Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Friday, January 19, 2007

The Wiley-Blackwell deal will reduce access to research information

Five European library organizations have sent an open letter (January 10, 2007) to the European Commission's Directorate General for Competition, opposing the Wiley plan to buy Blackwell.  Excerpt:

Recently, John Wiley & Sons Inc announced an agreement to purchase Blackwell Publishing (Holdings) Ltd, a publisher of academic books and journals. As representatives of the primary customers of academic publications within Europe, we are deeply concerned that this transaction will have an adverse effect on prices and result in a further reduction in access to critical research information....

Studies have shown that mergers in the publishing industry result in larger price increases than would be expected from inflation. Every journal produced by each publisher is unique - no two journal articles are identical and Wiley describe the material they publish as "must-have". Therefore, the normal market forces of competition do not come into play. If university staff and students need the content in a particular journal, the owners of that journal will be able to raise the price without fear that the library will go to a competitor. To re-coup their investment and raise profit margins Wiley will be able to raise prices knowing that the unique nature of the academic publishing market will allow them to do so with impunity. This was recognized in a recent study commissioned by your colleagues in DG-Research that showed that "publishers with large journal portfolios have an incentive to set higher prices." The study concluded that future acquisitions by large publishers should undergo scrutiny....

In September 2002, the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) in the UK concluded that "there is evidence to suggest that the market for STM journals may not be working well." On page 7 of the OFT Statement a list was given of the largest STM publishers in 1998. If the proposed purchase of Blackwell by Wiley were to take place the largest 15 publishers in 1998 would condense into just 9 companies....

The letter is signed by the directors of Consortium of Research Libraries (CURL), European Bureau of Library, Information and Documentation Associations (EBLIDA), Ligue des Bibliothèques Européennes de Recherche (LIBER), the Society of College, National & University Libraries (SCONUL), and SPARC Europe.

PS:  Compare this with the open letter from the Information Access Alliance to the US Justice Department opposing the same deal for the same reasons (November 26, 2006).