[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]

Re: The embargo debate: tenor and motivations

I first of all apologize to Mr. Price and Proquest; it was not my
intention to cite them as particularly bad offenders, or as those
originating the problem.  I agree that it is not productive at this time
to discuss the issue of which company started it, or even who is now most
at fault. The problem is how to stop it.

The purpose of an aggregator is to offer a low-cost method of obtaining
some access to a wide range of titles. The purpose of a publisher is to
obtain as wide an access as possible to his particular title.

When a publisher chooses to give a title to an aggregator on an exclusive
basis, whether at the insistence of the publisher or the offer of the
aggregator, he is limiting the distribution and readership of the title to
that particular aggregator's customers, which cannot be for his benefit,
financially or otherwise. When an aggregator accepts a publishers contract
to publish on an exclusive basis or solicits such a contract, he is not
providing access to as wide a range of titles as possible, because other
publishers will inevitably do likewise with other aggregators.

If a publisher wishes to provide an electronic version of his title, and
is not prepared to do so independently, there are now a wide range of
services that will do this, and make it available on a permanent basis to
all who wish to buy that particular publication. If he then chooses to
also make it available on a impermanent or other rough-and-ready basis to
any aggregator, he may earn a modest additional sum; if he feels it will
cannibalize his sales, he can either place an embargo, or not distribute
it that way at all.

Libraries of different sorts will approach the question of what aggregator
to buy differently. Libraries such as public or small academic libraries
who rely on them for the majority of their periodical needs will look for
the widest range of appropriate titles. Research libraries who rely on
them as supplementary sources of out-of-scope or semi-popular titles will
look for an mix appropriate to complement their regular collection. Any
library foolish enough to buy an entire package just to get access to a
particular title, will find itself needing to buy every possible package,
and will be encouraging a destructive cycle of upwards prices.  I find it
hard to imagine a situation where this would be an appropriate use of
limited funds for any library--paper copies of these publications
generally are still available and may be the best choice.

I continue to consider it questionable behavior of any publisher to offer
or accept an exclusive to a single aggregator, and equally questionable of
any aggregator to offer or accept such an arrangement. Apart from ethics,
it is economic folly--the aggregators who participate will bid each other
upwards out of existence. It would be a shame to lose their particular
role in the industry, because it fills a multitude of needs for many
different libraries.

I wish to thank those who encouraged me to give a more even-handed
statement of my position.

Dr David Goodman
Biology Librarian 
and Digital Resources Researcher
Princeton University Library
Princeton, NJ 08544-0001
phone: 609-258-3235
fax: 609-258-2627
e-mail: dgoodman@princeton.edu