The overwhelming support our open letter has received is a clear indication, if any were needed, that the academic ebook market is broken, not fit for purpose and a resolution to the crisis is needed. However, a couple of questions have been asked by a few and, despite our answering them privately, we are aware that some of these questions are still being used as reasons not to sign our letter. If the open letter has left any doubt of our position, we hope that answering the questions below will offer further clarity. They were initially put to us by Research Libraries UK (RLUK) but have also been repeated elsewhere and are as follows
“Lack of ‘so what'”
“I’m not sure that they (MPs) care. The letter doesn’t really give a clear reason why anybody from the Government should wade into this issue – where is their self interest? Especially if there are few clear solutions”
A : It is suggested that only academics and librarians are interested and politicians won’t “care”. Our letter was written AFTER a meeting held with MP Alex Chalk (con), who was very concerned about the issue and suggested the course of action we then took. Other MPs have also since raised concerns and asked questions in Parliament after fellow campaigners bought the matter to their attention too. From the beginning, MPs clearly did care. Regardless, what sort of profession are we if we do not raise critical issues for fear of politicians not caring? We do not share the opinion that MPs exclusively act in their own self-interest.
RLUK also fear that MPs may just blame universities. To that we say, they absolutely should blame us if we fail our students by keeping quiet on the issue and spending our limited funding irresponsibly.
Lack of remedy
“It is obvious that Something Must Be Done and Somebody Must Do it. But what? Politicians like problems they can solve, not hard problems and you are not really giving much of a steer on what you think a remedy (or remedies) should be.”
A : We won’t comment on the lack of credit given to MPs and the complex issues they grapple with in Parliament on a daily basis, but the “lack of remedy” charge warrants response. The ebook market has been problematic for a long time. Sector leaders and consortia with resources, contacts and far more agency than us have thus far failed to successfully come up with solutions. The situation only gets worse. The ebook market is incredibly complex and lacks any transparency, which we believe is by design, not by accident. We do not have solutions and do not pretend to, hence our request for a detailed investigation conducted by those with the resources and authority to do so. To offer “remedy” now would preempt the conclusions of any investigation and would defeat the whole point.
Ultimately, I think that the letter has more chance of being taken up if whoever receives it can see a path through to doing something.
Well, yes. Commission an investigation. Wait for their informed perspective and recommendations. Act on them.
Finally, we have also heard “you risk unintended consequences which will make the situation worse”
To that we say, this is indeed an every-day risk of life, yet we mostly continue to get out of bed every morning and try. In the case of this campaign we ask, how? How can it get any worse? We cannot provide access to key texts to students during a global pandemic. Fear of rocking the boat has got us nowhere this far. A different strategy is needed.
We hope this clears up the few criticisms reported to us. If not, others are welcome to take an alternative course of action and we would be happy to hear about it.
Overall we are so encouraged and uplifted by the outpouring of support our campaign has received. Thank you