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Double Dippin’

A conversation w. Elsevier about why their deals are so expensive.
Brandon Butler 10 Jul 18
In Elsevier’s defense (!!), what exactly does this mean? APCs≠subscription fees. How is it “double-dipping” for Elsevier to charge Germany to publish OA AND charge them for access to other people’s non-OA articles?
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Tom Reller, Elsevier 10 Jul 18
Replying to @bc_butler
It's not. DD is a made-up name for publishers simply charging the same customer for 2 different services. Broadcasting is one service, reading is another. On the other hand, this reporter may have misquoted them, because its definitely not for the same (each) article.
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Bernhard Mittermaier 10 Jul 18
Replying to @TomReller @bc_butler
It is. 1.Imagine nobody makes subscription article OA -> publisher has only subscription fees. 2.Imagine everybody makes every subscription article OA -> publisher has subscription fees + APCs for every article. 3. Real world: In between; definitely higher revenue than in #1
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Tom Reller, Elsevier 10 Jul 18
Again, the article suggests two payments for ‘each’ article, and that’s not what happens, not in any of your scenarios. Each article is paid by either the reader or the author, but not both. That’s why DD is a totally flawed accusation to make.
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Bernhard Mittermaier 10 Jul 18
Replying to @TomReller @bc_butler
Please look at my scenario 2: each article is paid both by its readers AND by its author. Admittedly it's an extreme scenario, marking one end of the scale. The other end is: Only subscriptions. Real world is between.
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Jon Tennant 10 Jul 18
solved this a while back for Elsevier: "Without hybrid OA the total from these 20 institutions is £14,259,959. With hybrid OA it is £15,197,490. It is clear that this is additional revenue for the same content – i.e., double dipping!" /Fin
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Brandon Butler 10 Jul 18
I would express the injustice differently. Making articles OA reduces the volume of the subscription bundle. If price doesn’t go down accordingly (for ALL, not just APC payers), then we’re ALL paying more for less. Which is how this dysfunctional, pay-for-prestige market works.
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Brandon Butler 10 Jul 18
For Germany, if they were to pay the same price as before for subscriptions that will now include fewer toll-access titles b/c of an OA Big Deal, that’s a rip-off for them, but also for all of us! It’s not double-dipping. It’s dipping thousands and thousands of times.
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Bernhard Mittermaier 10 Jul 18
That wouldn't be double-dipping indeed
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Jon Tennant 10 Jul 18
Yep, this is a common point made, but Elsevier counter it by saying the volume of articles increases proportionally with new OA ones. All Elsevier has to do is publish an equal volume of extra non-OA articles to claim no double dipping by publishing more, lower quality content.
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Brandon Butler 10 Jul 18
Right - this is where use data comes in handy, though it’s also easy to manipulate. Cal Tech’s “Open-Adjusted Cost Per Use” is a nice metric, IMO.
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Brandon Butler 10 Jul 18
I harp on this because I want folks to understand just how irrational the cost of journals is. It’s so much worse than “double dipping.” It’s more like “ELS is living in a fantasy of perfect price discrimination and extracting every cent of consumer surplus from every user.”
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Brandon Butler 10 Jul 18
This is why I don’t understand the term “offsetting,” either, as applied to agreements between ELS and libs. Ideally, OA fees paid by instn A should be “offset” for everyone, not just the fee-payer.
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Tom Reller, Elsevier 10 Jul 18
Wrong (and misleading) once again Jon. Our oa quality goes up along with subscription quality every year. We can manage that because submission volume for both goes up even more.
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Tom Reller, Elsevier 10 Jul 18
Except that’s wrong, it’s not the same content. They simply paid a fair amount to read content from around the globe, and then they separately paid a little more to broadcast different oa content around the globe, that other institutions didn’t pay for.
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David Prosser 11 Jul 18
What the UK pays next year to Elsevier in subs through the big deal while be the same whatever proportion of articles in subscription (hybrid) journals is made . From 0% OA to 100%, the subs bill is unchanged. But the more OA, the greater the APC bill. Double-dipping
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Brandon Butler 11 Jul 18
This is why it’s so important that Germany walks away (and others follow suit). There’s no downward pressure on price if there’s not a real walkaway threat. I bought a used car this weekend, and the offer didn’t much improve until I was literally walking out the door.
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Tom Reller, Elsevier 11 Jul 18
Not quite. Title prices are based on prior year content* but such sudden swings of OA replacing subs articles almost never happens as Journal content balance (result of submissions) b/w OA and sub is very consistent. We recalibrate prices each year based on vol and qual. (1 of 4)
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Tom Reller, Elsevier 11 Jul 18
So for 2017 100 titles had a price change of 0% or less, and only 12 of them were affected by OA increases (* from first tweet = plus other factors, see here - ), (2 of 4)
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Tom Reller, Elsevier 11 Jul 18
And to quote JISC, “Elsevier research articles have been of excellent quality at a price per accessible article below the average for the agreements that Jisc negotiates with other publishers” (3of4)
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Tom Reller, Elsevier 11 Jul 18
The UK gets a great deal given the increasing volume and quality of the articles we publish each year. Our pricing reflects volume and quality of our sub articles, not OA articles. Please stop with the false DD claims, they don’t hold up! (end)
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Brandon Butler 11 Jul 18
But as we saw with LSU, the real goal of pricing is to maintain a steadily growing revenue stream from each institution. When LSU realized it was literally paying twice for the same content and canceled the duplicates, ELS pushed to add that spend to price of the remaining deal.
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Brandon Butler 11 Jul 18
If others aren't familiar with the LSU lawsuit (subsequently settled, after much obstruction by RELX), here's a good summary from : .
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Brandon Butler 11 Jul 18
If the pricing/negotiation goal isn't just to keep the money flowing, how to account for proposals like, "You need to add $170k in content this year," where it's understood that the rep doesn't actually care what the content is or if it is used?
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Brandon Butler 11 Jul 18
In such a scenario, it seems disingenuous to say added spend brought added value. Yes, more titles were lit up in exchange for more cash, but the (barely) implied threat is that if you don't buy these titles, we'll cut off yr access to the stuff you really need.
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Tom Reller, Elsevier 11 Jul 18
No that's not what happened there. That was 2 separately priced contracts, with some content overlap, but not all. we simply said if you're going to combine all those users and content from 2 diff contracts, you have to pay more than either individual contract. It all worked out
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Brandon Butler 11 Jul 18
More, yes, but how much more? ELS's initial answer: enough to bring your spend level back to where it was when you were paying twice for the vet school package. The ELS rep's offer speaks for itself. The quality and volume of content is afterthought. Total spend is what matters.
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Tom Reller, Elsevier 11 Jul 18
Total spend is the best part b/c on a %age basis we increase volume and quality more than the %age spend increase. That's increased value each year over the prior. That's what customers should expect and we deliver it.
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Brandon Butler 11 Jul 18
Again, the LSU example is instructive, because it dramatizes what happens to all of us: total spend+% increase locks in every bad deal we've made in the past. For LSU, that would've meant erasing savings from de-duping. For the rest of us, it means never clawing back 37% profits.
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Brandon Butler 11 Jul 18
And because it's not a truly competitive market, we don't see what every other digital business has delivered to consumers over the last few decades: not a little more stuff for a little more cash, but a *lot* more stuff for a lot *less* cash.
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Tom Reller, Elsevier 11 Jul 18
Ah, profits again. So if we're competitively priced against other publishers, societies, etc, while providing more, and higher quality content, at a lower price per unit per year, why should our profit margin even matter? If our margin was less, the price would still be the same.
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Tom Reller, Elsevier 11 Jul 18
Els profits have mostly to do with sharing costs with similar RELX businesses, selling a diversified mix of products globally at massive scale and running an efficient business. I suppose if we didnt have those things, and priced the same, thus a lower profit, you'd be happier?
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Brandon Butler 11 Jul 18
An army of financial analysts has explained, repeatedly, how bizarre the for-profit academic publishing business is, and how insanely lucky ELS is to be part of it, and reap margins accordingly. You don't need me to do it again!
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Brandon Butler 11 Jul 18
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David Prosser 11 Jul 18
We’re paying more in subscription fees and more to make some of that subscription content OA. I know that Elsevier doesn’t want use to call that double dipping, but it is and we will continue to call it out
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David Prosser 11 Jul 18
And it is this behaviour that is leading to increased calls to stop finding hybrids
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Tom Reller, Elsevier 11 Jul 18
Sorry, but on the contrary, analysts and other very smart people managing billions with RELX, including many academic pension funds, have determined RELX is a good company to invest in and in a stable market, they wouldn't be investing so much for so long in something 'bizarre.'
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Brandon Butler 11 Jul 18
I don't know, man. To say something is bizarre (perverse, insane, unjust) isn't to say it can't last a long time thanks to intractable coordination problems and monopoly. Investors love an unfair advantage. Consumers, notsomuch.
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Tom Reller, Elsevier 11 Jul 18
You said you're trying to make subscription content OA. But you don't make subscription content OA. You make more sub content, and more OA content. You're just paying more to buy and publish more then calling it double dipping b/c you think it's a snazzy soundbyte
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Tom Reller, Elsevier 11 Jul 18
That's lame. Sure I'm paid to do this but many people understand that publishers add value and deserve to charge for their contributions. And the reality is that the numbers of users and customers that keep turning to us bears that out, even 20+ years after the internet.
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Tom Reller, Elsevier 11 Jul 18
aack, monopoly. We're at 17%. If you're talking about the monopoly of a specific article, even that is less true every day with SSNs, preprints, repositories, pubmed, emails, buttons, etc. Monopoly is just as inaccurate as double dipping is.
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Tom Reller, Elsevier 11 Jul 18
Author: "I really want to publish in Journal X" Publisher: "Great, we'll gladly help you with tenure, grants, prestige, etc." Author: "Thanks, can I pay a little for OA too so my paper can be even more read in X" Publisher: "Sure, but David doesn't want you to." Author: "Huh??"
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Brandon Butler 11 Jul 18
Or is it: Pub: “I’d like to sell articles to libraries. Will you be an editor for my journal?” Profs: “Sure, we’ll do it for free!” Pub: “People keep sending us articles, but we can’t tell which ones are good! Will you take a look?” Prof: “Sure, we’ll do it for free!” 1/2
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Brandon Butler 11 Jul 18
Pub: “Your peers say your article is great and will bring us much prestige. Can we have it forever?” Author: “Sure, you can have it for free!” Profs: “And we’ll integrate you into our tenure process!” Library: “Can we have free access?” Profs: “Tom doesn’t want you to have it.”
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David Prosser 11 Jul 18
Once more, then you can have the last word. The default state of a paper in a hybrid journal is paywalled.That’s what we are paying subs for. Some of those papers receive an extra fee and are made OA. You just deny D/D b/c you think it’s a snazzy (and profitable) business model
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Brandon Butler 11 Jul 18
As to monopolies on articles, there we may agree, and I expect the cost of the Freedom Collection to come down accordingly next time we negotiate. But you still have a monopoly on prestigious titles, and profs demand we subscribe to them, w/o/r/t price.
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Tom Reller, Elsevier 11 Jul 18
Fair enough, in that we recognize they are must-publish titles. But don't we deserve credit (and compensation) for managing those titles so they become and remain must publish titles that authors need to succeed? Reviewers and editors (often paid) do much for that, but so do we.
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Tom Reller, Elsevier 11 Jul 18
Hmm. The library can have the preprint for free. And if they want we'll deposit a link to it in their repository for them. But no not the final pja we enhanced, disseminate, branded, etc..
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Tom Reller, Elsevier 11 Jul 18
While many editors don't get paid for editing or reviewing, the idea that they don't get anything from being one is off. They get prestige, access, etc from that too. We have about 60,000 ed bd members who don't get paid, but they obviously get something out of it.
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Brandon Butler 11 Jul 18
I don’t think so, no. I think most of the value comes from scholars & your control over those outlets is mostly the result of ignorance, inertia, and coordination problems among folks who should move to open platforms.
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Tom Reller, Elsevier 11 Jul 18
I guess time will tell.
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Brandon Butler 11 Jul 18
Yes, but they don’t get that value from ELS; they get it from their peers, who bestow prestige based on the journal’s track record, which is itself a function of the work of scholars. I’m not saying running journal backend isn’t work. I’m saying it’s not what makes prestige.
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DG ⚜ #HandsOffMaria #AbolishICE&DHS 11 Jul 18
Bro, you lost *everyone* when you said E Corp charges a "fair amount"
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DG ⚜ #HandsOffMaria #AbolishICE&DHS 11 Jul 18
Replying to @TomReller @bc_butler
Elsevier is a made-up name for exploitation
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Jon Tennant 12 Jul 18
Nice work. So, what was the final conclusion? 😄
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David Prosser 12 Jul 18
I think we all left with the same views we went in with!
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Jon Tennant 12 Jul 18
That doesn't sound like twitter, where honest, intellectual debate always trumps preconceived bias!
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Brandon Butler 12 Jul 18
I do think it was good of Tom to acknowledge (a) that the value of their stable of articles is under pressure from green OA// and other legal alternative modes of access, and (b) that they do have monopoly control over "must-publish" titles. Baby steps!
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Brandon Butler 12 Jul 18
One last thing: if we combine APC-funded and green OA, the proportion of articles in toll journals that are exclusively toll access will shrink dramatically in coming years. Absurd for prices to rise, rather than fall, against that backdrop. (see: )
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Melissa Levine 18 Jul 18
Part of issue: there really 'is' no real competition among publishers even if products are 'competitively priced.' Each pub has exclusive rights to the material it handles - material is unique to needs of scholars who use/need it. Libs/univs buy bc there's no real choice, so far.
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Brandon Butler 18 Jul 18
Yes! "Competitive pricing" is a sham concept in this context. Sure, all of the oligopolists are charging similarly extractive monopoly rents. That is not an argument that it's all fair and legit. It's an argument that the whole system is broken.
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Brandon Butler 18 Jul 18
Comcast's rates in Charlottesville (where it is literally the only broadband provider) are probably roughly the same as the rates TimeWarner Cable charges in markets where IT is the only broadband provider. That's not competition; that's parallel extraction.
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Brandon Butler 18 Jul 18
And the suggestion that we could cancel an Elsevier bundle and replace it with a Springer bundle makes about as much sense as me canceling my Comcast subscription and replacing it with a Time Warner subscription in Pheonix, AZ.
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Jon Tennant 18 Jul 18
Quite. A nice overview for problems with the market sector exists here: HT
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Jon Tennant 18 Jul 18
Interestingly this is exactly what falls under 'antitrust' in the EC definition of anticompetitive practices too..
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