Promoted comment: Lost opportunities

Dec 03 2010 Published by under Tactics

(This comment by George Duimovich to Beth's post on ACS pricing changes was so good that I wanted to see it get more play. Our thanks to George for permission to promote the comment to a post!)

Related note: I’ve often wondered whether this space (“subscription agencies”) was ready for a reverse-takeover of some kind. The service is useful, namely consolidated purchasing, and apparently the margins are supposed to be small, so it looks to many like the model should remain intact and it’s a healthy ‘win-win’ relationship.

But I see this as yet another bungled library opportunity. We created a market (“subscription agencies”) but let our passive approach let the market run against our better interests and healthier engagement. Here’s some summary points I would argue:

  • We didn’t clearly scope and demand our interests in metadata management, leaving these subscription agencies with valuable metadata that we pay them to ‘manage’ so that they can in turn sell it back to us via A-Z, link-resolver and related add-ons. This was IMHO a big missed opportunity for us to more directly control the related services ourselves. So instead, we are becoming bit-players (aka “consumers”) in the goldrush to turn metadata into dependent services that we have to pay for. Our role should be more of “investors” rather than “consumers” in this game, helping us reduce costs and have more opportunity for our clients.
  • This situation is reinforced by our bungling of the ILS space, namely, allowing the market to move towards extreme vendor lock-in, and overly segmented product offerings (where functionality has been doled out in a dysfunctional ‘pay per use’ model, rather than more organically). For example, how many “serials modules” are dysfunctional with respect to ERM, because of all the add-ons that have to be purchased to make it all work. But yet we still pay for support & maintenance on this “serials module” and can’t afford the add-ons. We allowed our ILS vendors to position managing and acquiring electronic resources as “something extra special” (and thus the plethora of add-ons to manage core business functions etc.) We can see this at play in how many of us actually manage A-Z outside of our ILS. Ditto for the “acquisitions module” too.
  • We’ve missed opportunities to be better organized on consortial purchasing, pricing activism, and stronger leadership towards open access. Again, these have factored into to how the marketplace has left us in a weakened position imho.

E-contracts and licensing figure prominently in our budgets. For many, it even matches or surpasses our entire HR salary budget. We need to be more creative and aggressively engage ourselves in testing alternative configurations in this marketplace.

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