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Icolc presentation, april 2015


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A presentation to the International Coalition of Library Consortia. The presentation summarizes how certain library policies lead to consolidation among publishers and has served to marginalized small publishers.

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Icolc presentation, april 2015

  1. 1. Putting Publishers’ Views of Libraries into Context Joseph J. Esposito ICOLC Albany, NY April 2015
  2. 2. Topics • The situation of a society publisher • The ecosystem for scholarly communications and how it is evolving • Navigating that ecosystem (by a small publisher) • Who wins, who loses • Options and red herrings
  3. 3. Thesis: Certain library practices have made it difficult for independent publishers to sell journals to academic libraries, driving these publishers into the arms of large commercial publishers. These publishers in turn press libraries for higher prices—a vicious circle.
  4. 4. Typical Situation for a Society Publisher • Mostly for STM, but some in humanities • Mostly for journals; occasionally books • The Board of the society may have little or no knowledge of the publishing industry except as authors • A small industry in advising these clients (bringing business experience to not-for- profits)
  5. 5. The Publisher Says . . . • We are small and independent • Individual subscriptions have been in decline for many years • Now institutional subs are dropping fast • Surplus formerly used to fund multiple activities (e.g., support for grad students at conferences) • With current trends, the program will soon be losing money
  6. 6. What Happened to Individual Subscriptions? • In print era society members typically got the journal free as part of membership • Most people said it was the #1 benefit • Library subscriptions were incremental • Digital library subs, coupled with remote access, led members to cancel subscriptions • Near-total reliance on library subs • Challenge to maintain membership levels
  7. 7. Digital Library Subscriptions . . . • Increase value for end-users (remote access, search, hot links, etc.) • Make libraries more valuable to users • Come at publishers’ expense • Publishers seek to recapture lost revenue with price increases • As libraries became more valuable to users, they paid a heavy price for it
  8. 8. For Professional Society . . . • Benefits of institutional subscriptions were short-lived • Widespread acceptance of Internet use led to consolidation and price increases • Library budget woes • The Big Deal absorbed market share • Small publishers found it harder to get a library’s attention
  9. 9. Societies’ Next Move • Become a better publisher to recapture library market share • Retain consultants; become active in trade associations • Seek better vendors—for software hosting (“the HighWire era”), sales and marketing, and production • All good moves, but hollows out the society’s capabilities
  10. 10. If That Doesn’t Work . . . • Next step: American University Presses • 200 journals published by presses (not including Cambridge and OUP) • Hopkins, Chicago, Duke, MIT, California • Provide full array of services; perhaps not the most robust global footprint • Alas, the example of the American Anthropological Association
  11. 11. Next Option: Very Large Not-for-Profit Partner • As a practical matter, this means the presses at Oxford and Cambridge • About 600-800 journals between them in all fields (inc. STM) • Global footprint • Outstanding brands • Highly competitive • Plays well to many society members
  12. 12. The Empire Strikes Back • Large commercial publishers (Wiley, Elsevier, Taylor & Francis) have counterattacked • Very rich offers • Many societies find these terms hard to resist • Furthermore, these are excellent publishers • Example: American Geophysical Union moved to John Wiley
  13. 13. The Story So Far • A society publisher seeks library sales • To get these sales, the society explores several options, ending up in an agreement with a large commercial publisher • This supports Big Deals and price increases • More money for societies; more money and clout for big publishers; excellent distribution • Libraries must fund the entire ecosystem
  14. 14. Options to Address This Situation • Create consortia; increase clout • Support Open Access publishing • Develop publishing centers within libraries • Build IRs and an alternate source for materials
  15. 15. Consortia • As you know better than I, consortia provide multiple services and benefits • For small publishers, however, consortia are even harder to sell to than individual libaries • Consortia thus accelerate trend for small publishers to seek an arrangement with large publishers • Larger publishers as gateways to libraries and consortia; cooptation
  16. 16. Open Access Publishing • Speaks to a library’s mission, but not its existential situation • Libraries play a small role; value chain of funding agency, researcher, and publisher • Publishers increasingly see Gold OA as an additive revenue stream; again, cooptation • Provides no relief for small publishers seeking libraries as customers • Continue to seek embrace of large publishers
  17. 17. Library Publishing • May be OA, but broader services than that • May be journal-based or organized around a single repository (“mega-journal”) • Typically works with authors from parent institution • Peer review is variable, often nonexistent • Does not provide certification (critical); hence does not displace established publishers
  18. 18. IRs as New Paradigm • As summarized by Raym Crow (2002): • Have not lived up to promise (valuable nonetheless) • Opportunity with Green OA—but still requires primary publisher to maintain certification • IRs likely to give way to commercial consolidated services (FigShare, ReadCube) • No relief from pressure from publishers
  19. 19. Weather Forecast: Is the outlook gloomy or sunny?
  20. 20. The Case for Sunshine • Current arrangement lends itself to scale, consolidation, and operating efficiencies • Reduced transaction costs (fewer vendors, fewer customers); enables bigger investments in technology • Plummeting cost per article (even as total cost rises) • More material available than ever before
  21. 21. Or, A Hard Rain’s a-Gonna Fall • Publishers exploit their size and drive up prices • Large publishers dominate library budgets and block entrance from new or small publishers • System lends itself to further consolidation and greater publisher clout • Market dominance reduces competition; suppresses innovation
  22. 22. The (Inadvertent) Devil’s Bargain • Lower administration and transaction costs • . . . result in dominant marketing gateways • . . . lead to quasi-monopolistic business practices • . . . brings about higher pricing and less innovation • . . . marginalizes smaller publishers • . . . who in turn sign deals with larger publishers
  23. 23. Contact Information • Joseph J. Esposito • • • @josephjesposito
  24. 24. Sharing an Ecosystem • Publishers and libraries are part of the same ecosystem of scholarly communications • Ecosystems are neither stable nor sustainable; they are dynamic • The health of the ecosystem overall can hurt all participants • But some elements will naturally strive for a dominant role
  25. 25. What Is the Context? • Tight library budgets • Mandates from funding agencies • Properties of technology • The competition • The library as customer
  26. 26. The Budget Problem • Obviously not news to anyone here • Research output is up, but budgets have not kept pace • New products vie for budget dollars • The competition among publishers is furious • Libraries are the battlefield, but the belligerents want libraries to thrive
  27. 27. When You Think about Publishers’ Strategies Concerning Libraries . . . • . . . don’t think of the library as the publisher’s foe • . . . think of other publishers as a publisher’s foe • . . . think of the library budget as a pie that everyone wants a slice of • . . . and each year everyone wants a larger slice • . . . when the pie runs out, publishers eat each other
  28. 28. A Slice of the Pie = Market Share • Publishers acquire other publishers • Publishers create service arrangements with smaller publishers (a professional society works with, say, Wiley or Sage) • The smallest publishers don’t get a slice • Thus the pie—the library—is seen as an increasingly challenging market that is not growing appreciably
  29. 29. Meanwhile, Mandated Open Access • Both Gold and Green varieties (different implications for publishers) • Gold OA mostly bypasses libraries (access provided through publisher’s site; fees paid by authors or their proxies) • Growth of Gold OA diminishes importance of libraries to publishers (because they are not the paying customers)
  30. 30. Green Mandates • Different strategic issues • Requires either publisher cooperation (e.g., CHORUS) or repositories (hosted by whom?)
  31. 31. Caveats and Disclosures • I am not a librarian—nor a lawyer (I am a Yankees fan) • Most clients are not-for-profits • Help organizations make strategic decisions • No philosophy of scholarly communications and skeptical about any such overarching philosophy