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Re: Future of the "subscription model?"


I agree and disagree.  You are absolutely correct that libraries 
cannot continue to put up with price increases.  (I note that you 
call them "extortionate.")  No argument with this at all.  But 
you are talking as though publishers were a single entity.  They 
are not. There are thousands of them (and the numbers keep 
growing). Furthermore, they do not compete with libraries.  They 
compete with each other.

It is true that if all publishers raised their prices, libraries 
could not pay the freight.  But an individual publisher can raise 
a price and get away with it, provided that that publisher has 
materials that are central to a library's collection.  To fund 
that purchase, a library will cancel another publisher's journal 
(we agree on that). But it's no skin off the nose of the 
publisher whose materials you continue to purchase.  Heck, it's a 
win for that publisher because the publisher who lost out may 
exit the market.

I am not defending or attacking this situation.  I am simply 
trying to explain it.  I have written about this before at the 
Scholarly Kitchen:  http://j.mp/eEwmzo.  The cries of librarians 
are unheeded because they don't affect the economics of the 
winning publisher.

Of course, for a publisher to be a winner, whether with or 
without high prices, it takes an absolutely outstanding editorial 

This also raises the question of what libraries can do that would 
be effective, but it is clear in any event that complaining about 
the situation does not work, however warranted those complaints 
might be.

Joe Esposito

On Mon, Nov 7, 2011 at 4:09 PM, Rick Anderson 
<rick.anderson@utah.edu> wrote:

>>If publishers detect a pattern in which subscriptions are
>>cancelled and single-article sales are substituted for them,
>>then the price of single articles will rise.
> Well, exactly. I fully expect publishers to do whatever they can
> to continue realizing constantly-increasing revenues from their
> library customers. It's only reasonable that they should do so,
> especially given that they've been able to secure increasing
> revenues every year for the past few decades. The problem is that
> they're going to fail, because throughout those past decades, the
> curves of library budgets (which have tended to increase annually
> at low-single-digit rates) and journal prices (which have tended
> to increase at rates of 9-10% per year) have been headed for an
> inevitable and permanent divergence. Libraries have been warning
> publishers about this since as long ago as the 1970s; the
> standard response has been "Yeah, you keep saying there's a
> pricing crisis, but then you renew all your subscriptions." Now
> the divergence has come. Most of us can no longer redirect money
> from other budget areas to cover extortionate subscription price
> increases, so now we're cancelling, and some of us are doing so
> in great chunks. Publishers (in the aggregate) aren't going to be
> able to continue realizing annually-increasing revenues from
> libraries anymore for the same reason that you can't realize
> blood from a rock. Charging more for articles isn't going to help
> publishers at all, because the money they want simply isn't there
> to be had.
> ---
> Rick Anderson
> Assoc. Dean for Scholarly Resources & Collections
> J. Willard Marriott Library
> University of Utah
> rick.anderson@utah.edu