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Re: Essay by Rick Anderson

Rick's piece is indeed thought-provoking and offers a challenge to
all scholarly publishers to think creatively about changing revenue
streams in the future. I offer a few observations pertinent to
university presses, some of which were elaborated at greater length
in the earlier discussion started by Eric Hellman with his posting
about "ebook acquisitions collectives":

1) Remember that, while Joe and I disagree over how much university
presses are still reliant on the library market, we do agree about
the diversity of revenue streams that presses currently pursue. (This
is true, to a certain extent, for many commercial academic publishers
also.) Streams that do not go through the library market, or include
it only as a small part, are regional titles, trade books,  and
paperbacks for course adoption.  There are difficulties with some of
these markets, too, but they are for different reasons than what
libraries are confronting.

2) It remains true that, for presses that have journals programs, the
income from them is usually sufficient not only to cover their
operating costs but to contribute to cross-subsidization of monograph
publishing. (One reason presses are probably not anxious to
substitute OA for the subscription model is that this internal
subsidization would likely disappear or decrease significantly.)

3) Digital printing technology has opened the door to inventory-free
publishing. E.g., it is now possible for a scholarly publisher to
offer paperbacks for course use without printing a single copy in
advance but simply using POD to provide copies whenever an instructor
wants to use a book for a class. An extension of this approach would
be Eric Hellman's idea of consortium purchasing where the press would
print to order and no inventory would ever have to be kept on hand.
(Essentially, the self-publishing industry--with over 700,000 new
titles annually--works this way now.)

4) University presses are likely not to be in as good a position as
large commercial publishers like Elsevier to compete in the services
market (Rick's 4th option) simply because they are undercapitalized
and do not have the resources to develop sophisticated systems that
would be marketable to libraries.

5) While Rick notes that copyright law is a "hindrance" to
competition at the level of pricing, he seems to be unaware that, in
theory at least, present law does allow for undercutting the
competition in the following way: if yours is a university press
attached to a state institution, the 11th Amendment's provision for
immunity allows your press to republish anything published by a
private publisher (whether a university press at a private university
or any commercial publisher) and pricing it in any way you want
without exposing you to a suit for damages for copyright
infringement. This is a flaw in the current legal system of copyright
that Congress has failed to correct after a series of Supreme Court
decisions beginning in the late 1990s established the supremacy of
11th Amendment immunity for state entities in IP cases. This loophole
has not, to my knowledge, been exploited by anyone, and it is
possible that other laws regarding "unfair competition" might come
into play here, so for the time being this is simply a theoretical
possibility. (Mary Beth Peters offers a good discussion of this
problem here: http://www.copyright.gov/docs/regstat72700.html.)

6) Joe refers us to his "Library Bypass" piece, but it is also the
proposal for a university press joint online catalogue that he mapped
out for the Mellon Foundation that points to another way in which
presses could enhance sales directly to individuals.

Sandy Thatcher

>I imagine that members of this list have already seen this fine,
>provocative essay by Rick Anderson (on this list), but just in case,
>here is the link:
>Anderson analyzes publishers' options in the wake of the current
>library funding crisis.  I wrote about some of these points,
>especially Anderson's point #3, in "What is Library Bypass?"
>Joe Esposito

Sanford G. Thatcher
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