We’ve all been seeing for a while EBSCO increasingly getting ‘exclusive’ rights to aggregate content, so you’ve got to buy indexes from EBSCO if you want it. In another step in this strategy to monopolize content, EBSCO has withdrawn their content from Ex Libris’s aggregated index. — this was never actually deliverable full text, EBSCO is unwiling to provide content even to show up in search results (without full text) on a competitors platform.
Ex Libris reports that most of the content EBSCO has withdrawn is still available in their aggregated index from other sources. That makes sense, because EBSCO is an aggregator, not an original publisher. However, we know that behind the scenes EBSCO is trying to get more and more publishers to give them exclusive licenses to provide full text, such that publishers content won’t be available anywhere but the EBSCO platform. The goal would seem to be that if you want scholarly content, you’ve got to get a ‘big deal‘ from EBSCO, that’s the only way to do it.
Good for EBSCO, but not good for library customers or the actual publishers. Not good for library customers for the obvious reason that, like any marketplace, customers will get better financial deals when there’s competition for their business — in this case, all the competition is going to be in who can pay publishers the most for ‘exclusive’ licenses, that is, who can charge the most to actual library customers so they can afford to pay the most for publishers.
But even aside from financial implications, it’s not good for library customers because it’s already hard enough — simply from a technical perspective — for us to provide our patrons with integrated streamlined interfaces to search scholarly content, and integrate with library delivery services. We need as many platform options as possible for scholarly content, so we can experiment with how to deliver it to our patrons as seamlessly as possible — and we need competition among platform vendors in who can give us the best api’s and aggregated indexes with the most flexible access, to improve our ability to deliver an integrated streamlined experience to our users.
But it’s also not good for publishers, because publishers want their content to be as easily discoverable in as many places as possible. Because more discovery means more people wanting to access the articles (which the publisher makes money on one way or another), and more people accessing articles means more articles cited, and thus better citation ranking and prestige. And limiting access to article discovery is obviously even more so not good for the actual authors, who don’t even get a cut of the exclusive license deals being offered to the publishers.
Publishers undoubtedly know this to some extent in the 21st century — one can imagine that if EBSCO said they wanted an exclusive license such that publishers content would never show up in Google (Scholar or otherwise), publishers would balk. But publishers are still willing to let EBSCO try to starve out certain other competitors in return for payment.
Serial Solution’s Summon, as far as I can tell, has always focused on harvesting directly from publishers rather than aggregators, which I always thought was a wiser move tan trying to depend on what is essentially a competitor for the data neccesary for your business. Hopefully Ex Libris will PrimoCentral will realize they need to do this too, and be able to pull it off.
However, the next obvious step for EBSCO is to try and obtain licenses from publishers such that publishers won’t share their metadata directly with any other aggregators either — so PrimoCentral or Summon won’t be able to harvest the material directly from publishers either. (EBSCO may very well already have such deals; anyone have any examples?) We have to let publishers know this does not serve their market, and libraries as the ultimate customers are going to do our best to use our dollars as votes to stop it.
We as library customers who EBSCO makes their money off of have to start/keep telling EBSCO that we’re not happy with their strategy. But it’s probably even more important to make sure publishers hear this message too, but from library customers and academic authors.
This is just one more example of how the future success of libraries depends on us libraries taking an “activist consumer” standpoint and using our dollars to pressure businesses to act in our interests, rather than just passively paying the bills (or not) as we are used to.