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Letter to European Commission (Wiley-Blackwell)

Of possible interest.

Philip Lowe
Director-General Competition
European Commission
DG Competition
rue Joseph II / Jozef II straat 70
1000 Brussels

12 January 2007

Dear Mr Lowe

Recently, John Wiley & Sons Inc announced an agreement to 
purchase Blackwell Publishing (Holdings) Ltd, a publisher of 
academic books and journals.  As representatives of the primary 
customers of academic publications within Europe, we are deeply 
concerned that this transaction will have an adverse effect on 
prices and result in a further reduction in access to critical 
research information. Based on our experience with previous 
mergers in this industry and our initial analysis of this 
transaction, we urge that the DG for Competition investigate this 

CURL, EBLIDA, LIBER, SCONUL, and SPARC Europe represent the 
interests of university research and teaching libraries within 
Europe. We have joined together because of a shared concern over 
the impact of concentration amongst academic publishers on the 
prices and availability of research outputs.

Wiley's core business includes scientific, technical and medical 
(STM) journals, encyclopaedias, books, and online products and 
services. Blackwell publishes journals, nearly evenly distributed 
between STM and the social sciences and humanities, as well as 
academic books. In making the acquisitiion, Wiley will publish 
1,250 journals, making it the third largest academic journal 
publisher internationally. However, we believe that the 
disadvantages to the academic community from this merger are far 
greater than even this high number of titles would suggest.

Studies have shown that mergers in the publishing industry result 
in larger price increases than would be expected from inflation. 
Every journal produced by each publisher is unique - no two 
journal articles are identical and Wiley describe the material 
they publish as "must-have". Therefore, the norma market forces 
of competition do not come into play. If university staff and 
students need the content in a particular journal, the owners of 
that journal will be able to raise the price without fear that 
the library will go to a competitor. To re-coup their investment 
and raise profit margins Wiley will be able to raise prices 
knowing that the unique nature of the academic publishing market 
will allow them to do so with impunity. This was recognized in a 
recent study commissioned by your colleagues in DG-Research that 
showed that "publishers with large journal portfolios have an 
incentive to set higher prices." The study concluded that future 
acquisitions by large publishers should undergo scrutiny.

The continued consolidation of publishers in this market segment 
is harmful to competition and results in increased prices for 
customers, and therefore decreased availability of research 
findings, with consequent impact on the progress of innovation 
and economic and social development within Europe. The fact that 
journal publications are transitioning from paper to electronic 
format does not diminish the negative impacts of this acquisition 
or the level of our concerns. The large publishing groups are 
able to consolidate and increase their market share through 
acquisitions because their journals are sold to libraries in 
blocks of titles. The only way that libraries can meet the higher 
prices resulting from publisher acquisitions and mergers is by 
cancelling titles not part of these large blocks, i.e. those 
published by the smaller publishers. Large publishers are able, 
therefore, to exploit their monopolistic positions to further 
bundle their products, increase their market share, and squeeze 
out smaller competitors. We believe that the analyses of past 
acquisitions and mergers in this sector have not taken into 
account the way the primary consumers - libraries - purchase 
academic journls.

In September 2002, the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) in the UK 
concluded that "there is evidence to suggest that the market for 
STM journals may not be working well." On page 7 of the OFT 
Statement a list was given of the largest STM publishers in 1998. 
If the proposed purchase of Blackwell by Wiley were to take place 
the largest 15 publishers in 1998 would condense into just 9 

At the appropriate time, representatives of the library community 
would be pleased to meet with staff of the Commission to 
highlight how this transact ion is likely to have an adverse 
effect on prices, the availability of STM journals, and the 
economic benefits of innovation. In the meantime, we will 
continue to gather data to demonstrate the effects of this 
particular transaction and will forward results to you as we have 

Yours sincerely

Robin Green, Executive Director, CURL

Andrew Cranfield, Director, EBLIDA

Peter K Fox, Vice-President, LIBER

Toby Bainton, Secretary, SCONUL

David Prosser, Director, SPARC Europe

CURL, Consortium of Research Libraries

CURL (www.curl.ac.uk) is a nationally and internationally 
recognised partnership of 29 major research libraries, including 
24 university libraries, the UK's three national libraries, and 
the libraries of the Victoria and Albert Museum and the Wellcome 
Trust. CURL's mission is to increase the ability of research 
libraries to share resources and provide for the information 
needs of the local, national and international research 

EBLIDA, European Bureau of Library, Information and Documentation 

EBLIDA (www.eblida.org) is an independent non-governmental and 
non-commercial umbrella association of national library, 
information, documentation and archive associations and 
organisations in Europe.

LIBER, Ligue des Bibliotheques Europeennes de Recherche

LIBER (www.kb.dk/liber) is the principal association of the major 
research libraries of Europe. It was founded in 1971 under the 
auspices of the Council of Europe. Its current membership 
includes research libraries of more than thirty countries. LIBER 
actively promotes co-operation with al library-related 
organizations. It has strong links with the Council of Europe, 
the Commission of the European Communities (CEC), and the 
International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions 
(IFLA), as well as with national library associations.

SCONUL, Society of College, National and University Libraries

SCONUL, founded in 1950, is an association representing the heads 
of library and informationservices in all universities in the UK 
and Ireland (and in most other institutions of higher education 
inthe UK), together with the directors of the national libraries 
of the UK and Ireland. By sharing good practice, and facilitating 
collaborative schemes for the benefit of library users, SCONUL 
(www.sconul.ac.uk) promotes excellence in its constituent library 

SPARC Europe (http://www.sparceurope.org) is an alliance of 
European research libraries, library organizations, and research 
institutions. We advocate change in the scholarly communications 
market, support competition, and encourage new publishing models 
that better serve the international researcher community. We have 
over 110 members in 14 European countries, including 38 leading 
universities in the UK.