Roy Jakobs, Director Academic and Government Sales and Marketing, wrote Supporting Libraries in a Challenging Economy discussing how the current economic crisis affecting academic and government institutions is also affecting Elsevier. It has an impact on libraries and institutions world wide. “One thing for certain is that these are unique and challenging times for both our customers and Elsevier.”
Elsevier has decided to do two main things to help customers through the economic crisis.
1. They are doing moderate price increases for 2010. Some journal subscriptions will decrease in cost while other will increase.
2. Elsevier will work with institutions individually “to find solutions for academic customers whose budgets are suffering from the current economic crisis.”
(This piece was written by the Director Academic and Government Sales and Marketing, so hospitals were not mentioned. One hopes the two things he mentions will be also instituted to hospital customers as well.)
I know some of you are already rolling your eyes about idea of Elsevier “helping” libraries. Well yeah, be skeptical, I didn’t say they were going to be giving us money. For each institution the proof will be in the pudding. However, what I find interesting about this statement is that it allows us to hear what one for profit library vendor is doing in this economy with its products and customers. In previous posts I have linked to MLA’s Ad Hoc Committee for Advocating Scholarly Communications list with the various journal publishers who have frozen or dropped the price of their 2010 subscriptions. One person commented on Facebook or Twitter (I can’t remember) that the list contained mainly society publishers and non profit publishers. Well unfortunately that is probably going to be the case with most of these types of lists. While I certainly don’t agree with every for profit company’s decisions, we have to remember that many of them like Elsevier, Wolters Kluwer etc. are beholden to their share holders first (if they are a publicly held company). That is business. That sometimes irks us a librarians because we don’t always like to think of profit and business and libraries. It seems to get in the way of our mantra of providing information to the public. My brother, a venture capitalist, and I have had many debates over a few cold beers about these sorts of things.
These companies have not only the economy to deal with but they also have to make a profit selling to non profit entities, not always an easy nor favorably viewed job. I know of several companies (I am not thinking of library related companies) that really don’t want to sell to non profits, or they certainly don’t pursue non profit companies as clients.
So while we librarians might disagree with many of the decisions some our for profit resources providers have made recently and in the past, expecting them to behave (price and negotiate) like a non profit or a society publisher is not realistic. I am one of the first people to complain about a company(ies) questionable pricing (especially if it seems like gouging) and unfair usage restrictions, but I also have to remind myself that not everyone is going to be able to bite the economic bullet as much as others. Don’t forget there were quite a few society and non profit publishers who weren’t on that list too.
What I think would be helpful is if there were more statements or press releases like this from other companies (for profit and non profit) stating their direction and how they intend to handle this economic crisis within their company and with their customers. Maybe I am weird but I want to know what other companies are doing in this economy, how will my budget be affected, what can I expect in general from Company X. Of course not only do they need to make a statement, they should stick to their message. A company stating they will only raise prices 5% yet actually raise them 125% won’t help me with my budget planning and they will be the first thing I look to cut as soon as possible.