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

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.")

Yes -- I confess to a tinge of bitterness after recent 
experiences with a few publishers whose price increases have been 
particularly stunning. But I stand by that characterization even 
as applied to the average science journal price increase, which 
at last measurement was somewhere around 9.5%. Such increases are 
experienced by libraries as "extortion" because there is no 
competition, and often high demand, and we're therefore 
increasingly stuck in the extremely difficult position of 
choosing between canceling high-demand titles and making money 
appear out of thin air.

> Furthermore, they do not compete with libraries.  They compete 
> with each other.

Well, sort of. They certainly compete with each other for 
authors. But they don't compete for subscribers in the same way, 
because the product they sell is non-substitutable. If one of my 
patrons wants an article from an ACS journal that I can no longer 
afford to provide because ACS decided my consortium ought to be 
paying 30% more than it has been, he's not going to be satisfied 
by another article on a similar topic from another journal. ACS 
has no competitor in that sense: it is the sole source for its 

> 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).

You're absolutely right, and the reason I do that is that it's 
unwieldy to always say "most publishers of the specific 
scientific journals that my patrons demand most urgently." 
However, the point you're making is actually one that I often 
make among my colleagues -- that it doesn't make sense to talk 
about "publishers" as if they were all [fill in the name of your 
least favorite here]. So I should be more careful about that 

> 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.

Exactly. And you're right that complaining about the situation 
doesn't help, for all the reasons you subsequently outlined. I 
realize that my postings on this thread have probably sounded 
like complaints, or maybe even like what you have previously 
characterized as "pleas for mercy." But honestly, that's not how 
I intend them. I'm just responding to Ann's call for predictions. 
I don't expect most publishers of high-priced science journals to 
stop raising their prices by 9-10% per year; I only expect some 
of those publishers to go out of business while at the same time 
libraries play host to more and more angry visits from professors 
who are scandalized that Journal X has been canceled.

The really sad thing is that other publishers are going to go out 
of business first -- the ones who publish journals we might want 
to keep, but won't be able to because their content isn't as 
centrally important to the mission of my university. So I'll have 
to cancel those first in order to retain access to our ACS and 
Wiley journals. Then eventually I'll have to choose between the 
ACS and Wiley journals. Then eventually I'll have to cancel the 
ones I chose. That's not a complaint; it's just an observation of 
what's inevitable unless either budgets or pricing trends make a 
dramatic change in trajectory.

Rick Anderson
Assoc. Dean for Scholarly Resources & Collections
J. Willard Marriott Library
University of Utah