An Elsevier Quote to Note: Confidential Pricing

January 2, 2014

I have no idea if the video is a spoof or not. With the twerking and the other oddities video sites, I am skeptical. Maybe this is an Onion-style spoof?

Navigate to “Elsevier’s David Tempest Explains Subscription-Contract Confidentiality Clause.” You can watch the video or read the article. Either way, here’s the quote to note:

Well, indeed there are confidentiality clauses inherent in the system, in our Freedom Collections. The Freedom Collections do give a lot of choice and there is a lot of discount in there to the librarians. And the use, and the cost per use has been dropping dramatically, year on year. And so we have to ensure that, in order to have fair competition between different countries, that we have this level of confidentiality to make that work. Otherwise everybody would drive down, drive down, drive drive drive, and that would mean that [laughter’].

This is a pretty serious issue. Professional publishers are in a tough spot. The stakeholders want financial performance. The professional publishing companies have to generate revenue. The various electronic ploys have not worked as well as the old fashioned, 19th century business models. The result is charging as much as possible for information products.

As some professional publishing outfits know, the world is awash with unemployed lawyers, abstemious accountants, and beleaguered academic researchers. The solution? Raise prices and prevent folks from disclosing the staggering cost of a subscription to a medical journal.

One outfit is recycling “abstracts” as a business product advertised in airplane seat back magazines. Others are just investing like mad in apps and hoping that the golden goose shows up sooner rather than later.

Amusing, serious, and lamentably a signal that professional publishing and possibly scientific, technical, and medical publishing is in what might be phrased as “sunset years.”

Will “value” be one of the buzzwords of the year in 2014?

Stephen E Arnold, January 2, 2014


2 Responses to “An Elsevier Quote to Note: Confidential Pricing”

  1. Mike Taylor on January 2nd, 2014 11:17 am

    It’s not a spoof, or a misleading edit. Not only was I there during the debate to watch and hear him say it, you can watch the whole debate for yourself at (The section I extracted starts at 1:09:50)

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