Elsevier buys SSRN

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Kind of related: Springer seems to be even worse than Elsevier (didn’t think this would be possible)

Average cost for viewing or printing articles at UdeM also confirms the unjustified pricing: Springer’s articles end up being 225% more expensive at UdeM compared to Elsevier’s. Université de Sherbrooke and UQAM libraries have cancelled their subscriptions to Springer’s collection.

(emphasise mine, source article is here)

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Finally, Elsevier and the other scholarly publishers are potentially in a lot of legal trouble.

Imagine if our legal system worked this way.


Exactly. They’ll find a loophole somehow – copyright law in practice exists to serve corporations, not the public.


“I felt a great disturbance in the Force, as if millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced. I fear something terrible has happened.”


Elsevier, and other large academic publishers, have also been good at turning libraries against each other. One way libraries can bring price increases down to 2-3% per year instead of 10-20% is signing “big deal” contracts for bundles of titles. These contracts often contain non-disclosure agreements stating that a library won’t say how much it’s paying for its “deal”.

In 2010 I was at a conference where the University of Indiana announced that it would be deleting the non-disclosure terms and make how much they were paying Elsevier public. (How a state school could keep that information secret is beyond me anyway.)

Someone in the audience yelled that U of I was “ruining” things and making it so no one would be able to get a deal. But as long as no one knew what anybody else was paying there was no way to know if any library was getting a deal.


And where does that money go?

That’s a question that came up several years ago when I worked at a library that was trying to get an online Springer subscription that had been paid for activated. I was told, repeatedly, that it couldn’t be activated because the one person who handled that was out of the office.

A library director finally said, “As long as we’re paying you more than a million dollars annually you can afford to hire a second person to handle online access.”

Things got a little better after that.


CEO salary? Pretentious head office? Bribes expenses?


Scihub.cc doesn’t sit well with me. The site registrar is ERANET INTERNATIONAL LIMITED out of Hong Kong, whoever that might be, and they’re wanting to put cookies from .RU domains on my computer, which I’m not going to do.

They are rotating through domains every couple weeks as their existing once get seized.


Sales reps travel a lot. Flying, conference registrations, and swag must also be some pretty big line items.


Nailed it.

Plain and simple, it’s more profit-seeking pigs dining at the public trough. And their greediness is really getting out of hand.


Can you say any more about where this is typical? I’ve been an editor at a health science journal for 12 years, and I’ve never heard of a scholar whose contract assigned copyright over their scholarly work to their host institution. I’m on staff at the University of California, and policy for the entire UC system is that copyright for scholarly and aesthetic work resides with the faculty that creates it.

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I hope SciHub never goes away, and only continues to grow unimpeded.

I hated having to pay a couple thou in page fees for the privilege of having a paper published in a journal, that then is paid for by subscription by your own library. As a US government researcher, at least our work was in the public domain so we didn’t have any rights to sign away. But the publishers got smart, and made the form say “If U.S. government worker, this work is in the public domain in the United States ONLY.” So we had to sign away our international rights! (If I recall correctly.) Supposedly if I sent a copy to someone in Europe, I’d be breaking the Copyright Laws (and probably a couple of Commandments). Not to mention I did all my own graphics, and some of it was pretty damn good (scientific merit or not). I got the cover once, I’m sure because the graphics were pretty, not due to the Nobel-Prize winning nature of the content.

The last straw was when my professional society (Biomedical Engineering Society) went from a paper journal subscription to all electronic. Supposedly there was notification of the members, but I never saw it. So no more nice big issues of the Annals of the BME, full of articles I could browse (like, in the bathroom). Instead I had to download individual copies and either read them on my computer or print them out. And they didn’t make it easy, even though it was free for members: I had to go to the society website, sign in as a member, then go to the publishers’ site, sign in a SECOND time, then navigate to the journal (one of thousands), and download an article, one at a time. That is, if it worked! Talk about a pain in the ass. I gave up my membership at that point (and told them the reason too). Retired soon after (for other reasons!). Fuck them.

Another society had a journal whose subscription was January to December, even if you joined in August. Being out of sync like that, the subscription always lapsed without my remembering to renew. They also had free issues, by a society/publisher website connection that was so bad I have no memory of it. And it was only free as far back as you were a member. You had to pay for any issues before that! (The payment part of the website always worked.)

I like paper. It lets you scan the whole damn journal and actually broaden your horizons. This business of only reading single papers really sucks. It’s okay for literature reviews, where you only need one paper from the Journal of Scottish Heather Botany or whatever. But the main journal of your own field?

Edit: I really need to stop holding in my feelings.


Yes please, next to being very interesting and informing. It also gives me the pleasure of the feeling I’m not the only one who is (darn don’t know how to say in English) “feeling crazy about it”.


I don’t think the issue is about copyright per se, but intellectual property in general. Some universities (e.g. the University of Wisconsin) retain some/all rights to commercial applications of faculty inventions, and others (e.g. the University of Waterloo) don’t. I think the argument is given that publishers make a lot of money from faculty articles, in a sense the publications are a form of commercial application.

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Cory claims this is a copyright issue.

I think that is incorrect. I don’t know of any scholars whose contracts assign copyright over their scholarly work to their host institutions.

Rights to commercial applications is a different issue that does not apply to scholarly journals.

Thank you. “Furious?” But feeling crazy sounds about right.

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It has other advantages too. In the early days of Science Direct Elsevier was caught deleting articles from the online versions of their journals. The articles still appeared in the table of contents (which was also helpfully digitized) but clicking on them resulted in “404 not found”.

They were doing this in cases where the papers were discovered to have been plagiarized or containing faulty research but at least one librarian quipped, “Are they also sending people into libraries with a pair of scissors?”

Now they don’t need to.

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