Fifteen years ago, when the Big Deal was really coming into its own as a journal purchasing model, I was working in a library where we embraced it enthusiastically. In fact, we had a pretty standard approach whenever a sales rep pitched a journal to us, or a faculty member requested a new subscription: our first response was usually “Well, how much would it cost to subscribe to the publisher’s whole list online?”

wolf

At that time there were two things we knew for certain: on the one hand, subscribing to a publisher’s entire journal list (or whatever approximation of “entire” was on offer) was likely to yield a tremendous value in terms of cost per article; on the other, the Big Deal model was probably not sustainable in the long term. But we embraced it anyway for a couple of reasons: first, because the value proposition was so compelling in the short term, and the short term does matter; second, because it was clear even then that the scholarly-communication ecosystem was in the middle of some kind of fundamental revolution, and there was no telling what it would look like ten or fifteen or twenty years into the future. In light of the massive short-term gain that the Big Deal offered us, we made a calculated bet that things in the publishing world would change sufficiently in the coming years to minimize the long-term risk.

Now here we are, fifteen years later — and fundamental revolution has not arrived, the bill has come due, and tough decisions are now required.

Of course, warning voices have been raised repeatedly since the Big Deal emerged, and with good reason. But that has actually been part of the problem: for years now, libraries and commentators have been crying “Wolf!”, saying that the Big Deal was about to implode, and that libraries were about to start bailing out of them. Individual libraries themselves sometimes warned that they were about to cancel their Big Deals, and every once in a while one of them did. But not very many, and soon a conventional wisdom began to emerge: that some libraries were crying “Wolf!” prematurely and then backing down when their faculties got wind of the impending massive cancelations, while other libraries were crying “Wolf!” as a negotiating tactic and subsequently getting attractive offers from publishers in order to preserve their business, and still other libraries were successfully canceling their Big Deals only to return to the fold a year or two later when either a) it became clear that the content really was essential, or b) the publisher offered an irresistible deal (or both).

In recent years, though, it has started looking to me as if the conventional wisdom might be cracking. Instead of hearing about libraries backing away from their Big Deal cancelations, I was starting to hear about libraries really canceling, and I started wondering how pervasive this phenomenon really was. Finally, I posed a question to a couple of listservs that deal with libraries and scholarly communication. I asked the listserv participants to contact me off-list and share the names of any libraries they knew of that had announced plans to cancel their Big Deal packages. By gathering those names and then investigating, I hoped to get a better sense of how many libraries were really canceling, how many were announcing plans to cancel but then backing down, and how many were canceling but then later coming back. I had no idea what I would find, or whether the resulting data set would lend itself to rigorous and quantitative analysis, but it seemed like it was worth asking and seeing what I got in response.

Indeed, the results were very interesting. Before I proceed to the discussion of what I found, I must offer a few clarifying notes about the data:

  • Some of this information may not be completely correct. I worked hard to verify it and deliberately excluded examples in which I didn’t have strong confidence, but there may still be errors. I welcome corrections and updates.
  • What I present here are only results for 31 North American libraries. I also heard about a small handful of libraries in Europe and Africa, but since there were fewer than five of them in total (not counting the situation in Germany, where a national deal with Elsevier is still in the throes of contentious renegotiation — see here and here) I decided to leave these out of the discussion in order to avoid giving a distorted impression of what may be happening in those large geographic regions.
  • This discussion is only about Big Deals, not smaller subject-based packages. I encountered quite a few dead ends when I was told that “Library X just canceled their Big Deal,” only to investigate and find that what had actually happened was a journal-cancelation project that targeted smaller packages and individual titles.
  • Two libraries reported to me that they were currently in the process of negotiating departures from one or more of their Big Deals. I’ve left these out of the discussion, since their outcome is still uncertain and the process sensitive.
  • One library (which shall remain nameless) told me that a publisher (which shall also remain nameless) left campuswide access to its Big Deal in place even after cancelation, apparently in order to preserve its brand presence on campus. This was an intriguing piece of information, but I’ve left this instance out of the discussion below for obvious reasons.

I should also emphasize that what I’m presenting here is “discussion” rather than “analysis.” As I had feared, the data I ended up with — I should probably be putting the word “data” in scare quotes — was too various and spotty to lend itself to rigorous and quantitative analysis or concrete conclusions about the state of the library market overall. However, some broad but significant conclusions can, I think, fairly be drawn. Here’s what I found:

Real Deal-Breakers

This (Table 1, below) was by far the largest group, and I was a little bit surprised by how large it was. Of the 31 libraries (or library systems) I checked out, 24 of them have canceled Big Deal packages that, as of this writing and as far as I can tell, remain canceled. Between them, they have canceled packages from 46 publishers. These libraries serve a mix of research, comprehensive, professional, and liberal arts institutions. Several of them canceled three or more Big Deals — and two of them canceled six. Attentive readers will notice that one of these, San Francisco State University (SFSU), is listed as having canceled a Big Deal with an unnamed publisher. The information about their cancelation is derived from a presentation given at the 2016 Charleston Conference by David Hellman, the SFSU library’s collection development librarian. He declined to publicly identify the publisher involved for reasons laid out in his presentation, to which it is apparently not possible to link directly but which is easily findable by searching Google for the terms “cutting cord charleston hellman.”

One other thing is worth noting about these cancelations: 79% of them have taken place since 2015.

Table 1. Real Deal-Breakers

Library Publisher(s) Effective Date
West Virginia University Wiley 2017
U of Oklahoma Oxford UP 2015
U of Calgary Oxford UP 2015
Taylor & Francis 2015
SUNY Buffalo Taylor & Francis 2012
Caltech Springer 2016
Wiley 2016
U of Montréal Springer 2016
California State U Wiley 2015
Amherst College Wiley 2013
Elsevier 2013
Lister Hill Library (U of Alabama) Lippincott Williams & Wilkins 2009
Kansas State U Springer 2017
U of North Texas Wiley 2015
Springer 2015
Institute of Physics 2015
American Institute of Physics 2015
Cambridge UP 2015
Amer. Soc. of Civil Engineers 2015
U Wisconsin-Milwaukee Wiley 2017
Springer 2017
UNC Chapel Hill Cambridge UP 2017
Middle Tennessee State U Elsevier 2016
East Tennessee State U Wiley 2014
Medical U of South Carolina Wiley 2010
U Missouri Wiley 2016
Springer 2017
SAGE 2017
St. John’s U Wiley 2011
Taylor & Francis 2011
Cambridge UP 2011
Emerald 2016
Illinois Wesleyan U Wiley 2015
San Francisco State U (Unnamed) 2016
George Mason U Taylor & Francis 2017
Southern Illinois U Elsevier 2010
Wiley 2010
SUNY Potsdam SAGE 2013
American Chemical Society 2013
Memorial U of Newfoundland Cambridge UP 2016
Oxford UP 2016
Wiley 2016
Springer 2016
Taylor & Francis 2017
SAGE 2018

Returners

These (Table 2, below) are the libraries that canceled their Big Deals but later subscribed to them again. This is the second-largest group — but it’s much, much smaller. You might notice that the University of Montréal appears on both lists. That’s because they returned to their Big Deal with Wiley, but as of this writing have not resubscribed to the Springer deal.

Table 2. Returners

Library Publisher Date Cancelled Date Renewed
U of Montréal Wiley 2014 2015
Brock U Wiley 2015 2016
U California Taylor & Francis 2013 2016
U New Mexico Wiley 2006 2016

Second-Thought Havers

These (Table 3, below) are the libraries that walked up to the precipice of Big Deal cancelation, but then backed away from it. In some cases it was because when they looked over the edge, it turned out to be a much longer drop onto a rockier surface than they had anticipated — which is another way of saying “the faculty would have stormed the library and taken library staff hostage.” In other cases it was because the library’s host institution gave the library extra money at the last minute in order to keep the Big Deal going.

Table 3. Second-Thought Havers

Library Publisher Date Notes
U of Ottawa Springer 2016 Announced cancellation, but subsequently reached renewal agreement with publishers.
Taylor & Francis 2016
Lister Hill Library (U of Alabama) Wiley 2009 Announced cancellation, but subsequently reached renewal agreement with publishers
Karger
U of North Texas Elsevier 2015 Announced cancellation, but university president provided emergency funds to allow renewal

Discussion

The relative largeness of the “Real Deal-Breakers” group suggests a number of things, but after lots of reading and conversations related to this investigation, I think the most important thing it suggests is that relatively few libraries that actually do cancel their Big Deals end up regretting it. Many libraries seem to have found that demand for the content included in their Big Deals — even what they thought was “core” content — was not nearly as robust as they had believed it to be based on usage data that had been provided by the publishers. How did they know? Two explanations for that lack of regret have come up most often in my discussions with these libraries:

First, despite what they were led to expect by strong usage data over time, in some cases there simply wasn’t the outcry from students and faculty that these libraries anticipated after they canceled and the content went away. Why might the data have been misleading? There’s any number of possible explanations: the data may simply have been wrong, a significant number of downloads may have been triggered by something other than genuine need, the ease of access afforded by Big Deal packages may have led to lots of casual or even accidental downloading, etc.

Second, in some cases libraries replaced Big Deal access with the promise of effectively unlimited on-demand access to articles from the canceled journals, and the resulting demand for that service was much lower than expected. Again, it’s important not to jump to conclusions as to what is causing this apparently low demand: it may be that demand was never terribly high to begin with, or it may be that the nuisance of requesting articles on an individual basis is great enough to dissuade library patrons from requesting them (leading them to go without access they genuinely want — or, perhaps even more likely, sending them into the arms of Sci-Hub or other pirate operations).

Despite all the ambiguities, one thing does seem clear to me: the Big Deal is no longer sacred. My prediction is that two converging factors will lead to a growing number of Big Deal cancelations in academic libraries: the continued downward trend in collection budgets, and the growing number of libraries that are demonstrating by example that you can cancel your Big Deal and live to tell the tale.

Update, 11 May 2017: The original version of this posting indicated that the University of Calgary had canceled a Big Deal package with Mary Ann Liebert. Inc., Publishers. I have since been informed by the publisher that they do not offer a Big Deal, and that the cancelation that took place at Calgary was a selective cancelation of titles from a list of individual subscriptions. Table 1 has been amended accordingly.

Rick Anderson

Rick Anderson

Rick Anderson is Associate Dean for Collections and Scholarly Communication in the J. Willard Marriott Library at the University of Utah. He speaks and writes regularly on issues related to libraries, scholarly communication, and higher education, and has served as president of NASIG and of the Society for Scholarly Publishing.

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Discussion

68 Thoughts on "When the Wolf Finally Arrives: Big Deal Cancelations in North American Libraries"

Why might the data have been misleading?

I am no longer at a university, but thinking back to my student years, I would, via anecdote, support the explanation “a significant number of downloads may have been triggered by something other than genuine need”.

I was fortunate to study at an institution with almost universal access to the literature in my field (biomedicine). Blissfully unaware at the time of the financial underpinnings and the importance of usage stats, I downloaded many, many more papers (I’d say at least 5-10 x more) than I actually needed for my scientific projects – most “just” out of scientific curiosity, or even “hey, cool title, let’s have a look”.

Don’t get me wrong, I think that’s just how it should be at a university – universal access to what science knows. But if a librarian would have told me that “every download drives up our costs, albeit indirectly, so please only download what you really need”, I would have been more selective. Because, frankly, I also only read a small fraction of the papers I downloaded.

Hans, your comment here is interesting to me. Curiosity isn’t a genuine need? As someone who spends a lot of time and effort trying to encourage curiosity as a learning outcome for my students, I was surprised by this. How are you defining genuine need?

Hi Lisa,

In a perfect world, I totally agree with you – and I have never seen it as a waste of time to read papers in fields not directly related to my master /PhD projects. In fact, after leaving science, it was an advantage that I had gained insights into many different areas.

However, the harsh reality in the Life Sciences is that in many labs there’s a culture of superficial productivity, often also expected by PIs – i.e. everything you do has to be directly converted into results and papers of your own… anyway, that’s another topic.

Very interesting. Although in online complaints about sharp business practices by major publishers, Elsevier’s name seem most likely to be mentioned, it looks like Wiley was leader in winning cancellations. Be interesting if this is happenstance, or if Wiley really stands out and there are implications for society-owned titles. My understanding is Wiley tends to publish more society-owned titles than the other giants, following their acquisition of Blackwell.

Hopefully some of the librarians involved will comment on how their patrons’ strategies are developing, if they know. For instance, for students & faculty at U Missouri, it has to hurt to lose access to Wiley, Springer, and Sage. I wonder, are they buying individual articles, making OCLC requests on the backs of other libraries, or just “patronizing” SciHub?

Dear Rick

I am wondering why now? I have been surprised that more Big Deals have not been cancelled before but what is the current trigger – do you think for example it is the discovery that the faculty do not revolt and when that has been established librarians with their ongoing problem of funding see Big Deal cancellations as a trend they can afford to be part of. I think There are all sorts of reasons why librarians might not be happy with the whole concept of the Big Deal. I was a publisher when they started and I am on record as assuming they could not take off because of the intrinsic importance of selection. Yet we (CIBER) were the research group that validated the claims of Tom Sanville about the use of previously unsubcribed articles when his claims were not always accepted.

Hi, Anthony —

I think it’s a combination of factors. The prime mover for the cancelation wave (assuming that that’s what we’re seeing) was probably simply financial: as we predicted for years, the day has finally arrived when a growing number of libraries simply can’t afford to renew these packages. The problem isn’t that they don’t offer good value; the problem is that they cost too much. Then, once a handful of libraries cancel their Big Deals and see that the world doesn’t come to an end, other libraries are emboldened to do the same.

Personally, I’m not really convinced about the intrinsic value of selection; I tend to think that selection matters very much to librarians but matters relatively little to library patrons, who care much less about the characteristics of the collection and much more about whether or not they have access to the exact resources they need. But I think you’re right that one reason librarians have been so ambivalent about the Big Deal is our attachment to the idea that selection is important.

I agree with Rick on the combination of factors coming to a head. OhioLINK (higher ed. libraries of Ohio) recently cancelled two statewide big deals with society publishers. Both were cancelled because of the inability of the publishers involved to understand the budget realities of higher education in the state. Both asked for increases that far outstripped the average annual increase for STEM journals for individual institutions, let alone what the consortium has historically expected. You simply can’t ask libraries for a 27% increase to “correct the consortium’s historic good pricing and bring them up to market price” and expect them to be able to manage that in an environment where library budgets at best have been flat for a decade and their buying power has steadily eroded.

One cancellation is a few years old; our libraries made title by title selections and have been holding the line on spending only as much as they had spent in the consortial deal. Faculty were upset at first, but also understood once the numbers were explained. In the second case, which was CY17, the faculty were more upset with the publisher, as the numbers were pretty compelling. Institutions again made title by title selections, and in some cases institutions went to “by the drink” article costs via ILL instead of subscriptions as a deliberate strategy. Almost all institutions indicated that they would (and could) only spend the same amount that they had budgeted for the consortial deal, so that automatically meant fewer titles. We continue to track institutional expenditures to see if libraries felt the need to spend more over time, but that doesn’t seem to be the case — not least because the money simply isn’t there to spend.

I do think faculty are more aware of budget realities than they have been in the past. Alternative methods of delivery (scihub, #ICanHazPDF, simple email requests, sharing enabled by the various social research networks, google groups, institutional dropbox or similar accounts) are easier and frictionless so there isn’t the pressure to resubscribe as the only method of access. I wonder also about changes in discovery and customized alerting that don’t require faculty to browse entire issues of journals the way they might have previously, so that in an era of information overabundance it is possible to focus on selectively acquiring on the article level enabled by the alternative access models. It’s possible that the strategy of adding new titles and increasing the number of articles in issues, etc. (which publishers often cite as the reason for an increase in price — more content) in the big deal is actually backfiring, as it forces researchers and faculty to be more selective in ways that can favor alternative delivery.

Another factor may be that the tipping point for budget allocations for journals has simply been reached and there is some library or institutional backlash against so much of their shrinking budgets going for continuing resources with fewer funds for other materials (like monographs). This might be an similar expression of the shift towards fewer, carefully curated choices that is rocking the retail and food world.

I do think faculty are more aware of budget realities than they have been in the past. Alternative methods of delivery (scihub, #ICanHazPDF, simple email requests, sharing enabled by the various social research networks, google groups, institutional dropbox or similar accounts) are easier and frictionless so there isn’t the pressure to resubscribe as the only method of access.

This is an interesting comment because all of those delivery methods (pirate sites and group sharing) are entirely dependent on SOMEONE paying for a subscription, otherwise the content would not exist. So where we may be heading in reality, is that the rich schools are subscribing and subsidizing the others that refuse to pay. This is, obviously, not a sustainable model nor one that I would think the paying schools would appreciate. It will only drive up subscription rates. What I was looking for are comments like “our faculty finds equivalent open access content” but I don’t think we are there yet.

It is quite troubling to see libraries cancel subscriptions on the basis that their patrons can freeload off the paying universities. I would love to see more analysis done on this.

Your other point about content delivery is an interesting one. Much investment has been made into delivering to the end user exactly what we think the end user wants, thus saving them the hassle of clicking on lots of papers that are not useful.

Lastly, we (ASCE) has seen tremendous growth in submissions to the journals and in fact are publishing double the number of pages we were 6-7 years ago but we certainly are not charging double the subscription rates. This is a tough balancing act. Even if we wanted to combine some journal titles for efficiency (not eliminating the content but eliminating some overhead expenses), we cannot “remove” a journal from the package in this way as it is not acceptable to the subscribers. This leaves us everyone in a tough position.

all of those delivery methods (pirate sites and group sharing) are entirely dependent on SOMEONE paying for a subscription, otherwise the content would not exist.

Yes, and that is also true of the APC model — the richer, research-heavy institutions will be subsidizing many consuming institutions, turning them into free riders. As a state agency, if the fiscally conservative state legislature ever figures out what open access really means, my content subsidy might dry up pretty quickly. I could see some entire state systems becoming the beneficiaries of dollars collected elsewhere, depending on the short term interests and imperfect understandings of state legislatures, boards of trustees, etc.

It has been true for a long while that the vast majority of universities are free riders on the system of scholarly book publishing supported in the US by under 100 universities. Perhaps even this situation will get worse if other universities follow the lead of Duquesne in closing its press.

From the perspective of a small institution, I feel that we are actually subsidizing the rich schools with our subscription to ASCE. We pay the exact same amount as any other institution but our usage is most likely much less (we have an undergraduate major in civil engineering with 109 students). If we cancel our subscription it would not be to freeload off the paying universities but because we cannot afford it since our budget is far less than the larger institutions.
However, I don’t want to cancel the subscription — my faculty love having the ASCE digital library. I also cannot determine exactly what content will be needed at any one time so I prefer to have it all available. Part of my mission is to get the resources that our students, faculty, and staff need as quickly as possible (seamless is the best!). I am willing to pay for it but I would like to see a more equitable funding model – something that could take into account the anticipated usage combined with the amount the publisher needs to make per usage to fund their business.
I have experimented with different models to get content. I had an unplanned influx of money one year and subscribed to the Wiley Big Deal. Analyzing the usage, I found that our usage could not support the price of the Big Deal. I then moved to the Wiley tokens for individual articles which has worked out well in getting the content to my users seamlessly but it has its own drawbacks. We have paid for content that was available for free from other resources that we own. We have paid for the same article more than once. I could move to the model where the library has to approve each purchase but then the seamless access is gone.
If the majority of scholarly journal publishing output is being purchased by libraries and the reason libraries are purchasing it is for their users, then it is in the best interests of both libraries and publishers to collaborate on better accessibility for the users. Purchasing models need to be more granular with better systems to track those purchases if the library is going to be the provider of scholarly research to its community and give fair payment to the publishers.

For 2017, the University of Tulsa broke up three major journals packages: Wiley, Springer and Sage. The decision was driven entirely by budget. Our Wiley list went from 1,736 title to 38. Our Springer list went from 2,123 to 13. Sage went from 627 to 4.

While I know that librarians have been crying wolf over the Big Deals for the past 10 years and I am sure the libraries that you surveyed have canceled their Big deals, I think that most of the libraries in your survey still take a substantial number of the publishers titles from those Big Deal publishers that they have identified. The reason that I say that in reviewing the recent financials or from financial information that I have reviewed, publishers like Sage and Wiley, are still producing record revenue from their journal programs. Take Wiley for example in their 2015 annual report the journal program was up 2% for the year, a five year tend that has not changed. At the end of January 31, 2017 Wiley’s research journal revenue was $608,547,000 vs $595,932,000 for the same period in 2016. Sage has been having a good year as well and so has Elsevier. So why if all of these North American libraries are cancelling the Big Deals, why doesn’t the publisher financials reflect a steady decline in revenue? What I do see is a continuing decline in print revenue especially with publishers textbook sales. However journal revenue remains strong as does gross profit levels and net margins. It seems to me that libraries may be cancelling the Big Deal and replacing their deal with a Custom deal that might be less money but overall the journal programs of the top 10 STM publishers remains strong. Paid subscriptions from the top 10 STM publishers still represents 95% of the journal revenue.

Hi, Dan —

It sounds like I should clarify that nowhere in this post have I predicted the imminent demise of science journal publishers, or even declines in overall journal revenues. It’s also worth pointing out (again) that my inquiry resulted in data from only 31 academic libraries, all of them in North America. Even if these cancelations represent a coming wave, I can imagine any number of variables other than Big Deal revenues that could be contributing (and could continue to contribute) to ongoing healthy cash flows for journal publishers.

Is there any data out there about new Big Deal contracts? I think it is tempting to look at individual institutions and infer what is happening across an industry. However, I think it is reasonable to predict that there is always a certain amount of “churn.” To claim that there is something going on we would need to know whether these cancellations are above the rate that has occurred typically and/or would be predicted. I’m not aware of data that would tell us one way or another and so, though I think as qualitative cases these are very interesting (and wish there was more analysis of those qualitative factors), I’m not sure there is the analysis we’d need to know that a “wolf” is arriving.

Hi, Lisa —

Yup, agreed. As I said in the piece, this is a very limited data set and does not represent a scientific sample. While I think the information compiled here is suggestive and worth thinking about, I wouldn’t make any broad and sweeping pronouncements about the state of scholcomm based on this “data.” It would be very interesting to hear from publishers — are they seeing net growth, either in terms of the number of Big Deals adopted in academic libraries, or in terms of the new revenue being generated by Big Deals?

In other words, whether the “wolf” referenced in my title has arrived at the cabin door of scholcomm collectively is very much up for debate. What I think is much clearer is that it has arrived at the door of these individual institutions, all of whom (as far as I could determine) have canceled Big Deals for the first time, and precisely because they could no longer afford them.

But Rick, you did make a broad sweeping statement! Specifically: “The Big Deal is no longer sacred.” Or, did you intend your readers to add in “for these 31 institutions”?

I guess I didn’t consider that to be a “broad sweeping pronouncement about the state of scholcomm” (note that important qualifier, which you left out). I characterized that statement as one thing that seems clear to me about the Big Deal itself, which is only one of many facets of the scholcomm ecosystem. If the Big Deal were “sacred,” I don’t think we’d be seeing what appears to be a growing number of cancelations.

I would consider a pronouncement about the state of the Big Deal a sweeping pronouncement about the state of scholcomm (which is why I left off the phrase – it didn’t seem necessary). But, let’s focus on your claim “If the Big Deal were “sacred,” I don’t think we’d be seeing what appears to be a growing number of cancelations [sic].” You definitely hedge by adding “appears to be” in there. But, that’s exactly what I was making as my original point – we have no idea if there is a growing number of cancellations. What “appears to be” is potentially just the effect of looking at individual cases rather than collective analysis.

Lisa, that hedge is embedded repeatedly throughout the post itself. I made it as clear as I could that this piece was prompted by the fact that “it has started looking to me as if the conventional wisdom”–that Big Deals aren’t really being canceled–“might be cracking.” (Hedge words emphasized here for clarity.) I emphasized (in bold typeface) the limited nature of the data set under examination, even suggesting that the term “data” should probably be in scare quotes. I stressed that what I was examining was only Big Deals, and only in North American libraries. In other words, I took great care to avoid opening myself to the charge of making “broad sweeping pronouncements about the state of scholcomm.” Now, I do disagree that we have “no idea if there is a growing number of [Big Deal] cancelations.” The information I’ve gathered here seems quite suggestive to me, and the fact that such a high percentage of these libraries have done their cancelations within the past 18 months suggests to me that their numbers are growing. But the case is intuitive, as I tried to make clear, and I offer it for what it’s worth. If you don’t think the suggestion is persuasive, fair enough–but please don’t take me to task for doing the opposite of what I’ve done.

As for whether the statement “one thing does seem clear to me: the Big Deal is no longer sacred” constitutes a “broad sweeping pronouncement about the state of scholcomm,” I guess we’ll have to agree to disagree. I see the Big Deal as only one facet or node in a very large and complex ecosystem. If the Big Deal disappeared as an acquisition model tomorrow, I don’t believe that fact would leave the scholcomm ecosystem fundamentally different.

Hedging you have indeed done but you are continuing to cross over into treating these cases quantitatively rather than qualitatively. “The fact that such a high percentage of these libraries have done their cancellations within the past 18 months suggests to me that their numbers are growing” is an inference that relies on seeing these cases as somehow representative of the collective and you are clear that you don’t know if they are representative.

Having said this, if your only claim is that you have found anecdotal data for what you think intuitively true, I apologize for misreading you as wanting to do with this piece something more than it appeared to me.

Also, just to be clear – I do think these are evocative qualitative data. They would be useful as evidence for investing in the effort to do a quantitative study. What you gathered based on your intuitive sense is great at generating a research question but (as you have argued elsewhere) anecdote isn’t a great basis for answering one.

“The fact that such a high percentage of these libraries have done their cancellations within the past 18 months suggests to me that their numbers are growing” is an inference that relies on seeing these cases as somehow representative of the collective and you are clear that you don’t know if they are representative.

Yes, exactly. I make no claim to knowing for certain whether they are representative–hence the constant (if apparently futile) qualifying language I used throughout the posting, and the bulleted list of caveats that I offered before getting to the data itself. However, I do find these cases suggestive–which is why I bothered to write the post.

What you gathered based on your intuitive sense is great at generating a research question but (as you have argued elsewhere) anecdote isn’t a great basis for answering one.

Couldn’t agree more. That’s why I stated, right up front, that I was offering “‘discussion’ rather than ‘analysis'” and that “the data I ended up with… was too various and spotty to lend itself to rigorous and quantitative analysis or concrete conclusions about the state of the library market overall.”

It seems clear to me that I am not going to convince you that you are, despite your hedging, drawing conclusions that anecdotes doesn’t warrant. And, at this point it also seems you are not going to convince me that you are not. Fortunately, neither of us is grading each others’ work and so we can leave it to the readers of this exchange to decide. 🙂 Enjoy our conversations always. Best, Lisa

Appreciate that we can model collegiality even in disagreement. Important I think!

Rick–As you can imagine the Big Deals are a very important part of that journal revenue for most of the STM publishers and they even segregate out that revenue from other journal revenue. Big Deal revenue does not seem to be going down but continues to remain stable. And the US is 40%-60% of the revenue depending on which publisher you are reviewing. I keep hearing that OA has broken the back of scientific publishing and that Big Deal cancellations is the new trend. I think publishers reading these post get terrified about the future when both of these claims are an exaggeration. If one looks at the financials of the STM publishers the journal programs continue to remain strong. OA has barely made a mark on the paid subscription revenue. Yes the Big Deal helps cash flow but the biggest impact is its contribution to net profit.

Big Deal revenue does not seem to be going down but continues to remain stable.

Can you provide data for this, Dan? I’m not disputing it — I can easily imagine it being true as long as the majority of Big Deals stay in place (which they obviously have) and annual price hikes continue to be aggressive, and if new Big Deals continue to be struck (which I’m sure they are) — but I’d very much like to see data that isolates the revenue growth of Big Deal packages. Again, my argument isn’t that the Big Deal has died or that publishers are on the ropes, but I do think it’s significant to see what appears to be a growing number of academic libraries taking the leap and canceling when the conventional wisdom used to be that this really doesn’t happen.

Please note also that I’ve made no suggestion here that “OA has broken the back of scientific publishing” or even that it has made a significant “mark on the paid subscription revenue.” I think the former statement is absurd (it’s the kind of thing you hear from flag-wavers rather than analysts) and I’m not aware of any data either way with regard to the latter statement — nor am I even sure how you’d come up with good data in support of it.

Rick…my data comes from a combination of public financial disclosures and confidential data from a number of publishers. Not something that I can publish. Although I did have a good review of Elsevier in a recent article in ATG. The comment about OA breaking the publishers back came from a number of library meetings where I have heard that statement repeatedly by different speakers and still find it laughable. It would seem to me that few people enjoy pouring through annual reports from publishers and can undertake the financial analysis needed to see what is really happening. It is much easier to make claims and comments based on what should be happening rather than what is occurring. The divide between publishers and librarians is still wide and deep. Most librarians understanding of the business side of STM publishing is in its infancy. I just returned from the ER&L meeting in Austin of some 1000 plus attendees and from the comments I heard about publishers our community still has a long way to go to understand how the process works.

Thanks, Dan, and I agree. My understanding of the publishing business is fairly rudimentary, and even I am embarrassed sometimes by the very confident things I hear my colleagues say — often in public — about how publishing works. (Of course, I’ve heard similar nonsense from publishers about how libraries work.)

Publishers understanding of how libraries work may be even far worse. My experience is what while the local sales person may have a reasonable understanding of how libraries work, the further up the management chain you go the less that is known. Library advisory committees help, but too many publishers ignore their advice, and don’t get me started on the finance side of the house.

Thanks Rick, I think it does *feel* like there is lately more willingness to step away from the Big Deal in a few libraries. I very much want to learn more about the experience of the library and patrons after this has happened and plan to work on a conference paper idea as I am personally interested in customer experience and how organisations can serve their customers well. When I tried to gather evidence a few years ago it was hard to come by as libraries who had made big cancellation splashes were in negotiation talks with publishers or didn’t want to share details. I think things have moved on.

Recent research I carried out that resulted in 676 messages from 235 (mainly UK) librarians showed overwhelmingly that library budgets and publisher price strategies were far and away the most prevalent theme (slides and data here: http://bit.ly/uksg-messages-to-publishers).

Whether libraries have been crying wolf or not, after reading the messages we received in response to our question “What message do you want publishers to hear” I’d suggest that budgets can’t cope with everything year on year and publishers can choose to listen or not. When I’ve told publishers about these findings I have seen one roll their eyes with the comment “they always say that” and another desperately trying to find an inroad to keep selling. I do not approve.

When I worked in academic publishing (in journals and library marketing) I was very keen to look at which titles universities were actually using and to try to change the internal mindset to stop offering everything and start talking with customers about what was in demand and charging title by title or for smaller packages or (heaven forbid) reducing their spend with a tailored collection. In my experience, the prevailing mood was to keep hard at the Big Deal renewals and new sales as long as possible and keep talking about the value of having everything available at all costs. I’ve knowledge of otehr publishers pursuing a fairly short termist pricing strategy that looks only to see growth for the current sneior management reign.

I think a few things have changed though.

1.) Libraries really do have budget restrictions with declining or flat budgets. To keep ignoring this is irresponsible and foolish business practice and pretty contemptuous.
2.) I know OA is certainly not really affecting subscription revenues but those who feel research should be open are more organised, have some compelling arguments and are more widely heard so I think many researchers are more aware of the whole ecosystem and more willing perhaps to listen to the cost arguments rather than demand everything here and now.
3.) ILL services are pretty good and pretty affordable and are largely discounted by publisher pricing decisions.
4.) Users know how to get stuff from various sources as described above by Gwen Evans, publishers versions of record are needed less and less.
5.) Librarians have had enough of the parasitic relationship balance and a few are standing up – their experience emboldens others.

Essentially, a business that does not listen to its customers will see profits drop. The management handles the money but the customers pay the wages. There is some long overdue revision to be done if publisher mission statements are to be taken seriously.

I’m glad to see that your questions on the listservs yielded so many honest responses. Seeing the “deal-breakers” listed in one place is compelling. I hope that, as the list grows, it will indeed help to embolden others. Uncertainty loves company.
What I find missing from a lot of these big deal discussions are options. We (I’m using the editorial “we” here) tend to view our options as either a) we continue to renew the big deals through collections budget acrobatics, or b) we cancel the big deals and await the angry user mob. Isn’t there room for a c) or a d) in there? I’m pleased to see that Gwen Evans touches on alternative methods of delivery in her comment. Our users find content to which we don’t have access through alternative avenues frequently; I’d love to see content providers offer subscription models that allow for how our users operate in current discovery environments. What about demand-driven programs at the journal and/or article level? The short and dirty reality may be that unless content providers have a compelling financial reason to put time and development energy toward alternative acquisitions models, they won’t do it. Why should they fix what isn’t broken? And though I believe that our big deal subscription model is “broken”, I’m helping to shore it up every year at my own library because there’s “no way” our faculty would allow us to even consider cancelling. I get discouraged, but I also make sure to bring this up every I meet with our publishers and content providers. Every renewal discussion is a chance to ask about our options and to push for collaborative change. And while I doubt that my “pushing” makes it very far up the food chain, if we view big deal renewals as having only one of two unattractive outcomes, one of those two will continue to be our future.

Thanks for these comments, Erin — many of us feel your pain! If you’re looking for feasible and sustainable alternatives to your current Big Deal packages, you might want to reach out to some of the libraries listed here and ask them what they did in the wake of their cancelations. I know that many of them did, in fact, put into place demand-driven access to articles, though the specific DDA/PDA mechanisms vary from place to place. And of course, in many cases the libraries left strategically-selected individual subscriptions (or even smaller, more selective journal packages) in place. After all, canceling the Big Deal doesn’t necessarily (or even usually) mean getting rid of all subscriptions to journals from the publisher in question.

Do you have a sense of how consistently these institutions are defining “Big Deal”? Strieb and Blixrud did an analysis of ARL participation of publisher bundles back in 2012 and found that while publisher bundles were the dominant mechanism for licensing journal content, relatively few libraries licensed all of the titles. You can see some of their data and analysis here: http://publications.arl.org/rli282/15?ajax . The full paper here can be accessed here: https://www.press.jhu.edu/journals/portal_libraries_and_the_academy/portal_pre_print/articles/14.4strieb.pdf

Good question, Scott. I realized early on in this project that I was going to have to explicitly confirm with each of my informants what they meant by “Big Deal.” A number of libraries dropped out of my study when it became clear to me that they were using the term to mean large subject packages rather than (or as well as) truly comprehensive Big Deals. The ones that you see listed above represent, to the best of my ability to determine, genuine Big Deal packages — comprehensive (or functionally comprehensive) publisher-based journal packages.

I also think we should bear in mind that the Big Deal was not a publisher imposed idea. It came from a discussion between OhioLink and Academic Press. It was perceived as a win/win/win situation. As Rick has pointed out no-one expected the current structure to continue. It was temporary. Suppose there are librarians that would like the Big Deal (massive online access) to continue in a form which suits the current situation they find themselves in. I am of course referring to those librarians who do not regard the Big Deal as a work of the devil. Over the years the larger publishers have consulted librarians in their panels to find out what might replace it but the answers have all been different – or so I am told. The only answer is make everything open access. Maybe that is the only answer but it is coming slowly

” The only answer is make everything open access.” – That’s the route advocated, for example, by the Max Planck Digital Library and their OA2020 initiative. It involves converting the current Big Deals into pay-per-publication models, not all in one go, but step-by-step via “offsetting” – i.e. payments to publishers have a component for read-access of paywalled content and a component for open access APCs for papers published by the institution’s authors, and the goal is to phase out the subscription part and in the end only pay APCs for published articles.

It’s interesting that offsetting models are dismissed by publishers as too revolutionary and unrealistic, and at the same time by many OA advocates as not disruptive enough.

I interviewed Ralf Schimmer of MPDL for the German magazine “Laborjournal” recently, there he basically he said: Offsetting is an offer for an orderly transition to OA. The alternative is a chaotic and ugly transition via subscription cancellations. The above article seems to indicate that such a chaotic scenario may not be too far away.

(But I agree with one major point in the previous SK article you mentioned: The OA2020-like offsetting scenario may be tailored to the European situation, where funds can be more easily re-shuffled between institutions with high and low publication output).

For many publishers, the issue with offsetting deals is not that they’re too radical, it’s that they end up favoring one university/country at the expense of others. For years, we were warned against the evils of “double dipping,” that is, charging twice for the same content (charging an author an OA fee, then charging a reader a subscription fee for that article). So most of us set up global offsetting systems where if a journal publishes an OA article, the journal’s subscription price to all readers is reduced by an appropriate percentage so the subscribers are only paying for the subscription articles and not paying for the OA articles (because the author has already paid for those).

But the new offsetting deals are not global, instead institutions are asking for “local offsetting,” which basically means the university wants all of the articles it publishes to be made OA, and to have its own subscription prices reduced by the amount spent on OA. But doing this prevents the global offset — all the funds spent on OA are used to offset the spender’s university, and everyone else is left paying the same price, even though more articles are now made OA. Essentially, local offsetting is the university version of double dipping, asking for an additional service but pushing the costs of that additional service off onto other universities. And so the two types of offsetting are impossible to reconcile.

The OA2020-like offsetting scenario may be tailored to the European situation, where funds can be more easily re-shuffled between institutions with high and low publication output

This is really key to understanding why a “flip” to OA is nowhere near as easy as some suggest. In the US, you have a huge number of private universities, and the public ones are run and funded at a state level, rather than at a national level. There’s no single pool of money that can be shifted around, so if a small teaching school can cancel subscriptions, it’s going to keep the resulting money, rather than sending it off to Harvard to help pay for their increased costs.

I would be really interested in hearing whether consortia are considering dropping a big deal. I would imagine that it would be more difficult to drop a big deal for both the consortium and the vendor Also, having worked with Elsevier’s ScienceServer customers way back when, it was always my impression that many, if not most, European and Asian academic libraries tended to band together to purchase journal subscriptions, e.g., China’s CALIS, Italy’s Cilea, etc. If and when they cancel a big deal, that will be a big loss indeed for that publisher.

Thanks, Tim, that’s a good question. A number of the libraries listed above as Real Deal-Breakers were, in fact, party to consortial Big Deals, but I didn’t track that variable specifically.

Depending on the consortium (size and types of institutions), the big deal can still make sense if the pricing is reasonable. When it breaks apart, I can tell you the analysis we did after one of our big deal cancellations was (and still is true) that the consortium lost 65% of access for a 35% price reduction to the publisher, which amounted to a pretty big sum, especially for a society publisher. Some institutions ended up paying more for less content (which doesn’t benefit either researchers or the journals in question). As one of our institution’s provost remarked, this was really a lose-lose proposition for both the consortium and for the publisher. But the requested price increase just wasn’t acceptable. I think some publishers are convinced that their content is so valuable that the libraries individually will come up with the money (maybe more money!) for the exact same content, which is a very, very dangerous assumption in this economy.

I entirely agree with Dan and Rick — both publishers and librarians often seem like ducks talking to chickens about the fundamentals of their businesses.

Interlibrary loan also may play a role in this. When I was a graduate student, it would take several weeks to get an article via ILL. At my most recent educational posting (a research only institution), I would get article requests back in less than 24 hours.

Even going through the local public library, I can get ILL requests on articles back in less than a week. Not having direct access to journals may not be as big an issue for professors and students as itbused to be.

The interesting statistic for me is how badly Wiley does in this study – 29% of the identified cancellations are their Big Deal. Publishing bogeyman Elsevier represents only 7%, which is less than Springer, Taylor & Francis or Cambridge UP. Reflects very poorly on Wiley.

And I know Rick has been very open about the fact that it is a very small sample. But I couldn’t resist looking at how small – it is barely half of one percent of the degree granting institutions in the US.

I do the same, but ILLs require a subscription from somewhere, and if there are declining lenders and increasing borrowers, something will have to give.

I have followed developments in this area for a number of years and feel that the discussion very often excludes experiences from European and specifically Nordic academic libraries. Adding to complexity is the fact that in addition to the well established historic universities such as Copenhagen, Uppsala, Helsinki and Oslo many new institutions within higher education have been established. We also have competently planned national negotiations with the main providers of Big Deal content. Coming from a background at a young university with a modest level of print subscriptions the Big Deal has been a very good deal indeed!

Thanks for your comment, Arthur. In the case of this particular study, institutions in countries outside of North America certainly were left out (I explain why in the body of the piece), and I think we would all be very interested to know whether Big Deal cancelations are becoming more common in those countries.

I’ve assessed the impact of my university library pulling out of big deals a few times. In each case, my assessment showed a huge loss content that is actively used, greatly reduced set of subscription titles, and paltry savings.

We need to keep a core set of important titles in order to meet accreditation requirements and to support high-demand areas. After summing the list price of those titles, the savings we can achieve are limited and disappointing relative to the damage to our collection pulling out of the big deal would cause.

Our usage numbers across both subscription and access-only titles is very high. I know of no evidence that the usage numbers are inflated or that the use is somehow unimportant.

Interlibrary loan is not a feasible approach for us. We could not sustain the level of use via ILL – the annual copyright costs would exceed our big deal subscription costs.

So, I lobby to stay in the big deals for the sake of our collection and our users. I do hope a transitional model for funding publication and scholarly communication emerges. Until then, I’ll keep the baby and its bath water.

Thanks, Athena — nice to see you here in the comments! Your experience is very parallel to ours here at the U of Utah, which is why we haven’t canceled any big deals either. But that option becomes more and more “live” for us every year.

Instead of using ILL, would it be feasible for librarians to provide a service of locating email addresses of authors whose papers are requested so that the requoestors could then simp,ly email the author and request a copy directly, thereby bypassing ILL and the publisher altogether. Like Stevan Harnad, I believe this kind of supplying of individual articles from author to user is perfectly legal. usually authors’ email addresses, if they are located at universities, are not very difficult to find.

Beyond the studies that have documented low response rates from authors to such queries, which make such an approach highly unsatisfactory, I think we should assume that any model of providing access that relies (apologies for the bluntness) on authors being alive is probably not a viable long-term strategy.

Hi, I’ve just completed a research leave devoted to studying the early Big Deal packages. I’m currently preparing an article for publication. A couple of comments:

– it’s no surprise that libraries that have canceled Big Deal packages have not experienced the kind of negative impacts they thought they might. Some libraries never went for the Big Deal — they only licensed titles they had in print. As far as I can tell these libraries did not hear from faculty, students or administration that they had made the wrong decision. In other words, it’s possible that libraries were already subscribing to what their users’ needed, and that much of the extra Big Deal content was gratuitous.

– revenues may be stable for the major publishers at the moment because they are making up the lost revenue by increasing prices on remaining subscribers (see the situation in the mid-90’s with print journals). This is what commercial publishers have done for the past century when faced with large-scale cancelations. Obviously, this will make the remaining Big Deal packages even more unattractive, but publishers cannot seem to restrain themselves — they have a bottom line to meet. Looked at this way, the Big Deal is indeed unsustainable.

– The Big Deal has benefited publishers a couple of ways. One is by allowing them to practice price discrimination. This in turn only works because libraries have agreed to negotiate separately with publishers, and, for the most part, to keep the negotiated price secret. The quickest way to end the Big Deal as a publishing phenomenon would be for libraries to make public each deal they reach — that is, to force publishers to adopt uniform pricing. You might at that point find publishers offering a la carte pricing similar to the pre-Big Deal print world. Forcing libraries to pay premiums for the most important journals while letting them unsubscribe from marginal titles would keep up the revenue stream while letting libraries shed what they currently consider dead weight. Not ideal, but at least a temporary reprieve.

– the other way that the Big Deal has worked for publishers is by encouraging mergers (more content in a package means inflated prices and profits). This has fundamentally changed the scholarly communications landscape. Commercial publishers now have over 50% share of the scholarly communications market in both STM and the Social Sciences. One lesson from this is that librarians need to be thinking about the interconnectivity of the scholarly publishing world — decisions that individual libraries make can have an impact on the whole field. In the past libraries have cooperated and been able to get concessions from publishers. A bit more of that attitude might do wonders for all of us.

-finally, commercial publishers were able to get out of the Serials Crisis of the 1990’s through the introduction of Big Deal packages. These packages were seen as relief from the Serials Crisis — a lifeline that publishers had thrown to libraries who had only recently undergone mass cancelations. Similarly, if publishers are to get themselves out of the current mess they’ll have to come up a new product, ideally one that co-opts OA but still leaves the scholarly communications landscape very much in their hands. Not sure what it will look like, but I think it’s a strong bet that something new is coming.

Hi Dan, one thought that immediately came to mind on reading your comment:

revenues may be stable for the major publishers at the moment because they are making up the lost revenue by increasing prices on remaining subscribers

Is there evidence that there is an overall decrease in the number of big deals being signed? I haven’t seen it. I’d also add that signing deals in new markets is also in a growth phase, as many publishers are seeing increased penetration into countries that are stepping up their research efforts.

Actually, signing deals in new markets may be a sign of declining demand in old markets. For example, in the 1980’s several British publishers practiced a kind of price discrimination through charging North American libraries in US dollars while European libraries were charged in Pounds. One study showed North American libraries paying as much as 60% more than British libraries. When North American libraries objected, the British publishers relented. However, they simply shifted the practice to non-Western customers in the following year.

But to answer your question, certainly there is no hard proof that libraries are dropping Big Deal packages. But Rick’s article does confirm an intuition that most collections librarians I know have. That is, money removed from collections budgets due to the 2008 crash has never been reinstated. Meanwhile Big Deal packages are constraining more and more of these same budgets. At some point the model is simply unsustainable. Whether it happens this year, or the next, you can expect collections librarians across North America begin to reach a consensus on the idea of major serial cancelations, as they did in the early 1990’s. I have no proof of this — just a sense of deja vu.

As for OA, it remains to be seen what will happen, but it certainly feels as if the pendulum is swinging in it’s direction. Given the absolutely enormous profits at stake, I can imagine the major publishers are going to increase efforts to stop it through classic rent-seeking (lobbying governments), or thinking of some way to coopt it. What’s really interesting is that this is taking place during an era of economic nationalism. If you were the head of a large European publishing firm, would you be worried about the optics of so much money flowing from American libraries to European bank accounts? Just a thought.

But could the expansion be just that — expansion, rather than compensation for a failing in some other area of the market? We certainly haven’t seen any declines in the profits reaped by the Elseviers and Wileys of the world.

Given the absolutely enormous profits at stake, I can imagine the major publishers are going to increase efforts to stop it through classic rent-seeking (lobbying governments), or thinking of some way to coopt it.

Some would argue that the co-opting has already happened:
https://poynder.blogspot.co.uk/2017/05/the-open-access-interviews-jutta-haider.html

David,
True. The coopting began in earnest in 2008 when Springer purchased BioMed Central.

But again, there’s no hard proof, just historical precedent. Commercial publishers operate out of an internal dynamic. They function as monopolies and they need to continue to increase profits. They can only either increase output or increase prices. Libraries have limited funds and can only pay for the increased output and prices for so long. Once librarians reach a consensus that cancelations have to occur, they will, en masse. What publishers do then is anyone’s guess, but I don’t think it will involve just passively letting this scenario play out.

I’m curious if anyone reading this thinks that the European publishers need to be concerned about economic nationalism. Can anyone imagine a scenario where American politicians to identify academic publishing as an unfair drain on American resources? As unfair European trade practices?

Mike Clarke wrote a really good piece about this and the avenues for growth:
https://scholarlykitchen.sspnet.org/2014/10/01/peak-subscription/

I’m curious if anyone reading this thinks that the European publishers need to be concerned about economic nationalism.

In the US, my understanding is that much (most?) of the money going into library serials budgets comes from sources like tuition and student fees, rather than from grant funding. It varies from university to university (and private university to public universities). Also, most of the big publishing companies are international, with offices in many countries, employing local citizens and paying (at least some form of) taxes. So it’s a pretty complex picture, although that’s never stopped politicians from stepping in with short-sighted laws based on flawed understanding of a complex subject.

I don’t think the Trump administration would parse where the funding is coming from. What I’m picturing is a Trump tweet that bashes the EU on this point in advance of larger trade negotiations. Not likely, but still, when you view the situation in terms of international trade, the imbalance between the US and the EU is pretty glaring. From this perspective the US gives away it’s research to the EU and the EU sells it back at a premium. Not what Trump would define as “winning.”

In the US, my understanding is that much (most?) of the money going into library serials budgets comes from sources like tuition and student fees, rather than from grant funding.

Eh, sort of. You’re right that most of it doesn’t tend to come from grant funding (although every research library of which I’m aware gets at least some chunk of the overhead pie), and much of it does come from tuition and (often, though not always) student fees, but at most public universities you can also assume that a good chunk of it comes from legislative allocations.

As noted, it’s a mixed bag. There are research institutions with no tuition-paying students for example, that rely entirely on grant overheads and donations for such things as an example. One question though:

at most public universities you can also assume that a good chunk of it comes from legislative allocations

Given that in the US, public universities are more at the state level than the national level, how much of that chunk comes from the federal government?

In the US, legislative funding to public universities is, as far as I’m aware, invariably allocated at the state level. I can’t think of an exception to that rule, though someone else may know of one.

One can nevertheless remark that the eroding demand for the traditional journal publication model also has an effect on the eventual supply of OA options also by the large-scale publishers indirectly discussed in the original post. While a recent OpenScience’s post was mostly about APCs (http://openscience.com/how-much-do-top-publishers-charge-for-open-access/), it reflects the larger trend. From my perspective, publishers’ business models are as open to the influence of market forces as those in other markets (http://openscience.com/the-impact-of-market-forces-on-open-access-journal-publishers/).

Thanks Rick. I am the University Librarian at Université de Montréal. You can add a new row to the table 1 since we unbundled Taylor & Francis last week (http://www.bib.umontreal.ca/communiques/20170504-DC-annulation-taylor-francis-va.htm). And Springer is still unbundled. We unbundled Wiley in 2014 to resume in 2016 (and not 2015 as noted) because we got a fair price.

We only consider titles that meet the needs of our community when determining the amount we are ready to pay for big deals. We consider both the publishers’ pricing and the real needs of our community. Instead of accepting the publishers’ asking price, we propose to pay what we consider a fair price. We use the same approach with all publishers. This approach seems reasonable since Cambridge University Press, John Wiley & Sons, and SAGE Publications Inc. have accepted our offers. I am aware that the size of the Université de Montréal, 3rd in Canada in terms of research activities, improve the ability to listen to our interlocutors…

We conducted a broad consultation with our community to determine the essential teaching and research journals at the UdeM. Our methodology combined bibliometric analysis with the results of a consultation of our faculty, lecturers and graduate students. That methodology allowed identification of 5,893 periodicals deemed essential out of a possible 50,000 subscriptions. We realized that, at best, barely more than a third of the periodicals included in most Big Deals are truly of use.

Hope that your blog will encourage colleagues to dare, because, as the philosopher Seneca said it is not because things are difficult that we do not dare, it is because we do not dare that they are difficult.

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