Another place to say No: HBR and EBSCO

The Chronicle of Higher Education has an article out about the newest challenge to educational access to scholarly content, this time a particularly egregious example from the Harvard Business Review. Some cogent paragraphs that explain the thing:

Although Harvard Business Review articles have been included in the journal aggregator EBSCO since 2000, as of August 1 the publisher began blocking full access to the 500 most popular articles, meaning students and professors can no longer download, print, or link directly to them. Harvard has long asserted that a digital library subscription cannot substitute for the separate licenses and fees involved when the articles are assigned in courses. Yet it says it has encountered widespread abuse of that policy, with professors referring students to the digital subscriptions.

To restore the linking ability, some of the largest business-school libraries have received quotes of roughly $200,000 annually—a number the publisher, a nonprofit subsidiary of Harvard University, confirms—although the press says the average quote is below $10,000. Alternatively, business schools can pay for journal articles that are assigned in class on an à-la-carte basis or under various “umbrella” plans. Those latter arrangements have long existed. (Some business schools already have expansive licensing arrangements with Harvard that mean they are unaffected.)

On October 28, business-reference librarians within the American Library Association approved a statement that the press’s “profit-driven practices diverge from the intent of scholarly communication and impinge on higher education and libraries’ core social mission to preserve and make accessible records of scholarship.”

“There’s a feeling of being held hostage: In order to get back the access you have enjoyed for over a decade, you have to pay these additional fees,” said Andy Spackman, a business librarian at the Marriott School of Management at Brigham Young University and chair of the business-reference librarians’ group.
More here:

Kevin Smith, on his Scholarly Communications @ Duke blog, once again provides an impassioned and deeply logical response:

Properly viewed, I suggest, this is not a dispute between libraries, or faculties, and Harvard.  It is a dispute between Harvard Business Publications and EBSCO over how to divide up the pie.  And libraries should refuse to make the pie bigger just to settle that dispute.

To be clear, the functions that HPB says are being wrongly exploited — printing, downloading and persistent linking — have been a part of the EBSCO databases for years.  HBP would argue that their special licensing terms with EBSCO (which were impossible to convey to faculty, since they make no sense) have always forbidden classroom use.  But the truth is, these technological changes are intended to prevent faculty from even giving students a reference to an article and asking the students to read that article on their own.  HBP wants to recover a separate fee even for that.

So the demands made by HBP really do break the EBSCO database as it has been purchased for years.  If libraries are going to lose functionality they have been buying over that time, they must demand a reduction in the price that is paid to EBSCO.  What is remarkable in this case is that the value of the lost functionality is easily quantifiable; it is represented by the new licensing fee that HBP plans to charge.

This is what I mean by insisting that this is a dispute between EBSCO and Harvard.  Libraries should refuse to pay more significantly more for the same functionality, especially since that functionality is so central to what we buy journal aggregator databases for.

– See more at:

Smith closes with this: “This is the moment to strengthen our spines and refuse to pour more money into the fraught relationship between Harvard and EBSCO; we must let them settle the matter between themselves.  If we do not draw this line in the sand, we will continue to get that sand kicked in our faces.” I’m pretty sure you all know I agree with him 100%.

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