The university press and the library face economic pressures that neither can address alone. So long as journal prices escalate more rapidly than library collection budgets, libraries will continue to reduce serial subscriptions to balance the collections budget. These reductions will adversely affect the revenues to university presses. Pressure from science, technology, medicine, and business faculties to retain high-cost, high-use journals will crowd out less-used scholarly journals, many of which are published by university presses. Because libraries must continue to provide access to and preserve print inventories, housing them in large physical plants that must be maintained, they will be unable to implement large-scale, costreducing changes in operations to free up resources for investments in technology. The trends noted in University Libraries and Scholarly Communication and in Hawkins's paper will result in a catastrophic decline in the system of scholarly communication unless there is a fundamental shift in the way in which its processes, products, and costs are analyzed. Each of the two partners, the library and the press, serves as an inadequate unit of analysis for the system of scholarly communication as a whole.
Sandra Braman's description of the three stages in the conceptualization of the information society provides a useful context in which to view today's problems of
press and library within the system of scholarly communication. In her conceptualization, the first stage of the information economy is recognized by the increasing importance of information sector industries. In the second stage, certain forms of information never before recognized as commodities, become so recognized. In this stage, political controversy about information's value as a public good versus its market value as a commodity is highlighted. The rising commercialization of scholarly publishing and the declining ability of libraries to provide access to scholarly information may be interpreted as a second-stage information society phenomenon.
Braman postulates that the third stage of the information society produces a more sophisticated understanding of the flow of information: the flow may replace the market as the primary feature of the information economy. This stage represents a paradigm shift in which the information economy operates in a qualitatively different manner than in the two previous stages. According to Braman: "key insights of this perspective include identification of a new unit of analysis, the project, involving multiple interdependent organizations, as more useful than either the industry or the firm for analytical purposes"(p. 112). She further describes the third-stage conceptualization of the information economy as including a production chain, or "harmonized production flows," including information creation, processing, storage, transportation, distribution, destruction, seeking, and use, in short, all the stages of the system of scholarly communication from author to user, including the library. In the third stage, networked information economy, economic viability stems not from maximizing profit or economic stability within each component of the system, but rather through building long-term relationships and a stable system or flow of information.
Michael Hammer makes a similar point with respect to industrial or business reengineering but applicable to the operations of libraries and presses as well. He notes that automation and other reengineering efforts frequently have not yielded the improvements that companies desire. He believes that heavy investments in information technology deliver disappointing results because the technology is used primarily to speed up traditional business processes, along with their inefficiencies, rather than to transform them. "Instead of embedding outdated processes in silicon and software, we should obliterate them and start over. We should ... use the power of modern information technology to radically redesign our business processes in order to achieve dramatic improvements in their performance" (p. 104).
Both Braman and Hammer emphasize the disquieting qualities that characterize this kind of paradigm shift implied by the third stage of the information economy and by radical reengineering. According to Hammer,
Reengineering cannot be planned meticulously and accomplished in small and cautious steps. It's an all-or-nothing proposition with an uncertain result.... At the heart of reengineering is the notion of discontinuous thinking-of recognizing and
breaking away from the outdated rules and fundamental assumptions that underlie operations. Unless we change these rules, we are merely rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. We cannot achieve breakthroughs in performance by cutting fat or automating existing processes. Rather, we must challenge old assumptions and shed the old rules that made the business under perform in the first place ... Reengineering requires looking at the fundamental processes of the business from a cross-functional perspective.
Manuel Castells takes a different approach, suggesting that technology-driven productivity increases in the informational economy have not thus far been evident. His thesis is that technology-driven productivity increases were steady in the industrial sector between 1950 and 1973, but since 1973 productivity, particularly in the service sector, has stagnated despite the intensive investment in technology. He suggests three factors that appear to be relevant to the library and press sector as well as to the service sectors of the economy in general. These factors include the following.
1. Diffusion: before technological innovation can improve productivity markedly, it must have permeated the whole economy, including business, culture, and institutions.
2. Measuring productivity: Service industries traditionally find it difficult to calculate productivity statistically; thus the lack of observable productivity enhancements may in part be a symptom of the absence of relevant measures.
3. The changing informational economy: Productivity cannot easily be measured because of the broad scope of its transformation under the impact of information technology and related organizational change.
If Castells, Braman, and Hammer are correct, then libraries and presses, alone or together, cannot implement technological solutions that can transform the processes, productivity, and economics of scholarly publishing.
The Mellon projects have been useful in introducing two players in the information flow to the problems of the other, and in forging collaborative relationships to aid in sustaining the system of scholarly communication. These cooperative projects between university libraries and presses have helped participants begin to understand the system of scholarly publishing as an information flow rather than as separate operational processes. But their effectiveness is limited because, outside the parameters of the projects, the partners must still maintain their separate identities and economic bases.
A fuller exploration of the potential of transforming the flow of scholarly information would incorporate a more integrated approach, including the creators of the information, the university administration, and the information consumers as well as the publisher and the library. In this approach, costs and subsidies of the entire process of scholarly communication could be better understood and resources made more flexibly available to support it. For example, it might be possible to view operational and capital savings to libraries resulting from a transition
to electronic publication as resources ultimately available to sustain the publication chain, or consumers could be asked to pay some or all of the costs of creating, storing, archiving, and delivering scholarly information. A critical flaw in the current system is the existence of a part of the gift economy, in the form of the library, within a monetary economy for commercial publishers. Because the consumers of the information within the university do not pay for it, they and the campus administration see the library as a "problem" when it cannot provide the information needed within the budget allotted.
A key problem in securing the future of scholarly communication is that both presses and libraries are undercapitalized. Although libraries incur huge capital costs over time in both inventory and facilities, they are not free individually nor as parts of the system of scholarly communication to reallocate present or future capital expenditures to investments in new modes of publication. However, such reallocation, if it occurs at all, will take place very slowly because the transition to digital publication will also be slow. It is possible that a more rapid transition to electronic publishing would reduce libraries' recurring operations costs, thereby enabling them to invest greater resources in information itself. But a more rapid transition is feasible for presses only if there is a rise in demand for digital publications from libraries and from end users or a substantial increase in subsidies from their parent universities. Presses can offer electronic publications, but they cannot change the demand patterns of their customers-libraries-nor the usage patterns of the end consumers in order to hasten a transition from print to electronic dissemination. As long as a substantial portion of their market demands print (or fails to purchase electronic product), presses will be forced to incur the resulting expenses, which, in being passed on to libraries as costs that inflate more rapidly than budgets, will reduce the purchases of scholarly publications.
Ironically, in the present environment, universities tend to take budgetary actions that worsen the economics of scholarly communication as experienced by both libraries and presses. University administrators increasingly interpret any subsidy of university presses as a failure of the press itself as a business; as university subsidies are withdrawn, presses must increase prices, which reduces demand and exacerbates the worsening fiscal situation for the presses. But in the networked economy where everyone can be an author and publisher, the value added by presses (for example, gatekeeping, editorial enhancement, distribution) may be more important than ever in helping consumers select relevant, high-quality information. At the same time, university administrators see the library as a black hole whose costs steadily rise faster than general inflation. Since library materials budgets grow more slowly than inflation in the costs of scholarly publications, the inevitable result is reduced purchasing of scholarly publications of all types, but particularly of university press materials, which in general are of lesser commercial value in the commodity market. Unless the system as a whole changes, both university presses and university libraries will continue to decline, but at accelerated rates.
Although it is not possible to envision with certainty exactly how a successful transition from the present system to a more sustainable system might occur, one plausible scenario would be for universities themselves to invest capital resources more heavily in university-based information flows and new forms of scholarly publication as well as place increased market pressures on the commercial sector. If universities were to make strategic capital and staffing investments in university presses during the short term, the presses could be more likely to make a successful and rapid transition to electronic publication. At the same time, intensive university efforts (i.e., investments) to recover scientific, technical, medical, and business publishing from the private sector could be made to reduce the crowding out of university press publications by for-profit publishers. These efforts to recover scholarly publishing could be accompanied by libraries' placing strong market pressures on commercial publishers through cancellation of journals whose prices rise faster than the average rates for scholarly journals in general. The investments in these two areas: converting publication processes to electronic form and returning commercial scholarly publishing to the university could be recovered over time through reductions in capital investments in library buildings. Ultimately, the university itself would encompass most of the information flow in scholarly communication through its networked capability. That information having commodity value outside the academy could be sold in the marketplace and the revenues used as a subsidy to the system itself.
Another way of accomplishing a harmonization of the scholarly information economy was suggested by Hawkins: the independent nonprofit corporation model in which universities and colleges would invest together in a new organization that would serve as a broker, negotiator, service provider, and focus for philanthropy. It would leverage individual resources by creating a common investment pool.
However the solution to the problem of the economic crisis in scholarly communication is approached, there must be a fundamental change in how the process as a whole is conceived and how intellectual property rights of both authors and universities are managed. Such a change cannot be made unilaterally by university libraries and presses but will require the strategic involvement and commitment of university administrators and faculty within the university and among universities. Patricia Battin, envisioning an integrated scholarly information flow, said almost ten years ago:
Commitment to new cooperative interinstitutional mechanisms for sharing infrastructure costs-such as networks, print collections, and database development and access-in the recognition that continuing to view information technologies and services as a bargaining chip in the competition for students and faculty is, in the end, a counterproductive strategy for higher education. If the scholarly world is to maintain control of and access to its knowledge, both new and old, new cooperative ventures must be organized for the management of knowledge itself, rather than the ownership of formats.