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Beware publishers bearing gifts : why the "big deal" is a bad deal for universities

  • There is a common European folk-tale, often called ?the little porridge pot?. It tells the story of a family of hungry peasants who are given a magic cooking pot by the usual mysterious outsider. They are told two words of command: one makes the pot produce an endless supply of porridge; the second makes it stop. The pot will obviously change the peasants? lives: hunger, and the fear of it, will be banished by a ready, endless supply of food: humble, monotonous perhaps in modern eyes, but a nourishing staple. All is well; the peasants no longer go to bed hungry. However, one day the daughter of the family is left alone in the peasants? cottage. She instructs the pot to cook; unfortunately she has forgotten the word of command to make it stop. When the rest of the family returns that evening, the village and fields are covered in a sea of porridge, which is starting to invade the forest. As with all folk-tales, there are many resonances for the modern world. We live in an information-hungry society. The electronic medium, delivered through the desk-top porridge-pot, offers a means of stilling that hunger. However the message of this paper is that, just like the little porridge pot, electronic information is not an unalloyed good: it has dangers and threats for the continuance of publishing and the library profession. In particular our freedom to choose and shape our collections is being eroded, and the power of the large electronic publishers is growing. This paper discusses: -the information value chain and some of its concepts, paying particular attention to features differentiating electronic from printed information; -money as an indicator of value; -the implications of the publishers? monopoly for pricing and negotiation; -the implications of the product-to-service shift for archiving and access; -business models for e-resources, particularly the big, or all-you-can-eat, deal; -the loss of control by librarians and strategies to regain control.
  • Ball, David
  • 2003-01-01
  • Conference Paper
  • en