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Re: paper on libraries and publishers

Fred and onlookers,

My point would be that while publishers might go directly to the user, I
don't think my university would like to have a fiscal relationship with
Columbia's 23,000 students and 15,000 staff to support their reading
needs of 30,000 journals plus or minus.  Now one might say, don't
collect the money from the students and faculty in the first place or
just give the faculty and staff more money in their paycheck.  I'm not
sure of the number, but I think tuition accounts for only about 1/3 of
the revenues it takes to run most universities.  Good or bad, the "give
the money to the library and make people go through them for their
informational needs" model is still working.  In the past they had to
come through our wooden doors, now they just have to come through our
web gateway.


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". I have not seen any reaction to that
> paper, and that is a pity, because Andrew's thesis is one which librarians
> should take seriously. Perhaps like me you have been waiting for a long
> plane journey in order to read it; for me it was the flight to Philadelphia
> which provided the opportunity.
> Andrew's argument is that publishers have an opportunity to take over the
> role of libraries in providing access to journal literature because they
> can provide a cheaper service without the high overheads associated with
> maintaining a library. I would like to think that he is wrong but his
> reasoning is close enough to the truth for it to hurt. The main difficulty
> I have with his paper is that I am not sure that he is right to attribute
> such high costs to journal acquisition and processing within libraries. As
> with any attempt to analyse publishing costs, so with library costs,
> disaggregating the various elements is hazardous. The other problem is that
> library costs tend to be amortized over a long period, and you can present
> the figures as higher or lower according to the time-span you choose. On
> the other hand, whichever way you look at the figures, acquiring journals
> and making them accessible to readers is an expensive process, in some
> situations possibly a higher cost than the cost of the subscriptions. The
> other side of the costing argument is equally uncertain. Could publishers
> (or perhaps would publishers) provide a cheaper service direct to users
> than libraries can? Andrew Odlyzko's argument is that their opportunity
> lies in the switch to electronic publication.
> The advantage publishers have in this situation is that they have the
> commercial imperative. They have to change in order to continue to make a
> profit. Librarians may feel safe, embedded so firmly in the structure of
> their institutions that they do not realise the need to change. That is
> where a paper like Andrew's is valuable. I do think that librarians have to
> pay more attention than they have in the past to the internal costs of
> acquiring and making available journal literature. Too often we have
> concentrated on the external cost, i.e. the sum we pay to the publisher.
> How vulnerable we are on the costs of running the service varies from
> institution to institution, but we should keep a wary eye upon any
> commercial predators who may tempt our institution to out-source journal
> article supply.
> 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
> At 17:54 20/01/99 EST, Andrew Odlyzko wrote:
> >A paper on the changing roles of libraries and publishers is available in
> >several formats (text, .tex, .ps, .pdf) at
> >
> >        http://www.research.att.com/~amo/doc/eworld.html
> >
> >An abstract is enclosed below.  Comments are invited.
> >
> >Andrew Odlyzko