Editorial – the wanderer returns and the changes that have taken place in his absence

Mike McGrath (Leeds, UK)

Interlending & Document Supply

ISSN: 0264-1615

Article publication date: 16 February 2015



McGrath, M. (2015), "Editorial – the wanderer returns and the changes that have taken place in his absence", Interlending & Document Supply, Vol. 43 No. 1. https://doi.org/10.1108/ILDS-12-2014-0059



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Editorial – the wanderer returns and the changes that have taken place in his absence

Article Type: Editorial From: Interlending & Document Supply, Volume 43, Issue 1

Well it’s me again. I have returned as editor of Interlending and Document Supply, as Mary Hollerich has resigned owing to pressure of work in her job. Many thanks to Mary for all her sterling work on the journal and I hope that we will see her writing for the journal in the not too distant future.

So what has changed in my absence of over two years? Well one thing’s for sure – the years go by quicker just when you want them to slow down. As a letter writer put it very pithily in The Times when there was a long debate about this phenomenon – “the years go by quicker as you get older because each year is a smaller fraction of the whole”. Well true, but it doesn’t quite capture the puzzlement as the calendar flickers by ever faster.

Certainly a lot has happened in the past two years and a lot has changed – interlending and document supply for one. Overall, the service continues to decline but new ways of delivering “stuff” not previously purchased to users are being developed. Publishers have started to use heavily discounted pay per view tokens for immediate access to articles. ReadCube is spreading fast, particularly in the USA – as so often a powerhouse of innovation. Recent changes in UK copyright law prevent “contract trumping copyright”, which has long been a bugbear for librarians.

Underlying the changes is the continued growth of open access, both Green and Gold. Change is greatest in STEM subjects, particularly the M for Medical, where the growth of Gold is being fuelled by author publication charges (APCs) funded by Wellcome and other research bodies. But, of course the growth of Gold lags behind in non-funded research, thus excluding most of the humanities and social sciences. There is still not much sign of journals disappearing as the potential for disaggregation grows. All in all, we live in exciting and dramatic times in the world of libraries!

To more mundane matters – in case any librarian thought that prices would start to come down as a result of open access, think again. The 2015 Serials Price Projection report from Ebsco estimates increases of 5-7 per cent next year. That’s about three times the rate of inflation – austerity for many but clearly not for academic publishers. A Freedom of Information request to 100 UK universities found that from 2010 to 2014, the amount paid to OUP by UK universities was up by 49 per cent, to Springer by 36 per cent, to Wiley by 33 per cent and to Elsevier by a surprisingly “low” 17 per cent. UK inflation over the same period has been about 14 per cent[#fn1]. Will this goad librarians to greater efforts on campaigning for Green OA to control the double dipping inherent in Gold? Not an easy call.

Also, it is interesting that the financial analyst Claudio Aspesi, who was pessimistic about the stock market price of Elsevier in 2011, now sees little impact on it from the growth in open access – for which Elsevier must thank the Finch report in the UK that opened the door to Gold, thus adding to their profits. But don’t believe an old lefty like me, here are his words:

It remains to be seen whether the publishers can provide evidence that they are not double dipping (i.e. pocketing APCs) for OA publishing without lowering their subscription revenues). Absolute verification may prove in fact impossible anyway, but the publishers seem to use practices which leave wiggle room to keep at least some of the money (#B1).

A significant event in late 2014 was the open access initiative from The Chinese Academy of Sciences and a key funder The National Natural Science Foundation of China. Both of these have agreed a maximum embargo period of 12 months. This is important as China is likely to overtake the USA in the output of academic articles in 2014 and, of course, most research is publicly funded.

Lastly but perhaps most importantly – what would you like to see more of in the journal? More on scholarly communications generally? IT developments? Copyright law? You name it and we will see what we can do.

Let me know at mailto:mike@mikemcgrath.org.uk

Mike McGrath




Aspesi, C. and Luong, H. (2014), “Reed Elsevier: goodbye to Berlin – the fading threat of open access (upgrade to market-perform)”, available at: www.richardpoynder.co.uk/Aspesi.pdf (accessed 28 November 2014).

Related articles