Elsevier Negotiations Still in Limbo
by John Charlton
Mum’s the word when it comes to the state of play in negotiations between Project DEAL, a consortium of German academic institutions, and publisher Elsevier over access to learned articles. The talks started in summer 2016. Project DEAL wants Elsevier to agree to what it calls a publish-and-read model. Basically, this would mean that all articles by academics from the institutions concerned would be published under a Creative Commons license on an OA basis.
Participating institutions would have access to Elsevier’s ejournal portfolio. In return, they would agree to pay what Project DEAL calls a fair price based on an agreed formula. Although Project DEAL has made progress in negotiations with academic publishers Springer Nature and Wiley, those with Elsevier appear to be moving very slowly. When asked how they were going, a spokeswoman for Project DEAL said, “Both sides agreed to abandon public statements. …”
Kerstin Mork, a corporate communications manager at Springer Nature, says, “The DEAL project group and Springer Nature are currently negotiating a forward-looking model for publishing and reading scientific literature. We are delighted that we have already been able to achieve some alignment on principle questions, but further negotiations on this very complex matter will take some time.” There is an interim agreement in place to allow time for further negotiations.
In an interview with the online publication LIBREAS, Bernhard Mittermaier, head of the central library at the Jülich Research Center and a Project DEAL negotiating team member, says, “Although the negotiations [with Elsevier] have lasted almost a year longer, they are less advanced than those with Springer Nature and Wiley. … One can only hope that the transitional solutions with Wiley and Springer Nature … trigger some action on Elsevier’s side. If this does not happen, there will be further escalation: more institutions will terminate agreements, editors will resign at regular intervals.”
Mittermaier tells LIBREAS that about 180 academic institutions in Germany had not “extended their expiring contracts.” He adds, “Eventually DEAL will announce Elsevier’s latest offer to the institutions, including financial details.” Moreover, “If there is still no progress to be seen, one must assume that Elsevier would rather forego sales in Germany than to question their business model. But even that would be very risky for the publisher: After all, it is a large field trial to the question of whether you can live without Elsevier journals.”
Book Sales in Europe
Meanwhile, the Federation of European Publishers (FEP) recently released its survey of the European book market for 2016. Overall, it shows that sales revenues for the year for book publishers in the European Union and the European Economic Area were about €22.3 billion (about $28 billion), which is similar to the level from 2015. The figure is based on the net revenues that publishers made from the sale of books.
The FEP says in a statement that “about 590,000 new titles were issued by publishers in 2016,” which is a significant increase from the previous survey. In 2016, European publishers held a total of about 22.5 million titles in stock, of which more than 4 million were in digital format. It adds that the bigger markets—the U.K., Germany, France, Italy, and Spain—unsurprisingly generated the largest output of new works. There was a surge of self-published titles, especially in the U.K., although the report states that the ebook market (about 6% of the total market) was stagnant for the past 2 years. About 125,000 people were employed full-time in European book publishing in 2016. The book value chain as a whole, including authors, booksellers, and printers, employs more than 500,000 people.
The FEP report is based on data from 29 European national book publishing associations. Another recent report, commissioned by the Publishers Association, says the U.K. is the largest exporter of physical books in the world, with a 17% share of world exports, just ahead of the U.S. (16%), Germany (10%), and China (8%). It estimates that the British publishing industry generates up to £7.8 billion (about $11 billion) in gross revenues.
Irish Website Archiving
Authorities in Ireland are mulling over the archiving of material published on websites with the national identifier .ie in their domain names. As things stand, the National Library of Ireland (NLI) engages in selective archiving of this material on a permissions basis. A change in Ireland’s copyright law is needed if the NLI is to make collected .ie content freely available online.
NLI director Sandra Collins says, “In Ireland, section 198 of the Copyright and Related Rights Act 2000 … deals only with the legal deposit of physical objects like books and newspapers. It is not currently suitable for dealing with the deposit of published digital material.” Last year, a public consultation was held on extending copyright, which Collins believes may lead to amendments to the country’s Copyright and Related Rights Act that might simplify the collection of .ie content.
According to Collins, the NLI started a thematic web archiving program on a permissions basis in 2011. At the end of 2017, it undertook a “full domain crawl of every .ie website: nearly 300,000 websites totalling 33TB in size. Although the absence of legal deposit legislation means that we cannot share this archive freely online for now, we will make it available onsite at the National Library of Ireland later this year.”
In Northern Ireland, the Linen Hall Library in Belfast recently launched an online archive of material covering the so-called Troubles in that country from 1990 to 1998, when they more or less ended after the Good Friday agreement among the U.K. and Irish governments and various political and paramilitary groups.
Called the Divided Society project, the archive includes hundreds of journals and thousands of articles, as well as video and audio content and educational material. In a statement, Divided Society project manager Gavin Carville says, “This resource has phenomenal importance as a historical archive and we are delighted it has been preserved for future generations.”