CDL vs. NPG: who’s in the wrong?

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The California Digital Library (at the University of California) and Nature Publishing Group are in a battle with words after NPG decided to increase the price of the University’s licence for Nature journals by 400%. This means that the average subscription cost per Nature journal would increase from $4465 to $17479, which would result in a total increase of over one million dollars for Nature’s 67 journals.

In a letter to UC Divisional Chairs and Members of the UC Faculty, CDL proposed a systemwide boycott of Nature’s journals if the publishers are not willing to maintain the licence agreement that currently exists between NPG and CDL. The proposed boycott would involve suspending online subscriptions to Nature journals at UC libraries and strongly encouraging faculty to decline to peer review for and submit papers to Nature journals, to resign from NPG editorial/advisory boards, to cease to advertise new employment positions at UC in Nature journals, and to encourage colleagues outside UC to do the same.

In response to CDL’s letter, Nature Publishing Group released a statement claiming that CDL has “been on a very large, unsustainable discount for many years” and that they misrepresented NPG’s pricing policies and used data out of context in attempt to instigate their proposed boycott. They claim that they are trying to reduce CDL’s licencing discount from 88% to a more reasonable 50%, which still “leaves CDL on better terms than many other consortia.”

CDL came back with their own rebuttal, stating that, in their last meeting with NPG, they were led to understand that “this was the price” and that no counteroffer would be accepted. While almost all other publishers that CDL licences content from have worked with them in order to negotiate a price that will help them meet their significant budget restraints, it seems that NPG won’t be persuaded. In response to their overwhelming concerns about the enormous cost increase, CDL claims that NPG “suggested to us several times that canceling journals was our most likely opportunity to achieve the cost controls we sought.”

So, that’s the story. Whose side are you on?

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