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Consortia and consolidation (RE: Information Access Alliance Takes Action on Proposed Wiley Acquisition of Blackwell)

> As a friend noted to me, a principal driver for these mergers 
> is the need to get more influence with library consortia, whose 
> fundamental structure favors the largest publishers.

A few years ago I made some of my colleagues angry by arguing in 
a public forum that when libraries band together to drive down 
prices, one inevitable result is the driving out of small and 
medium-sized vendors from the low-margin areas of the information 
marketplace (like bookselling).  It seems pretty obvious to me 
that if the only way you can do business with a group of 
libraries is by offering deep discounts, then only big vendors 
(who command bigger publisher discounts, may be more diversified 
and may be able to loss-lead in certain regions) will be able to 
do business with that group of libraries.  I guess it shouldn't 
come as too much of a surprise that a similar dynamic obtains in 
the journal-publishing business.

This isn't to say that consortial purchasing is a bad thing -- I 
think consortia are a good thing and my library is an 
enthusiastic participant in several of them.  But just because 
something is good doesn't mean it comes at no cost, and I think 
one price we pay for aggressive consortial negotiation is 
consolidation of vendors.

Rick Anderson
Dir. of Resource Acquisition
University of Nevada, Reno Libraries
(775) 784-6500 x273