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Vikas Kamat
 Vikas Kamat is a programmer- entrepreneur living in Birmingham AL. This blog is a complex mix of Indian culture, life in southern USA, computer sciences, and sports. Opinions are his own.
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Computing, Libraries, Tennis, India & other interests of Vikas Kamat

Turmoil in the Periodicals Industry Durable Link to this BLOG
Turmoil in the Serials Industry

Add the business of Periodicals (industry magazines, and journals) to the list of industries decaying with trouble.

Financial mismanagement and emerging technological innovations are the root causes for this turmoil.

Periodicals, unlike most things we buy --  need to be pre-purchased (see Know Your Library). That is, you pay for subscription for a whole year much before the issue actually arrives. This works great for the vendor, but bad for the consumer. Take the case of now bankrupt RoweCom. Thousands of libraries, especially academic and public libraries (many of them were million dollar accounts) used to buy their subscriptions through this company, which took the money, but did not deliver the merchandise. Oops.

Technological Problems

The widespread availability of electronic journals and willingness of consumers to pay for them is the silver lining in the aftermath of the content and technology driven dot-com bust. But numerous problems are arising -- the publishers are twisting the arms of the buyers into signing these so-called Publisher Agreements before they can subscribe to electronic journals. Some agreements go as far as to limit an electronic-subscription to be read by only one individual (since when a magazine that my wife subscribes cannot be read by me?!)

There's also the problem of archiving. Let us say I subscribe to electronic version of TIME magazine for the year 2003. Then  let's say in year 2028, I wanted to read an old issue. Where am I going to find it? If it was a paper subscription, it would be in my basement.... The most agitating part for me is that these licensing agreements will not allow customers to cache and save the contents, even if they have a subscription.

I foresee a transformation brewing.

Of course, you know what Dave Winer would say. He'd say "Give every researcher and every writer a weblog, and let us dispose off the periodicals business." ;-- )

Actually that suggestion is not far fetched. All that is necessary for websites to reach the respect and prestige the print publications enjoy, is rigourous peer-review, and maturity that comes with time.

See Also: More Entries on Libraries

Links: RoweCom FAQ


First Written: Tuesday, April 22, 2003
Last Modified: 4/22/2003
Tags: library

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