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Re: Future of the "subscription model?"

>Libraries need to grasp that the more Big Publishing dominates 
>the market, the more demanding it will become, and for that 
>reason it is in the interests of libraries to do what they can 
>to support smaller publishers, to encourage diversity in the 
>supplier base.

Believe me, librarians grasp these things perfectly well. The 
problem is that subscribing to journals isn't like buying cars. 
With rare and well-funded exceptions, we don't select journals by 
going out into a competitive marketplace and trying to find the 
best product for the best price we can get. The journals we 
subscribe to are the journals our faculty members tell us they 
need in order to do their work. If we respond by saying "But that 
journal is from Megapublisher X, and we're already giving that 
publisher 35% of our serials budget. In order to encourage 
diversity in the marketplace, we need to spend more of our money 
with other, smaller publishers -- many of which offer journals 
just as good as the one you're requesting," their rejoinder will 
be "Are you crazy? The journal I'm requesting is the core journal 
in my field. I don't care who publishes it; as things stand now, 
I can't hire faculty in my department because when they find out 
the library doesn't subscribe to that journal they withdraw from 
consideration." (That, by the way, is a virtually direct quote 
from one of the associate deans on my campus.)

This isn't the fault of publishers, by the way. It's simply the 
way the information marketplace works. Copyright is a monopoly 
right, and that means that each journal article is a 
nonsubstitutable commodity. You get it from the copyright holder, 
or you don't get it (or anything functionally like it) at all.

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