Re: Publishers' profits

From: David Goodman <dgoodman_at_PHOENIX.PRINCETON.EDU>
Date: Thu, 4 Jul 2002 20:14:21 -0400

At least in the US, the contracts that Elsevier is offering (as judged by
their web pages) include somewhat more flexibility
than previously. Many other publishers offer similar contracts.
These include some of the professional societies.

Generally, the present or past packages are not literally obligatory. In
almost all cases it is also possible to subscribe to the individual
titles. It simply can be much more expensive that way.

That said, in my individual view I continue to regard these packages, even
of a modified sort, as destabilizing and to nobody's interests. In
the long term, they are not advantageous to the publishers:
though they make it easier to subscribe to all of one publisher's titles,
they also make it easier to cancel them all.

In particular, as the various free access
methods advocated on this list become more widespread,
this may make such cancellations quite attractive. I do not see how
anyone can realistically expect most
conventionally accessed titles to survive; the greater flexibility
the publishers offer, the more of them they will be able to rescue.

I can only guess at the internal strategy of the publishers from their
public actions, but I would expect competent analysts there
to reach similar conclusions. Publishers which do not act on them
demonstrate that they prefer short-term profits to long-term survival.

I think the best strategy for libraries is to support the
best journals, no matter who publishes them, and ensure alternative access
for the others for the remainder of their life span.
They should simultaneously, of course, support any potentially practical
manifestation of the free access journal movement. The most effective way
they can do so is by educating their users.

Dr. David Goodman
Research Librarian and
Biological Sciences Bibliographer
Princeton University Library 609-258-7785
Received on Fri Jul 05 2002 - 01:14:21 BST

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