(Please be aware, this article was posted on April 1st)
Claiming that “the Big Deal just got bigger,” mega-publisher Elsevier today revealed a new program to help institutions afford price increases for site licenses and other fees for Elsevier services. Dubbed “Baking for Access,” the program allows academic institutions free online access to Elsevier’s company cookie cookbook, as well as a 75-pound assortment of non-perishable baking ingredients. The institutions can then use the recipes and ingredients (pans and water are not included) to create enticing treats they can sell to students and faculty, using the proceeds to defray additional licensing expenses Elsevier announced simultaneously.
An Elsevier spokesman had this to say:
We thought, you know, we should give institutions a new and fun way to help them pay for access. A bake sale at first seemed insulting, but after a few days, we began to see how we could create a service so that everyone could benefit — the libraries, the students, the faculty, and Elsevier. We calculate that each 75-pound donation of flour, egg substitutes, sugar, and dried milk can generate a few thousand dollars in delicious baked goods. And everyone likes a nice cookie.
The way each bake sale is conducted also borrows from Elsevier’s model. One satisfied customer had this to say after stopping by for a breakfast donut:
All I wanted was a glazed donut, but before I knew it, I realized it was easier to buy it all — donuts, custard pies, oatmeal cookies, bundt cakes. It cost a lot in aggregate, but on a per-item basis, it’s a bargain, even though I don’t like marzipan. Plus, the guy from Elsevier told me I can use their new Snackus search engine to search my new baked goods inventory to locate the glazed donut I originally wanted.
Librarians were pleased about the approach, noting that the program will not only increase foot traffic to their facilities, but also generate more face time with students and faculty.
There’s nothing like a plate of snickerdoodles to bring them in. And cookies and cakes are fun to bake. I was part of the beta pilot program, and I can tell you, some of those recipes are just great. There’s a Dutch shortbread that I’d recommend to everyone with a large biology collection. For some reason, biologists just love Elsevier’s Dutch shortbread.
The program is already cracking open similar top-secret plans at other large publishers. This morning, Wolters-Kluwer was forced to reveal its forthcoming “Kluwer Kar Wash,” a kit that can be assembled in minutes on a sidewalk, attached to a normal spigot, and used by library staff for fundraising to offset Kluwer’s new fee increases. Not to be outdone, Springer divulged plans for its “Springer Cleaning,” a service that helps librarians empty out unwanted materials and create a virtual yard sale, putting the revenues toward a Springer collection.
Smaller publishers have been left out in the cold, said a spokesperson for the American Association of Publishers at a hastily called press conference. Citing as examples two services being pondered by smaller publishers, both coincidentally focused on certifying librarians as daycare providers (“Mother Nature” and “JAMA Mama”), the AAP stated that services like these will never have the scale they need, further exacerbating market disequilibrium. Meanwhile, open access advocates are pointing to the ongoing absurdity of paying high prices for content.
Bake sales, car washes, and spring cleaning yard sales — is this what it’s come to? Nickel and diming academics is almost as bad as the multiple small fees students have to pay in order to have one of my teaching assistants teach a class for me while I enjoy tenure. Almost.
Asked which of the new services she’ll use, a librarian who requested to be only identified as “Betty” said she’s already working on a way to deposit the recipes from her own institution in a freely available online web site. She called her innovation “an institutional recipository.”