Open Access, Library and Publisher Competition, and the Evolution of General Commerce

Evaluation Review, April 2014

26 Pages Posted: 5 Feb 2013 Last revised: 10 May 2014

See all articles by Andrew Odlyzko

Andrew Odlyzko

University of Minnesota - Twin Cities - School of Mathematics and Digital Technology Center

Date Written: October 18, 2013

Abstract

Discussions of the economics of scholarly communication are usually devoted to Open Access, rising journal prices, publisher profits, and boycotts. That ignores what seems a much more important development in this market. Publishers, through the oft-reviled "Big Deal" packages, are providing much greater and more egalitarian access to the journal literature, an approximation to true Open Access. In the process they are also marginalizing libraries, and obtaining a greater share of the resources going into scholarly communication. This is enabling a continuation of publisher profits as well as of what for decades has been called "unsustainable journal price escalation." It is also inhibiting the spread of Open Access, and potentially leading to an oligopoly of publishers controlling distribution through large scale licensing.

The "Big Deal" practices are worth studying for several general reasons. The degree to which publishers succeed in diminishing the role of libraries may be an indicator of the degree and speed at which universities transform themselves. More importantly, these "Big Deals" appear to point the way to the future of the whole economy, where progress is characterized by declining privacy, increasing price discrimination, increasing opaqueness in pricing, increasing reliance on low-paid or upaid work of others for profits, and business models that depend on customer inertia.

Keywords: open access, price discrimination, ecommerce, friction-free capitalism

JEL Classification: D40, L11, L82, O33

Suggested Citation

Odlyzko, Andrew, Open Access, Library and Publisher Competition, and the Evolution of General Commerce (October 18, 2013). Evaluation Review, April 2014 . Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2211874 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2211874

Andrew Odlyzko (Contact Author)

University of Minnesota - Twin Cities - School of Mathematics and Digital Technology Center ( email )

127 Vincent Hall
206 Church St. SE
Minneapolis, MN 55455
United States
612-625-6413 (Phone)
612-626-2017 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://www.dtc.umn.edu/~odlyzko

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