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Re: The embargo debate: tenor and motivations

Vince, although much of what you say is good common sense, , there is one
point to which I take the greatest possible objection:

"Price, Vince" wrote:

> As discussed in a prior thread on this list, the pursuit of strategic
> exclusives started about one year ago. It is clear that the goal is to
> limit library choice to drive increased market share. ProQuest is
> responsible to our subscribers to defend our products in light of this
> strategy. We recently secured and announced preferred agreements with two
> major scholarly publishers that were formerly exclusive with another
> vendor. The result is that a large number of titles will return to
> ProQuest and will be halted in a competitor's databases in 2002. If we
> extend this case study, libraries can expect an increase in the number of
> exclusive titles as vendors try to carve out an advantage. Further, these
> exclusives will move from vendor to vendor every few years as vendors work
> to overcome a competitor's advantage. Thus titles will constantly be
> moving around making all databases more volatile. Finally we should expect
> costs to rise because exclusives are expensive.
>  Does the strategy support the underlying needs of libraries? Is
> it sustainable? Will libraries reward the vendor that builds the largest
> number of exclusive titles? Aggregators will watch the last question very
> closely.

I have long had great respect for your company and its products, and am
consequently more than a little startled to find you admitting that
inducing exclusive titles to move to you from a competitor is a deliberate
and continuing policy--and one which will benefit libraries! It would be
much more useful to induce these titles to become non-exclusive.

I think the pursuit of exclusive titles is harmful in the extreme to all
libraries, because it induces us to subscribe to multiple largely
overlapping aggregations. The practical effect on a large library is not
to cause the library to move to the agency with the most exclusives, but
to need to add additional aggregators. My university now has 6; a year ago
it had 4.  Almost all titles are at least duplicated over the various
products. Every dollar we spend on getting an additional aggregator to
meet the demand for its unique titles is money we cannot spend on the
proper purchase of permanent access to journals.

In selecting aggregators we look for the maximal full page image content
that is additional to the titles we hold full subscriptions to, or at
least additional to the titles we hold in print but not electronically. If
there is strong demand for a specific important title we will get it one
way or another. We are trying to supplement, not duplicate, our regular

Every exclusive title makes this harder.  Rather than being ProQuest is
"responsible to our subscribers to defend our products" by adding
exclusive, you should be responsible to your subscribers by refusing
exclusives. This will promote better access to material, which is the
ostensible purpose of your organization and of ours'.

You ask "Will libraries reward the vendor that builds the largest number
of exclusive titles?" Here's my answer (I speak only for myself, and not
for my Library): your statements give me good reason when we next consider
these products to advocate that we discontinue Proquest, as a company
engaging in dubious competitive practices. Given your statement that "we
should expect costs to rise because exclusives are expensive," I would
imagine that many others will decide the same.

Best wishes, and my hopes for a rapid recovery of your principles, -- Dr.
David Goodman Biology Library and Digital Resources Advisory Group

Princeton University Library
Princeton, NJ 08544-0001
phone: 609-258-3235
fax: 609-258-2627
e-mail: dgoodman@princeton.edu