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Re: Future of the "subscription model?"

Rick this cuts both ways. First, OK, let's concede that a handful 
of top tier journals are "must have." And so libraries which have 
researchers in certain fields have to pay through the nose for 
some - some - of Big Publishings products. But in my 30 years 
plus in this business, it seems to me libraries have little 
grasped that Big Publishing needs you, the university library, as 
much as I (small publisher) do. And while librarians may be adept 
at saying 'take it or leave it' to the smaller pubishers, the 
community seems far less capable of doing that to Big Publishing, 
which has been one of the ways this hugely skewed market has 

Few librarians grasp that EXXXXXXX is, for example, our company 
with a few noughts on the end of the balance sheet. Very recently 
the library of a large technological university in Europe wanted 
to acquire 13 of our titles. They wanted a discount, fair enough, 
so we offered them one. But, in fact, after negotiating, what I 
was to take or leave was a price some 30% lower than our offer, 
effectively diminishing over time as the built-in increase was 
only 2%, i.e., less than inflation.

Did I say 'hop it'? Of course not, I'm not going to turn down an 
order for a few thousand dollars. And is a large publisher going 
to turn down an order for a few tens of thousands, or hundreds of 
thousands, even though it's 30% less than it wanted?

Libraries have the willpower and skillset to play hardball with 
small publishers, but will they apply those talents to their 
dealings with big publishing? The result is a market so skewed 
that some people believe complex initiatives like Open Access 
provide the solution to library budgets.

Best wishes
Bill Hughes 
Multi-Science Publishing

----- Original Message -----
From: "Rick Anderson" <rick.anderson@utah.edu>
To: <liblicense-l@lists.yale.edu>
Sent: Saturday, November 12, 2011 12:35 AM
Subject: 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
> rick.anderson@utah.edu