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Re: The embargo debate: tenor and motivations

Clive Hoey (clive.hoey@rim.co.uk) sends the following message:

Dear Ann

I follow Liblicense with interest although I don't subscribe to the list.
If you think this is of relevance, could you post it for me?
In response to David's point about publisher motivations for embargoes and
exclusivity.... Working for both journal and news publishers I've licensed
content under various scenarios. My rule of thumb is:

1) an embargo is deemed necessary where the aggregator sells into the same
core market. Basically an embargo reduces the chance of a library
canceling the primary subscription in favour of the aggregated database
(causing loss of revenue to the publisher).

The rational behind these relationships is basically to make the content
more widely accessible. In some cases - but not all - proprietary
databases are deeper and more sophisticated within a narrow subject field,
whereas aggregated databases have the advantage of having loads of content
(for wider searching) - so just by playing ball with the aggregator, the
publisher can serve a different set of benefits. And it might get the
content more widely disseminated, bring some extra revenue from the
content etc. The embargo is simply a safety net for the publisher. Well,
that's the plan.

2) an exclusive license is usually granted where a) the aggregator waves
big wads of cash at the publisher and b) where the publisher isn't
particularly bothered about working with the other options in the first

An interesting point is that it isn't always to the publisher's advantage
to have deals with multiple aggregators. Some aggregators might compete at
with the publisher's core products at other levels. Also some corporate
customers will simply refuse to duplicate content - so if they are using
two aggregators and the level of overlap is too great, then you end up not
selling anything. Depending on the nature of the content and related
market conditions, its sometimes a case of putting all your eggs in the
right basket.

Just talking from my experience - I'm sure that other publishers are
influenced by many other factors.

Clive Hoey 
Executive Producer
Regional Interactive Media       
PO Box 168, Wellington Street, Leeds, LS1 1RF, UK
* +44 (0) 113 238 8100
* clive.hoey@rim.co.uk                  www.rim.co.uk


David Carlson wrote:
My two cents:
It's unfortunate, I think, that the current debate on embargoes seems to
be turning in to something of an Ebsco vs. ProQuest marketing debate. I'm
not sure I have a winning suggestion to address this. I think some of the
numbers and analysis recently presented are interesting and informative
but I hope the discussion is more generic and less "he said, she said" (or
rather: Ebsco said, ProQuest said....). I know vendor representatives have
biases -- and that's fine. I'm also sure they're writing the truth as they
know it, or at least are presenting their particular truths as they see
them and want them to be presented. OK.
The data IS informative but whatever the numbers, it is not that Ebsco is
the bad guy and ProQuest the good; or vice versa. Stating the obvious: it
is our job, as librarians, to evaluate the content of these databases, the
cost, the interface, the relevance to our needs AND the level and use of
embargoes (as well as other factors) to make the best possible selection
decisions for our institutions that we can make. We get paid for this.
Other than this, I would like to make one comment on the content of the
discussion. I find it logical that an aggregator, such as Ebsco or
ProQuest, would *not* prefer embargoes. This only makes business sense. If
I, as a vendor, could offer you a full text database where all the titles
have no embargo periods (and all the children are above average....) this
is a clear marketing and strategic advantage. I don't think any aggregator
would try to get titles with embargoes (unless there were cost factors
which would make an embargo-less title too expensive for inclusion
otherwise). I can readily understand, however, why *publishers* might
require embargoes of titles in aggregator databases. The motivations are
obvious. It would be nice to hear from publishers in this regard.
I do not, however, see the same logic and motivation with exclusivity
agreements. I can understand why aggregators would prefer and even recruit
for exclusive agreements with publishers -- as long as they felt it was
cost-effective relative to the value of the publication. I agree with
others who have expressed their concern about this development. Its
implications have concerns at several levels.
David Carlson Director of Libraries Bridgewater State College Bridgewater,
MA 02325 Work: 508-531-1256 Fax: 508-531-5255
 <<mailto:dcarlson@bridgew.edu>> dcarlson@bridgew.edu 
 <<http://www.bridgew.edu/library>> www.bridgew.edu/library