(Please be aware, this article was posted on April 1st)
Publishing giants Springer, Elsevier, and Wiley-Blackwell will merge, according to a leaked document that made its way into the Scholarly Kitchen late last night.
Continuing the trend of consolidation, the heads of the largest STM publishers will form a single, publicly-held company. While details are still being worked out, the name of the publisher will be be Springer-Elsevier-Wiley-Blackwell, or SPEW for short.
The merger, if confirmed by the U. S. Department of Justice and the European Commission’s Competition Directorate, will represent the largest publisher merger in history, representing 63% of all scientific journals and consuming 99% of library budgets.
“Its a great day for shareholders!” remarked Perf Ormance, a Dutch adviser specializing in publisher stocks. “American colleges and universities are heavily invested in these companies. A merger is expected to return much-needed principal to university budgets. Those invested in 401(k) retirement funds will also see their portfolios grow.”
Librarians are also celebrating. “Gone are the days when librarians actually had to select journals,” remarked John Saylor, AUL for Collections at Cornell University. “Now we’ll just send one check to SPEW. This will save our library hundreds of thousands of dollars in staff costs!”
Sensing urgency from the rumored merger, society and non-profit publishers are working quickly toward alternative business models. HighWire’s John Sack already has a plan:
We’re forming a consortium to counter SPEW, called Stanford Library Universal Research Publishing (or SLURP). We’ll syndicate all the open access papers from BioMed Central and from PubMed Central, and sell them to pharma companies.
Asked about the acronym, SLURP, Sack notes inspiration from the dogs who do much of the grunt work at HighWire Press.
It is rumored that SPEW will be headed by former owner of Pergamon Press, Robert Maxwell, since this would avoid internal company disputes which are common in three-way mergers.
Asked whether Maxwell is up to lead a major company during these turbulent times, Ormance responded that the CEO in companies of this size are largely symbolic. “The board of directors will be running the show,” he remarked.
John Cox, a former publisher turned publishing consultant sees the benefit to readers as similar to a single-payer health care model:
At last a fully integrated scholarly publishing system can be developed, free at the point of use, like the UK’s National Health Service. Centralized planning of the major part of the literature, fully accountable to many of the stakeholders, is on the horizon.