The discussions between libraries and major publishers about subscriptions have only rarely been actual negotiations. In almost all cases the libraries have been unwilling to walk away and the publishers have known this. This may be starting to change; Dutch libraries have walked away from the table with Elsevier.Actually, negotiations continued and a year later John Bohannon reported for Science that a deal was concluded:
A standoff between Dutch universities and publishing giant Elsevier is finally over. After more than a year of negotiations — and a threat to boycott Elsevier's 2500 journals — a deal has been struck: For no additional charge beyond subscription fees, 30% of research published by Dutch researchers in Elsevier journals will be open access by 2018. ... The dispute involves a mandate announced in January 2014 by Sander Dekker, state secretary at the Ministry for Education, Culture and Science of the Netherlands. It requires that 60% of government-funded research papers should be free to the public by 2019, and 100% by 2024.By being willing to walk away, the Dutch achieved a partial victory against Elsevier's defining away of double-dipping, their insistance that author processing charges were in addition to subscriptions not instead of subscriptions. This is a preview of the battle over the EU's 2020 open access mandate.
The UK has just concluded negotiations, and a major German consortium is in the midst of them. Below the fold, some commentary on their different approaches.
In the UK, JISC Collections negotiates a national deal with each publisher; Universities can purchase from the publisher under the deal. Tim Gowers reports that:
The current deal that the universities have with Elsevier expires at the end of this year, and a new one has been negotiated between Elsevier and Jisc Collections, the body tasked with representing the UK universities.According to Gowers, JISC Collections had some key goals in the negotiation:
Gowers quotes a JISC representative saying:
- No real-terms price increases.
- An offsetting agreement for article processing charges.
- No confidentiality clauses.
- A move away from basing price on “historic spend”.
- A three-year deal rather than a five-year deal.
We know from analysis of the experiences of other consortia that Elsevier really do want to reach an agreement this year. They really hate to go over into the next year …This isn't what happened:
A number of colleagues from other consortia have said they wished they had held on longer …
If we can hold firm even briefly into 2017 that should have quite a profound impact on what we can achieve in these negotiations.
But this sensible negotiating strategy was mysteriously abandoned, on the grounds that it had become clear that the deal on offer was the best that Jisc was going to get.Gowers' assessment of the eventual deal against the goals is bleak
In other words, because JISC wasn't prepared to walk away they achieved little or nothing. In particular, they failed to make the progress the Dutch had already achieved against Elsevier's double-dipping on APCs.
- it is conceivable that [JISC] will end up achieving their first aim of not having any real-terms price increases: this will depend on whether Brexit causes enough inflation to cancel out such money-terms price increases as there may or may not be
- there is no offsetting agreement.
- when Elsevier insisted on confidentiality clauses, [JISC] meekly accepted this. ... It is for that reason that I have been a bit vague about prices above.
- "The agreement includes the ability for the consortium to migrate from historical print spend and reallocate costs should we so wish." I have no information about whether any “migration” has started, but my guess would be that it hasn’t
- the deal is for five years and not for three years.
Contrast this with the German DEAL project:
The DEAL project, headed by HRK (German Rectors' Conference) President Prof Hippler, is negotiating a nationwide license agreement for the entire electronic Elsevier journal portfolio with Elsevier. Its objective is to significantly improve the status quo regarding the provision of and access to content (Open Access) as well as pricing. It aims at relieving the institutions' acquisition budgets and at improving access to scientific literature in a broad and sustainable way.The 60 institutions are preparing their readers for the result of cancellation:
In order to improve their negotiating power, about 60 major German research institutions including Göttingen University cancelled their contracts with Elsevier as early as October 2016. Others have announced to follow this example.
From 1 January 2017 on, Göttingen University — as well as more than 60 other major German research institutions — is to be expected to have no access to the full texts of journals by the publisher Elsevier. In Göttingen, this applies to 440 journals. There will be access to most archived issues of Göttingen journals (PDF 95 KB), but there may be no access to individual Göttingen e-packages for the economic sciences in particular (PDF 89 KB).Elsevier's press release indicates that DEAL is sticking to the strategy JISC abandoned:
From this time on, we will offer you a free order service on articles of these journals: Please send your email request citing the necessary bibliographical data to our colleagues at the library (email). Should an inter-library loan not be possible, we will endeavor to procure the article on another delivery route for you. This service will be free of charge.
Since such negotiations for 600+ institutions are complex, both sides have met regularly during the second half of this year and it was a mutual agreement to pause talks until early in the new year.And that being hard-nosed has an impact:
In fact, it was those institutions themselves that informed us of their intention not to auto-renew their expiring individual access agreements based on the assumption that a national deal would be reached by the end of 2016. It goes without saying that all institutions, even if they cancelled their contracts, will be serviced beyond 2016 should they so choose.It will be very interesting to see how this plays out.