Wednesday, June 15, 2016

What took so long?

More than ten months ago I wrote Be Careful What You Wish For which, among other topics, discussed the deal between Elsevier and the University of Florida:
And those public-spirited authors who take the trouble to deposit their work in their institution's repository are likely to find that it has been outsourced to, wait for it, Elsevier! The ... University of Florida, is spearheading this surrender to the big publishers.
Only now is the library community starting to notice that this deal is part of a consistent strategy by Elsevier and other major publishers to ensure that they, and only they, control the accessible copies of academic publications. Writing on this recently we have:
Barbara Fister writes:
librarians need to move quickly to collectively fund and/or build serious alternatives to corporate openwashing. It will take our time and money. It will require taking risks. It means educating ourselves about solutions while figuring out how to put our values into practice. It will mean making tradeoffs such as giving up immediate access for a few who might complain loudly about it in order to put real money and time into long-term solutions that may not work the first time around. It means treating equitable access to knowledge as our primary job, not as a frill to be worked on when we aren’t too busy with our “real” work of negotiating licenses, fixing broken link resolvers, and training students in the use of systems that will be unavailable to them once they graduate.
Amen to all that, even if it is 10 months late. If librarians want to stop being Elsevier's minions they need to pay close, timely attention to what Elsevier is doing. Such as buying SSRN. How much would cost them?


  1. The Library Loon makes a highly relevant point:

    "The key aspect of Elsevier’s business model that it will do its level best to retain in any acquisitions or service launches is the disconnect between service users and service purchasers."

  2. relevant to the Library Loon's point above, Rebecca Kinnison's Cutting Through the Mysteries of Journal and Article Pricing clearly explains Elsevier's view of hybrid journals:

    "APC prices can be raised (or lowered) independently of subscriptions. Subscription prices can be raised (or lowered) independently of APCs. Because Elsevier’s pricing is not based solely or perhaps even primarily on editorial and production costs, any argument that they are double-dipping becomes moot. Double-dipping can only occur when first-copy costs [i.e., the fixed costs of producing the first unit of a publication] are being paid for by both an APC and a subscription and the publisher is not offsetting or reducing subscription costs accordingly. If subscription pricing is not based on costs (first copy or otherwise), then there is nothing to offset by APCs."

    Good to know that Elsevier regards APC income as simply icing on the cake.

  3. Elsevier's reign over SSRN has started badly, by removing articles to which the authors have retained copyright without notice because "It appears that you do not retain copyright to the paper".

  4. Cameron Neylon has an interesting post laying out the history of Elsevier's purchase of Mendeley and its relevance to their purchase of SSRN.

  5. Elsevier's purchase of SSRN is being reviewed by the FTC. Poynder writes:

    "It also reminds us that many observers of the open access movement are having to conclude that the initial strategy and approach of the movement was misconceived, since it assumed that it would be sufficient to persuade legacy publishers to embrace open access. ... In the event, open access is increasing costs rather than reducing them, and publishers are seeking alternative ways of enclosing publicly-funded research – to their own benefit, not the benefit of the research community."

  6. Along the same lines of ensuring that they control the only accessible copy, the American Chemical Society is proposing to offer a preprint archive. They have a policy automatically rejecting any paper posted to a preprint archive. Presumably, as seraphimcaduto points out, ACS would exempt their own archive from this rule.