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

While I very much agree with Rick's general point, I do object to his use of the term vendor, when what he is clearly talking about is publishers. And independent editors and publishers, both small and of medium size, have been the drivers of creative and entrepreneurial publishing activity historically. Would anyone care to cite major new content initiatives(as opposed to delivery systems) from formerly independent houses once they have been absorbed by the Elsevier/Thomson/Pearson conglomerates? I do exempt Wiley from this comment as, though they have become quite large, they remain independent and entrepreneurial.

Dick Gottlieb
Grey House Publishing

----- Original Message -----
From: "Rick Anderson" <rickand@unr.edu>
To: <liblicense-l@lists.yale.edu>
Sent: Friday, December 08, 2006 5:42 PM
Subject: 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