The Librarians’ Dilemma: Contemplating the Costs of the “Big Deal” (2001)

“The most important thing that librarians can do to change the rules of the game is to invest in bold new experiments in scholarly communication; by which experiments I mean The Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC) partners such as MIT CogNet, BioOne, Columbia Earthscape, New Journal of Physics, Project Euclid, and others.

In investing in these new forms of scholarly communication, we are steadily building the publishing infrastructure so that future scholars may never have to publish in an expensive commercial journal in order to be academically successful. Despite the fact that we are spending a small percentage of our budgets compared to the Big Deals, these initiatives are profoundly subversive to the commercial publishing system — and the commercial publishers know it….”

Europe’s open-access drive escalates as university stand-offs spread

“Sweden is latest country to hold out on journal subscriptions, while negotiators share tactics to broker new deals with publishers.

Bold efforts to push academic publishing towards an open-access model are gaining steam. Negotiators from libraries and university consortia across Europe are sharing tactics on how to broker new kinds of contracts that could see more articles appear outside paywalls. And inspired by the results of a stand-off in Germany, they increasingly declare that if they don’t like what publishers offer, they will refuse to pay for journal access at all. On 16 May, a Swedish consortium became the latest to say that it wouldn’t renew its contract, with publishing giant Elsevier. Under the new contracts, termed ‘read and publish’ deals, libraries still pay subscriptions for access to paywalled articles, but their researchers can also publish under open-access terms so that anyone can read their work for free. Advocates say such agreements could accelerate the progress of the open-access movement. Despite decades of campaigning for research papers to be published openly — on the grounds that the fruits of publicly funded research should be available for all to read — scholarly publishing’s dominant business model remains to publish articles behind paywalls and collect subscriptions from libraries (see ‘Growth of open access’). But if many large library consortia strike read-and-publish deals, the proportion of open-access articles could surge….”

Guest Post: From Supermarkets to Marketplaces – The Evolution of the Open Access Ecosystem – The Scholarly Kitchen

“Editor’s Note: Today’s post is by Sven Fund. Sven is the Managing Director of Knowledge Unlatched and founder of fullstopp, a digital consulting agency serving publishers, libraries, and intermediaries. From 2008 to 2015, Sven was the CEO of Berlin-based publisher De Gruyter. Prior to that he served in different functions from Managing Director to Executive Board member at what is now Springer Nature. He is a lecturer at Humboldt University in Berlin.

Open access (OA) is undergoing yet another metamorphosis. So far, the space has been dominated by author-pays (via Article Processing Charges – APCs) models, both hybrid and “pure”. And while funders like Wellcome and the German Research Foundation are reviewing their policies – many of them a decade old by now – it is becoming ever clearer that APCs will not be the future of OA, at least not uniquely. With their normative approach of flipping traditional acquisition budgets, Ralf Schimmer, Kai Geschuhn and Andreas Vogler have been advocating in principle that which is now becoming reality: i.e. that in order to really shake up the academic publishing market, other transactional models are necessary….

To make OA really work, libraries have to cooperate and co-spend in order to shift the market-shaping from publishers to themselves. Publishers are structured like supermarkets: They operate as global consortia around their own products, generating demand, shouldering financial risk and investments and in the process generating profit. As long as libraries or other agents are not prepared to supersede this role with a better structure, the underlying problem will remain….”

The Race to the Bottom – Short-term Bargains versus Long-term Vitality – The Scholarly Kitchen

“It’s tempting to blame faceless corporate overlords for this, but I believe consumers are the actual culprits (and, in a sort of justice, victims). By being cheapskates, they have driven the bargains, supported the leaders, and tolerated the deals that are now coming back to haunt them….

In the midst of this short-term thinking is a set of irreconcilable ideas, namely the idea that publishers have to charge less and do more — manage more business models, deal with endless mandates and the related compliance complexity, review and reject more papers, invent and validate new impact measures, create and promulgate more and better technology, and support every little notion about research outputs academia can dream up, from text- and data-mining to open data….”

Universities must present a united front against rising journal costs, research librarians say | University Affairs | Canada

“The Canadian Association of Research Libraries proposes that institutions renegotiate unsustainable deals with journal publishers and transition toward open access.

For years, academic libraries have struggled to keep up with the rising costs of journal subscriptions set by a few large, international publishers. The situation “is now getting to a point of crisis,” according to the Canadian Association of Research Libraries, which recently published a briefing paper, with input from the Canadian Research Knowledge Network, to inform university administrators of the challenges and to propose solutions.

The paper notes that scholarly journal prices have risen by five to seven percent per year since 2011. This is part of a larger trend of “excessive price increases” that has been happening over the past three decades, exacerbated by the weakening of the Canadian dollar and tightening university budgets, according to CARL.

Donna Bourne-Tyson, president of CARL and university librarian at Dalhousie University, says information sharing among universities and consortia is crucial to renegotiating deals with journal publishers. “We have a pretty good sense of how each country is faring with large publishers, although we are still working against the constraints of a non-disclosure agreement in some cases,” she said. “Part of the problem is, if we aren’t able to compare apples to apples, we don’t even know what a fair price is.”…”

Taylor & Francis scraps extra charges after university protests | The Bookseller

“Taylor & Francis has backtracked over plans to charge extra for access to older research papers online, after more than 110 universities signed a letter of protest.

The latest renewal of UK universities’ deal with the publisher, which is yet to be signed, only covers papers published in the last 20 years, reported Times Higher Education. Research released before this would have to be bought in a separate package by university.

The 20-year span of papers included in the main deal would have moved forward in time with each year. This would mean the archive would increase and costs would escalate further as researchers attempted to access papers from 1997 onwards, described by academics as the beginning of the born digital record. 

In an open letter dated 13th February, head librarians from more than 110 UK and Irish institutions, as well as representatives from Research Libraries UK, the Society of College, National and University Libraries (Sconul), and the Irish Universities Association, urged Taylor & Francis to drop the extra charges.

“A “moving wall” approach for non-subscribed titles within the journal package will increase administration activities and costs substantially for libraries and for Taylor & Francis, impose direct additional licensing costs, and create confusion and annoyance for your customers and our reader communities,” the letter reads….”

Evaluating big deal journal bundles

Abstract:  Large commercial publishers sell bundled online subscriptions to

their entire list of academic journals at prices significantly lower

than the sum of their á la carte prices. Bundle prices differ drastically

between institutions, but they are not publicly posted. The

data that we have collected enable us to compare the bundle

prices charged by commercial publishers with those of nonprofit

societies and to examine the types of price discrimination practiced

by commercial and nonprofit journal publishers. This information

is of interest to economists who study monopolist pricing,

librarians interested in making efficient use of library budgets, and

scholars who are interested in the availability of the work that

they publish.

Evaluating big deal journal bundles

Abstract:  Large commercial publishers sell bundled online subscriptions to

their entire list of academic journals at prices significantly lower

than the sum of their á la carte prices. Bundle prices differ drastically

between institutions, but they are not publicly posted. The

data that we have collected enable us to compare the bundle

prices charged by commercial publishers with those of nonprofit

societies and to examine the types of price discrimination practiced

by commercial and nonprofit journal publishers. This information

is of interest to economists who study monopolist pricing,

librarians interested in making efficient use of library budgets, and

scholars who are interested in the availability of the work that

they publish.