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Consortia advantages?, was: Re: paper on libraries and publishers

At Phila. I have just presented my view that consortia do not save
administrative costs--at least for the most common type of consortia
involving US academic libraries, such as NERL, where the participant
libraries each decide which of the products they want to acquire. As
several frustrated salesman have told me, it is probably even more
complicated and time-consuming to persuade each of the libraries to buy
than if they were buying individually. Whether the publisher's support
goes to the end user directly or the libraries it costs the same; the set
up costs are the same; the distribution costs are the same.

I think these consortia succeed because of the snowball effect--since our
counterparts are buying we will too, and because of salemanship--get this
offer while it lasts. If a publisher can afford to offer an advantageous
price to a group, that publisher can afford to offer the same price to
those libraries individually; indeed at the (lower) price there may well
be additional sales to other libraries.

This does not necesarily apply to consortia such as found in the UK and
several US states, where all the libraries get the same materials, and the
effect of averaging different requirements comes into play. Here (at least
as applies to journals, not databases) the objection, as stated by various
postings on this list, is that a publisher blanket arrangment (consortial
or otherwise) destroys any incentive the publisher has to maintain or
improve the quality of the journals, as the libraries are now committed to
purchase them all in any case. If such arrangements are to be subsidized,
then I suggest considering in detail whether other possible plans, such as
those discussed in Andrew Odlyzko's paper, might be preferable.

David Goodman, Princeton University Biology Library				
dgoodman@princeton.edu            609-258-3235

On Wed, 3 Feb 1999, Fred Friend wrote:

> Two weeks ago Andrew Odlyzko posted the URL for a paper he has written on
> "Competition and co-operation: libraries and publishers in the transition
> to electronic scholarly journals"
> ...
> To end this contribution on a positive note, I do believe that two
> developments are enabling us to reduce costs : the electronic revolution
> which is benefiting libraries as well as publishers, and the use of
> consortia to save administrative costs. 
> Fred Friend