Please enjoy this sample article from our Insights service. If you are an Outsell client, log in now to access all Insights articles.
InsightsAnalysis of events, data, and trends
affecting the information industry.
Librarians' recent actions opposing some publishers' licensing and business models have put the content buyer/seller relationship under the flood lights - and the show isn't a good one. With library budgets stuck and the cost of content continuing to rise, something's got to give.
Important Details: Anorexic library budgets, publishers aiming for growth through price increases, business-model stagnation, pricing secrecy (see Insights 14 February 2011, Information Product Trends: Unclear Pricing Models and Lack of Mobile Access Overshadow Cool Innovations), and end-users' sense of entitlement to what they often perceive as freely available information are some of the factors which have led to a pressure-cooker environment for libraries and publishers. Outsell's annual pricing studies for 2010 and 2011 have shown negative net changes to library content budgets (-3% for 2010 and -0.1% for 2011) against increased net content pricing (3% in 2010 and 3.5% in 2011). The squeeze is compelling some librarians and content buyers to take a stand against the status quo.
There have been a number of recent developments which highlight the growing intensity of the problem:
"I can observe...that there is something unhealthy about an industry which has managed to alienate its customers to the point their membership associations increasingly focus time and attention on how to overturn the industry structure. It is not a good thing to have your customers spend their time trying to put you out of business."
While Aspesi's remark is stark, it summarizes succinctly the growing disconnect among many librarians and some of the publishers they work with. It echoes much of the conversation we hear from content buyers and, at its heart, contains the kernel of truth.
Implications: Librarians and information managers are facing increases to the cost of their overall vendor portfolios as they simultaneously grapple with stagnant and flat content budgets. To balance the equation means that buying somewhere has to be curtailed.
Pressured as never before, librarians and content buyers are drawing some firm lines in the sand about what they'll accept in terms of pricing, licensing, and business models for buying and accessing content. There's something in all of this that is reminiscent of actor Peter Finch in the movie "Network," whose character (a network newscaster) is at the end of his tether about the world's problems, and incites his viewers on live TV to run to their windows and scream "I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take this anymore." These days, angry and frustrated content buyers are compelled to take action against what they believe are unfair publisher deals or requirements. They are serious about, and willing to walk away from, deals or terms or prices they don't like.
This state of affairs serves no one well. Publishers lose business, libraries' collections diminish, and knowledge workers, students, faculty, and researchers are deprived of important materials to support their work. It's time for a broader dialogue that engages publishers and libraries. Even amidst the ever-changing information landscape and the challenges these changes bring, libraries will continue to represent a major revenue stream for publishers. Despite the mess and pain of change it's in everyone's best interest to blaze a better trail to the future. One path could be through membership associations that represent publishers and librarians. These groups have an important opportunity now to work together in advancing communication and positive movement forward on their constituents' behalf. Publishers are trying to grow; libraries are trying to staunch the loss of budget dollars; users just want their information. Something's got to give.