasonable fee per year for access - say between
$50.00 and $100.00 per user per year. The library can distribute the fees to
the various organizations by tracking the percentage of use against each
persons choice of materials. For example if in one year I use the AITC
information 20% of the time and AISC only 4% then this percentage of my $50
or $100.00 is distributed accordingly.
4. Charge a reasonable fee for the manuals ($200.00 for a book that cost
$75.00 five years ago is unreasonable), but make the other information such
as the shapes databases free or at the least free with the purchase of the
International Building Code.
5. Add the R&D costs at the front end - passing the cost along with the
materials and bypassing the engineer.
So far we have had no responses from non-profit groups other than Charlie
Carter to address these concerns. This seems to be the typical response -
head for the hills with the issues get sensitive. Alright, don't Spam me
for my opinions but let's not hide in the shadows when we all know that
there are many of you out there who belong to non-profit organizations.
Might as well come out and tell us what is on your mind and what you are
willing to do. My next step may just be to circumvent the situation and deal
with my local peers to create a reference library so as to save money.
Dennis S. Wish, PE
From: Bill Polhemus [mailto:bpolhem(--nospam--at)swbell.net]
Sent: Thursday, January 11, 2001 11:51 AM
Subject: Re: HSS vs. TS Properties For Design (WAS: Re: Copyright
"Lanny J. Flynn" wrote:
> It will be very reasonably priced for the value provided.
I understand what you are saying, Lanny, and LET ME BE THE FIRST TO SAY THAT
BELIEVE FERVENTLY IN THE RIGHT OF AISC to charge what the market will bear.
Let me add, however, that there are quite a few small or even sole
proprietorship firms represented here, and the US$200 or so that AISC
for the manual set is a major expense. Alone, of course, it would not be a
deal". But I myself, a one-man firm, easily spent nearly US$5,000 last year
reference books and software. True, I was something of a "start up" last
but I already had (or so I thought) almost everything that I needed. But by
time I bought my software, the NDS for wood, new ASCE 7-98, 1997 UBC, 1999
SBCCI, 1997 BOCA, AASHTO Bridge Specification, and a myriad of other
works besides, the bill mounted quickly.
It's like homework when I was in college. Each professor would give an
homework to be turned in next class period. Each gave that homework based on
assumption that THEIRS was the only class you had to worry about. By itself,
was reasonable and even quite necessary in order to learn the material. You
could not possibly fault the professor for assigning it (well, most of the
But you GROANED under the weight of it nevertheless!
The AISC manuals are ESSENTIAL. They represent the summum bonum of knowledge
that we have to have to design steel structures. They are packed with
information, well-presented and comprehensive, to allow us to do that.
But cheap they are not.
I know this is apropos of nothing, since you all will charge what you will
charge. I just wanted you to understand why it is that you hear murmurs of
kind from time to time.