“Two trends in recent library-publisher relations have been the unbundling from big deals and the bundling of open access publishing onto read deals. Neither directly addresses how libraries undertake that fundamental role of brokering access to paywalled content from scholarly publishers on behalf of their communities.
Read-and-publish deals bundle a ‘publish’ component onto a preexisting ‘read’ component but, practically-speaking, little changes for the read component. And while unbundling from Big Deals does change the structure of read deals, this is not a proactive subscriptions strategy, it’s a retreat from a failed one. While neither trend offers a model for a new read deal, understanding how they shape the current terrain does help us navigate a future path.
Let’s consider the role of equity, which is gaining headway into library decision-making. Read-and-publish increases the overall number of articles published as open access through a publisher, which increases free access for readers; this increases equity. This also standardizes author-side OA publishing fees, decreasing opportunity for under-affiliated authors, which decreases equity. Some will argue that read-and-publish is good for equity, and others will argue it’s bad for equity, which is evidenced by the continued growth of read-and-publish deals as well as the continued criticism of them.
Setting that debate aside, where can energy be redirected productively? Easy. Consider less controversial frameworks that libraries operate under, such as the desire to maximize fulfillment of local users’ content needs within set budgets. Read-and-publish doesn’t necessarily do this in a ‘read’ subscription context and, unless we consider retreat from Big Deals as advancement in a different direction, the strategy vacuum left in that space is largely unfilled….
I propose that publishers make all of their paywalled content available to a partnered library’s users and, in turn, libraries pay invoices based on total usage of paywalled content at a single flat rate. (As opposed to a bespoke formula based on journal brand value and institutional classification.) Giving users the ability to read everything from a publisher is maximum coverage. Paying only for the paywalled articles that users use is maximum value….”