Peter Suber om Big Deals, dvs. abonemang av sammanbuntade tidskrifter
från kommersiella tidskriftsförlag. Nu är inte Peter Suber vem som helst
vilket framgår av nedanstående intervju, utan en ledande företrädare för
Open Access dvs. fri tillgång till vetenskapliga artiklar, tidskrifter
Q: You pointed out earlier that the Big Deal is soaking up library
budgets. Haank described the Big Deal to me as “the best thing since
sliced bread.” He added: “The truth is that it is in the interests of
everyone—publishers and librarians—to keep the Big Deal going.” And
according to the U.K. Publishers Association, a recent study shows
that (thanks to the Big Deal) 93% of researchers worldwide are
satisfied with their current levels of access. I suspect you are a
little sceptical about such claims?
A: Very. On the plus side, big deals give universities access to more
titles than they had before and reduce the average cost per title. On
the minus side, most bundles include titles that are low in quality,
low in local usage, or both, titles which the institution would
certainly cancel to save money if it were free to do so. But canceling
titles only raises the price of the remaining titles, which is
advantageous only to the publisher and harmful to libraries and users.
Universities do want access to more titles, but they want to pick the
titles most needed by their own patrons. They do want publishers to
reduce the average cost per title, but they want to see it done
through price cuts, not bundling.
Bundling may be the greatest thing since sliced bread for publishers.
It creates a layer of artificial monopoly laid on top of the natural
monopoly every journal already has by virtue of not duplicating other
journals. It protects second-rate and under-used titles from
cancellation. Big deals are too big to cancel, by design, at least
without extraordinary pain, which gives publishers leverage to raise
prices out of proportion to costs, size, impact, and quality. Big
deals soak up library budgets, which hurts smaller publishers excluded
from the bundles. In turn, this hurts research because in general
journals from those smaller society publishers tend to be higher in
quality and impact than journals in the big deals.
If you were hungry and had an allowance for one meal—roughly the
situation of a university with its annual library budget—it wouldn’t
help to be offered a smorgasbord of good and bad food mixed together
for the price of four meals. You might scrounge to pay for the deal.
You might even marvel at the size of the spread. But if you could
bargain on equal terms with your food vendor, you’d pay one-fourth the
price and get exactly the meal you wanted. Or having scrounged, you’d
pay half the price and get twice the meal you wanted. At the same
time, despite financial pressure, you’d put money aside to support an
alternative system that took into account that you and other customers
like you grew all the food, did most of the cooking, and gave it your
vendor free of charge.
It’s true that libraries once welcomed big deals and even called for
them. But now I think most libraries agree that big deals have
backfired on them. Publishers like to speculate about the harmful
unintended consequences of OA. It’s a healthy exercise, and I do it
myself. But we could make a long list of the harmful unintended
consequences of big deals, already realized. We could even make a
second list of the harmful consequences that are no longer unintended.
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