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As a member of the 'steering committee' which, on behalf of library and
publisher creditors, has been trying to move things along, perhaps I can
give a short summary of how things stand.

As I'm sure you all know by now, divine (the parent company) announced
before Christmas that it was unable to fund the continuing operations of
the RoweCom subscription agency.  Two other agents made offers to take
over all or part of the business, but one pulled out;  EBSCO have now
signed an agreement to purchase RoweCom Europe, and look likely to do so
for the rest of the business in the very near future.

EBSCO are honouring all the obligations of RoweCom Europe in full, which
means that publishers will receive all of their money (albeit slightly
delayed) and libraries will get their journals.  However, the situation is
not quite so clear-cut for the non-European part of the business.  
EBSCO's offer will not cover the entire deficit, which is thought to be
between $50 and $80m.  RoweCom USA is in the process of a reconstruction
bankruptcy (the creditors' committee was recently appointed) and some more
money is likely to be recovered through this.  Nevertheless, the entire
deficit is not expected to be covered, and so publishers will only receive
a proportion of the money due to them (and likewise libraries, if they
decide to cancel their orders and take them elsewhere).

Most publishers have extended their normal grace period for EBSCO
customers while the situation is resolved.  We are now very hopeful that
the majority of publishers will sign an agreement - to be issued next week
- to supply journals for the whole of 2003, on two conditions.  One is
that the libraries' rights as creditors are transferred to the publishers
who agree to go on supplying journals;  the other is that the libraries do
all they can to continue those subscriptions into 2004.  Publishers are
also asked to retain their existing discount rate with EBSCO for the next
three years;  not all are happy about this, but it's a lot better than
losing the library orders altogether.

Libraries are also being asked to keep their business with RoweCom's
successor, EBSCO;  the amount EBSCO are willing to pay will be reduced
proportionately as libraries take their business elsewhere.  This means
that there will be less money available, both to pay those publishers who
are willing to go on supplying journals, and to refund to those librarians
who choose to get out.  So - counter-intuitive as it may seem - not
cancelling your RoweCom orders is actually the best thing librarians can

A listserv has been set up at
<http://groups.yahoo.com/group/rowecomcreditors> and 'Files' in the
left-hand menu gives signed-up list members access to all the relevant
documents, including the agreement form mentioned above (I hope it will
also be possible to make it available at www.alpsp.org in a few days'
time).  I would encourage both publishers and librarians to sign and
return it without delay.



Sally Morris, Secretary-General
Association of Learned and Professional Society Publishers
South House, The Street, Clapham, Worthing, West Sussex BN13 3UU, UK

Phone:  01903 871686 Fax:  01903 871457 E-mail:  sec-gen@alpsp.org
ALPSP Website  http://www.alpsp.org