British Library Group Sticks With Elsevier and Wiley-Blackwell

A major British library group announced today that it has struck new deals with Elsevier and Wiley-Blackwell, two of the largest publishers of academic journals. The group, Research Libraries U.K., had threatened to discontinue so-called Big Deal subscription arrangements with the two publishers because of what it called unsustainable price increases. U.S. libraries have also been re-examining whether Big Deals are really worth what they cost.

The new deals with Elsevier and Wiley-Blackwell “serve as new benchmarks for our relations with other publishers, as RLUK’s members will no longer accept massive unjustified price rises,” Phil Sykes, chair of the group, said in a statement. “We will continue to scrutinize all offers carefully in the future to make sure we get best value for money and to ensure that we do not pay for new, untested journal titles as part of ‘all-or-nothing’ packages.” The new deal was negotiated on behalf of the group’s 30 member libraries by JISC Collections, an organization that helps provide digital resources for British education and research.

Citing nondisclosure agreements, the library group offered few details about the new deals but estimated they will save U.K. institutions more than £20 million. It added that changes to the publishers’ pricing policies “will better protect institutions from the uncertainty of currency fluctuations, making it easier to manage budgets.” When the group threatened earlier not to renew with Elsevier and Wiley-Blackwell, it cited a 2008 currency crash that cut into British libraries’ buying power. Today the group also said it would push to drop nondisclosure agreements from future agreements because it believes that “the interests of public institutions are best served by openness and transparency.”

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