The Cigarette Papers

Issues in Publishing Materials in Multiple Formats

Karen Butter, Robin Chandler, and John Kunze
Library and Center for Knowledge Management
University of California, San Francisco,, and

D-Lib Magazine, November 1996
ISSN 1082-9873


The University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) Library and Center for Knowledge Management and the University of California Press (UC Press) have collaborated in the publication of a book on the World Wide Web. In May 1996, UC Press published the hardcover edition of The Cigarette Papers. The book offers a comprehensive analysis of internal documents from the Brown and Williamson Tobacco Company, the nation's third largest cigarette manufacturer. The Library and Center for Knowledge Management published the electronic edition of the book on the World Wide Web in July 1996. This was an important project for a number of reasons. It supports the scholarly work of UC San Francisco faculty with three of the five authors located on this campus. The publication strengthened the library's Tobacco Control Archives, a collection of papers, reports, and manuscripts that document California's leadership to regulate smoking. Additionally, the publication is a logical extension of another library electronic publishing project, the Brown and Williamson documents. Finally, the project offers both the press and the library an environment to better understand electronic publishing issues. This paper will describe the products resulting from the Brown and Williamson document collection - two Internet products, one hardcover book, a series of journal articles, and one compact disc (CD) - and comment on associated issues in electronic publications.

Brown and Williamson Documents

The Library's involvement in these projects came unexpectedly through the development of a Tobacco Control Archives, created to document tobacco control policies and the anti-smoking movement in California. Early in its development, the archives received two anonymous boxes containing records and papers from the Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corporation. The boxes arrived in Stanton Glantz's office, a professor at UCSF and an anti-tobacco activist. Sent anonymously by "Mr. Butts," the same materials were also received by Congressman Henry Waxman and New York Times reporter Philip Hilts.[1, 2, 3] The papers described the scientific research, marketing, and corporate policy from 1960s - 1980s, including studies reporting on the effects of nicotine. Glantz transferred the boxes to the library to add to its growing archival collection.

After processing the material at a minimal level, the Library offered public access to the paper collection. As the materials received increasing attention from the media, the tobacco company initiated legal action seeking return of the boxes.[4] When the University refused, Brown and Williamson sued the University of California demanding not only the return of the documents but the names of any individual who had used the material, the substance of their research and publications, and asked the courts to issue a Temporary Restraining Order on access to the documents until the case was decided.[5] Also, at this time, the library discovered that the tobacco company had hired private investigators to observe users of special collections even though the university had agreed to remove the documents from public circulation.[6]

Four months later, the California Superior Court rejected the move to suppress the material. The court said that the documents were not 'stolen' since the Library simply had copies which were leaked. The library's intent to publish the documents on the Internet and a CD ROM turned the case into a First Amendment issue similar to that of the Pentagon Papers. Thus, the courts were reluctant to block dissemination of the information to the public.[7] Since this was the first significant disclosure about the internal workings of a tobacco company and the documents themselves had generated considerable media attention, the Library staff anticipated significant demand from the general public. Publishing the collection electronically solved the access problem. Staff scanned, indexed, and published 8,000 pages on the Internet. At midnight on June 30, 1995, the Brown and Williamson documents were distributed as scanned graphical images on the World Wide Web through Galen II, the digital library for UCSF <>.[8] A CD ROM version was available for sale within a few months.

The library confronted several issues with this first project. First, from a public policy perspective, the material in the collection provided a window into the internal operations of a tobacco company. Its release created a climate for subsequent releases of 'secret' records from tobacco companies and offered evidence to support the proposed federal regulations limiting cigarette sales.

The collection also raised policy questions for archives staff. Archivists on an email discussion list debated the advisability of accepting material of uncertain provenance and the implications for future donations to archives. The nearly month-long international discussion focused ultimately on the responsibilities of archivists to their institution, their profession, and to the public at a time when Library of Congress and other major libraries and archives were facing similar issues. Archivists voiced concern about the credibility of repositories that collect business records, the influence that the Brown and Williamson collection would have on corporate archives records retention schedules, and the responsibility of archivists and archival repositories to make information available to the public. Summing up this latter discussion thread one archivist stated "archivists should avoid political advocacy as a profession, but we cannot shun the responsibility to promote the public's right to know."

The business model for this product was based upon free access through the Internet but charging for the CD product. The CD was priced to recover development costs. Despite free use on the web, individuals are willing to pay $250 for content in CD ROM format. Fortunately, the initial development expenses have been recovered with current sales. Free access did create significant use on the web. During the first year over 500,000 pages were viewed from 44,000 unique hosts. Interest in the material continues with 40,000 pages viewed in July 1996 more than a year after its release. Also, as expected, use of the material was recorded within minutes of its release on the web at midnight.

The Cigarette Papers Online

The Brown and Williamson documents were products in themselves, as freely distributed Internet documents, in CD-ROM format, and also as primary source material for articles and the book, The Cigarette Papers. The articles and book were based upon an in-depth analysis of the collection by five experts, three of whom are located at UCSF. Through indexing and analyzing the 8,000 pages from the Brown and Williamson collection the authors first prepared a set of articles published in Journal of the American Medical Association in July 1995 <http://www.ama->. At the same time, they expanded the articles with plans to sell manuscript rights to a commercial publisher. While the publishers who reviewed the manuscript thought the book had significant promise, their corporate lawyers were not willing to face possible legal challenges. The UC Press was the logical publisher since the university had succeeded in court.

The library viewed the book resulting from the in-depth analysis as an extension of the tobacco archives and approached UC Press about access to the electronic publishing rights. While technically there were few challenges in putting the digital content on the web, negotiations between the Press, the Library, and the authors took several months. Both the Press and the Library were struggling to agree upon costs that should be covered in the electronic version. The Library based its negotiations on a set of licensing principles adopted by the UC Libraries. One of the Principles for Acquiring and Licensing Information in Digital Format <> was that UC libraries would not pay costs associated with production of the paper edition. The model to which all parties finally agreed appropriated royalty payments to the press and the authors. The press's royalties cover a share of its first copy costs (not including print, paper, binding and distribution). The agreement also contains a sliding scale for royalties with larger payments for greater sales.

Costs and Benefits

In the negotiations, both the Press and the Library discussed charging and authentication options. While a one-time charge followed the book pricing model, the library favored one that would allow it to recover some of the continuous expenses associated with maintaining an electronic product. After considerable discussion, the subscription pricing with annual renewals was adopted. This would provide a steady stream of income to support maintenance and the possible addition of new content. Additionally, the subscription pricing offered an opportunity to cancel the agreement with appropriate notice to all parties. The one-time book pricing model implied perpetual access, a condition that the library could not accept. Authentication is accomplished in two ways, depending upon the type of subscription selected. For individual access passwords are issued. Institutional accounts are based upon the establishment of an IP subnet address. A modified Apache HTTP server supports both types of authentication.

Released in July 1996 the Internet version <> supports direct linkages from the text to the Brown and Williamson documents referenced in the book. The ability to search on each word in the text offers much broader access to the content than through the index of the paper product. In essence, the linkages offer readers immediate access to the same primary source material used by the authors in writing the book. The preface and first chapter have unrestricted access to permit potential subscribers to review the product prior to purchase. For those wanting to enter a subscription, the web address provides an order form and further information about the product.


Although experience with The Cigarette Papers Online is limited to a few months, a few aspects about the business issues are worth noting. Sales over the Internet have been disappointing. The significant number of sales of the hardcover book has not led to comparable sales online. The Library is investigating the reasons for this difference and will implement a new marketing plan in the next few months to increase awareness about the product. Based upon success with sales of the Brown and Williamson CD, discussions are beginning about the possibility of producing a CD of the electronic text that would contain all of the referenced Brown and Williamson documents. Neither the authors nor the press have been approached since the technical feasibility and costs are not yet determined. During the discussions about the economic model, librarians who participated in the product's development had to look at economic issues differently. Generally, librarians would prefer to price products as low as possible reflecting their concern about collection budgets. As a publisher, it is essential that the price recover costs causing some conflicting viewpoints. The final conclusion from this project is one that has been voiced often about electronic products. There is very little research about how individuals use information in electronic format and what they are willing to pay for on the Internet.

These projects were significant ventures for the UCSF Library and Center for Knowledge Management. They offered a unique testbed to learn more about online publishing models, they demonstrated new collaborative models, and they suggested possible new roles for libraries in the digital world.

[1] Hilts, Philip J. Way to Make Safer Cigarette was Found in 60's, but Idea was Shelved. New York Times. 1994 May 13:143;A10.

[2] Hilts, Philip J. Tobacco Company was Silent on Hazards. New York Times. 1994 May 7;143:1.

[3] Hilts, Philip J. Uneasy Days for Tobacco Makers. New York Times. 1994 May 1;143:E2.

[4] MacLachlan, Claudia. Tobacco 'Secret' in SF Library. National Law Journal. 1995 Feb 13;17(24):A6-7.

[5] Lehrman, Sally. University Blocks Efforts to Reveal Researcher's Identity. Nature. 1995 Mar 9;374(6518):195.

[6] Schwartz, John. Tobacco Firm Accused of Library 'Stake Out'. Washington Post. 1995 Feb 26;118:A7.

[7] Wiener, Jon. The Cigarette Papers. The Nation. 1996 Jan 1;262(1):13.

[8] University to Display Tobacco Documents. New York Times. 1994 Jul 4;144:8.

Copyright © 1996 Karen Butter, Robin Chandler, and John Kunze

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