Let’s all get angry about the Serials Crisis again

Something I’ve noticed lately in scholcomm and open access discussions on social media is a misunderstanding of the Serials Crisis. Typically when it gets referred to it is often interpreted that the ‘crisis’ is the high prices of scholarly publishers. The oligopoly they have and the 30% profit margins they make. This is a piece of the Serial Crisis, but what the Serial Crisis is really about is not the high costs, the dominance of a small number of publishers, or the high profit margins, it is about the rate by which scholarly publishers have increased their prices. I think this is an important distinction and I am going to try and explain why.

The price of serials usually goes up 5% – 6% per year while the rate of inflation is only around 2.5% per year (in the US). This essentially means that while the cost of everything else goes up 2.5% per year, the cost of serials goes up about double that.

This doesn’t seem like that big of deal though right? 2.5% and 5.5% are small percentages. An increase of a couple percentage like this is essentially just a rounding error, right? Continue reading

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Where is the Green in Open Access Big Deals?

Open Access ‘Big Deals’ (also called ‘Read-and-Publish’ agreements) have been a big topic of discussion in the last couple years.

Richard Poynder defines the term nicely:

Here agreements are signed with legacy publishers that combine bulk journal subscription fees (as with traditional Big Deals) plus bulk OA publishing fees so that authors can publish without personally having to pay APCs.

While all the rage in Europe (e.g. Netherlands, Germany, Finland), it’s yet to fully catch on in North America. Most North American Research Libraries are still experimenting with some-sort of APC discount agreement with publishers and so far only one academic institution, MIT Libraries, has attempted the full ‘all-inclusive’ OA Big Deal where authors do not need to pay any APC at all. Continue reading

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The Institutionalized Racism of Scholarly Publishing

In 2002 the African scholarly publisher, Academic Journals, began publishing  peer reviewed journals. By 2011 they had grown to be a considerably sized publisher, publishing 107 journals with more than 220 employees, and having become an important publishing platform for African researchers.

Then disaster struck. They were added to Jeffery Beall’s list of “Potential, possible, or probable predatory scholarly open-access publishers”.

(Beall’s list was taken down in early 2017. You can find an archived version of it via the Internet Archive’s Web Archive)

The impact was immediate. From the About Us section of their website:

Several editors resigned from the various editorial board. The number of manuscript submission declined, including several withdrawals.  This decline was steep and fast, and impacted on our ability to support our team. At the end of the year, under this very difficult condition, Academic journals was forced to downsize the number of employees. Almost half of all members of the team was affected by the downsizing. Over a hundred and twenty employees lost their jobs.

Academic Journals submitted a formal appeal to Beall. He admitted it may have been a bit harsh to add them to his list, but refused to remove them. Academic Journals had no choice but to struggle on. Quoting their website again:

Academic Journals doubts the sincerity of the Jeffrey Beall’s list. We perceive that the list is deliberately biased towards open access journals. In addition, we consider Jeffrey Beall’s methods questionable and lacking in rigor in a matter as important as the evaluation of academic publishing. We welcome a fair, transparent and rigorous evaluation of all our activities.

How crazy is it that you can build a substantial publishing infrastructure on your home continent and then see it decimated by a single man across the ocean who decides to add you to his blacklist? Continue reading

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Preliminary Thoughts on Canada’s Copyright Review

I did something cool a few weeks ago and spoke at one of the open microphone sessions for the Statutory Review of the Copyright Act. The transcript of what I said is below, but I just want to lay some context first.

I had originally planned to give some hard and fast areas where I thought the Copyright Act of Canada should be changed. However, I quickly realized there were a lot of people saying similar things a lot better than I could. Plus I only had a few minutes to talk. I figured it was more useful was maybe to engage in some big picture thinking instead of the user rights vs creator rights debate (Which is dominating the Copyright Review discussions because of Educational Institutions movement away from Access Copyright).  Continue reading

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Library Collection Development in the Age of Open Access and Research Sharing

Building off a similarly titled blog post, I gave this presentation this week at the North Dakota-Manitoba ACRL Chapter 2018 Symposium.

If you want to use/cite this presentation, it is also in the LIS Scholarship Archive with a DOI: https://dx.doi.org/10.17605/OSF.IO/XGMYP

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The Future of Open Access with the Galaxy Brain Meme.

I don’t usually meme on here, but I’m proud of this one:

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The Future of Library Access: Open Access Linking and “Hybrid” Interlibrary Loan

Florida State announced today they are cancelling their Big Deal subscription with Elsevier. The list of libraries cancelling keeps growing.

I’ve been talking to a few librarians of late who have, or who are actively trying, to cancel big deals and it’s become more and more clear to me how immensely hard a thing this is. Cancelling a Big Deal involves a lot of work and staff-power on behalf of the library. There’s the outreach to researchers about what is happening and managing individual ejournal packages can actually be a lot more work from a cataloging and electronic resource management perspective.

As one librarian quoted another librarian as saying, “You can’t cancel your way out of a budget crisis”. It’s not as easy as just cancelling and saving all that money. A large amount of that money will have to go toward building the infrastructure and filling the resource gap Big Deals cancellations create. Continue reading

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