Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Speaking Truth to Power in the Publishing Industry

My [long-suffering] readers have seen me repeatedly make reference to practices in the publishing industry that have been reported through various press sources, websites, and other blogs. To date, most of these stories have involved the publishing giant Elsevier.

But Elsevier is not the only publisher out there who has some pretty "interesting" pricing and marketing practices. The Chronicle of Higher Education daily has published some good articles about efforts to bring issues with Elsevier to light. Now comes a terrific blog post from Jenica Rogers, Director of Libraries at SUNY - Potsdam that tells of her struggles with the practices of the American Chemical Society and her decision to discontinue her campus' subscriptions to the ACS journal package. It makes for some pretty interesting reading, and I encourage you to go have a look.

So long as groups like ACS, Elsevier, and others who attempt to dictate our purchasing decisions to us through pricing and market manipulation are allowed to do so in relative secrecy, those actions will not be challenged except on an individual basis. I am happy that there are institutions that have the money to afford to be able to not have to think twice about what resources they want to provide. But most of us do not have that luxury. Making difficult decisions about what resources we can and can't afford, measuring cost versus usage, and trying to get the most appropriate resources to support our institutions IS a part of "doing our job" as librarians and managers of information resources. For the most part, those decisions get made individually or locally and only affect one institution. But every now and again, this struggle goes public. Maybe only a handful of people will ever see it. Every attempt at reform and change has to have a beginning.

And so if "going public" is a way to draw attention to the issue that might actually affect this situation for the rest of us, then more power to Jenica Rogers for what she has done. We have nothing to lose but our complacency.

[9/28/12]
P.S. Please also see this quite excellent post on John Dupuis' "Confessions of a Science Librarian" blog on ScienceBlogs for another perspective on the subject, along with some other links he has collected and published.