Is the Value of the Big Deal in Decline? – The Scholarly Kitchen

Last week, the University of California system terminated its license with Elsevier. There has been a great deal of attention to California’s efforts to reach a Publish & Read (P&R) agreement. The what-could-have-been of this deal is interesting and important. But I wish to focus today on the what-no-longer-is of scholarly content licensing, focusing on the big deal model of subscription journals bundled together on a single publisher basis for three to five year deals. In the eyes of major libraries in Europe and the US, the value of the big deal has declined. As a result, we are moving into a new period, in which publisher pricing power has declined and the equilibrium price for content and related services is being reset. What is the principal culprit? I will maintain today that we must look in large part to what publishers call “leakage.”…

I have heard estimates that suggest publisher usage numbers could be at least 60-70% higher if “leakage” was included in addition to their on-platform usage statistics. This includes “green” options through a variety of repositories (including some that are operated by publishers themselves in addition to library and not-for-profit repositories), materials on scholarly collaboration networks, and through piracy. The share of leakage among entitled users at an institution with a license is probably lower than this estimate, but it is likely well in the double digits.

I am in no way arguing against green models. Indeed, publishers have largely become comfortable with green open access. I am simply observing that these percentages are beginning to add up….”