[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]

Re: Future of the "subscription model?"

On 10/25/11 7:19 PM, "Rick Anderson" <rick.anderson@utah.edu> 

>> What do you all imagine as the future of the "subscription 
>> model" for purchasing academic library collections?  Is it 
>> alive and well and growing or is it on its way out, supplanted 
>> by memberships, open access, and a growing variety of other 
>> options for obtaining publications, particularly electronic?

> When a library subscribes to a journal, it's saying to the
> publisher "I'll pay you up front to send me all the articles
> published under the rubric of Journal X for a year, regardless of
> how many of those articles turn out to be of any actual use or
> interest to my patrons." In the print environment we had no
> choice but to buy articles that way, but in the online
> environment that level of waste isn't necessary anymore, and our
> shrinking budgets are making it much harder to justify. It makes
> much more sense to let  pay only for those articles that actually
> get used.

But the current pay for play on these is extraordinarily high. 
It wouldn't take that long to rack up the full subscription costs 
when you're paying $50-200 for single articles.  Isn't that a 
deal breaker?

On the other hand, since it is hard to tell which will get used 
in advance what about the California University system's model 
(discussed by Ivy at the ARL/CNI) of doing really careful metrics 
about value for each article--and then using this as a bargaining 
chip in negotiations?  If this could be mainstreamed it would 
seem like a good way of putting more strength on the side of 
libraries in making these arrangements.

> There are several problems with that approach, one of which is 
> that we're functioning in a scholarly economy that has been 
> significantly shaped by the necessary inefficiencies of the 
> print environment. Publishers can't make as much money selling 
> only the articles that people want as they can selling articles 
> in 12-month bundles. This means that to the degree that the 
> marketplace for articles becomes more rational and efficient, 
> those publishers that have benefitted (however unintentionally) 
> from the inefficiencies of the old system are going to suffer. 
> That's a real problem, and I'm not sure what the solution to it 
> is. But I'm pretty sure that the long-term solution will not 
> involve libraries paying for articles their patrons don't want, 
> because the money to do so just isn't there anymore.

A lot of truth to all of this, and perhaps if there was a massive 
and coordinated shift by scholars to Open Access publishing in 
the near future. But as you pointed out a few weeks ago, there 
are veritable oceans of data locked behind those paywalls.  It 
may not be as big a deal in sciences, business and other 
disciplines with a shorter horizon of scholarly interest (i.e. 
Where the primary interest is in access to the latest work) but 
in the humanities and social science, a good portion of the 
access granted by the subscription fee is access to the archive. 
How will libraries get around this without continuing to pay 

Sorry if this is a commonly covered topic, I'm new to the list.


Sean Johnson Andrews, PhD
ACLS Public Fellow, 2011-2013
NITLE Program Officer
National Institute for Technology in Liberal Education
1001 East University Avenue | Georgetown, Texas 78626
http://www.nitle.org | tel. 703-597-6948 | fax 512 819-7684