November 23, 2017

EBSCO’s Exclusive Deal for Consumer Magazines Provokes Gale Statement, EBSCO Response

Popular magazines from Time, Inc., Forbes, others, involved

  • News emerges at Midwinter Meeting
  • Gale issues strongly worded “open letter”
  • Concern expressed about loss of access
  • Who sought exclusivity?

Updated 11:45 a.m. January 22 with further comment from ProQuest

The news—which emerged unofficially at the American Library Association Midwinter Meeting and was reported by bloggers such as School Library Journal’s Joyce Valenza—that EBSCO has signed exclusive licensing agreement with some major consumer publishers, notably Time, Inc., and Forbes, has caused consternation among customers of competing database companies concerned they might lose access to content they’ve long provided.

Today, rival Gale issued a strongly worded “open letter to the library community,”criticizing EBSCO for extending its practice of seeking exclusivity with academic journals to mainstream publications.

“Contrary to statements from EBSCO, Gale did bid for this content, offering proposals consistent with our policy against exclusivity,” Gale executive vp John Barnes wrote, in an apparent reference to unofficial comments made to customers.

In a message sent to libraries in Tennessee, Sue Maszaros of the Tennessee State Library and Archives, stated, “We are VERY concerned about this loss in content and want you to know that we will be working hard to resolve this issue expeditiously. We want the content available through TEL [Tennessee Electronic Library] to be the best and most relevant it can be and we will do all that we can to ensure that it is.”

The Time, Inc. magazines will remain in the Gale database through 2010.

EBSCO’s response
EBSCO Publishing plans to issue a formal response to Gale’s statement once the publishers named in that letter have seen EBSCO’s response. EBSCO said it does not want to do anything to alienate the publishers whose content it feels is so crucial to its products.

In the interim, EBSCO’s Sam Brooks, senior vp, told LJ the following: “Gale referred to the Time Inc. RFP in their letter and made it sound like EBSCO initiated the push for an exclusive license. In fact, this is not the case.”

“Our motives aren’t bad,” he said, explaining the process. “In many cases, an exclusive relationship is the only way you can have the content in your databases.”

“If you look at usage in library databases, these titles dominate,” he said of the periodicals at issue. “We could not imagine losing all the ongoing full text and full-text backfiles and causing our customers to have a much, much worse product. We actually received some applause when we announced this at our 600-customer academic lunch at ALA Midwinter, because those librarians realized that we’re preserving access for them,” Brooks said.

Is this a dangerous trend in the consumer market, having publishers request exclusive deals? “I can see the concern, but at the same time, I think we have a proven track record of not abusing our already very strong position with regard to unique content,” Brooks said.

ProQuest response
Another rival issued a short statement to LJ. “Based upon the titles that we understand to be on EBSCO’s list, we expect minimal impact for ProQuest customers,” commented Lynda James-Gilboe, senior vice president, marketing, ProQuest.

“Most of these titles are freely available on the Web and we will help our customers integrate that Web content into their ProQuest databases—just as librarians are saying they will do,” she added. “We’re not minimizing the interest in this content. In fact, ProQuest did pursue a non-exclusive agreement for these titles. In the end, we felt that the impact that such agreements would have on pricing, especially in this budget climate, was more than our customers could bear.”

Asked to elaborate on whether publishers requested an exclusive, a ProQuest spokeswoman said details could not be revealed because that would breach confidentiality agreements. However, ProQuest confirmed that the subject of exclusives was discussed and ProQuest said its customers would not tolerate an exclusive premium for this general interest content.

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