The Big Deal and the Damage Done

The Big Deal and the Damage Done

The Big Deal and the Damage Done

I’d normally say something like this about my new study of the apparent effects of serials prices over the first decade of the millennium on academic library book budgets and “remainder” budgets (what’s left after paying for current serials and other acquisitions):

I’m delighted to announce that The Big Deal and the Damage Done is now available as a $9.99 PDF ebook or a $16.50 paperback, both at (follow the links, go to the bottom of this page or just go to and search for big deal damage).

But I’m not entirely delighted–because the results are much worse than I’d hoped or expected.

On one hand, I’m delighted that what started out as a whim (“just how badly have book budgets been hurt by continued expansion of serials prices?”) that I thought would take 5-10 hours to research and result in a nice little Cites & Insights article, and turned into a much bigger project (I’m not going to guess the total time involved, but let’s say that at $50/hour consulting rates, it would be a multi-thousand-dollar project)…is finally done. For now.

On that hand, I’m also delighted with the results–a 132-page (6×9″) non-DRM PDF ebook or trade paperback with 58 tables and 94 figures (all Excel graphs) that shows, in detail and adjusted for inflation, how academic library spending has changed between 2000 and 2010 for current serials (big deals and otherwise), “books” (which includes all acquisitions except current serials, including ebooks, av and back runs of serials), and “remainder budgets,” everything it takes to run a library except for acquisitions. The book looks at academic libraries in the U.S. overall, but mostly views them in three different breakdowns: By overall budget size, by sector (e.g., public, private, for-profit, non-profit, four-year, two-year), and by Carnegie classification.

The PDF uses three colors for many graphs. The paperback is black and white except for the cover, but the three colors are used with line segments (dots or dashes) so that the graphs are fully readable without color.

On the other hand…I was hoping I’d find modest damage, especially since the most recent NCES survey is for 2010 and I’ve heard more comments about disastrous cuts in book budgets since 2010.

The Process

There’s nothing in the book that you can’t find out for yourself, frankly, although I do add some commentary. But “find out for yourself” would take quite a while–downloading NCES data, creating derivative figures, deciding which subsets to work with, graphing the results.

I began with no real conception of what I’d find–this is honest, transparent analysis. I certainly didn’t come up with that title until I was well into the process and seeing some of the results. The first results didn’t seem too bad, because roughly two dozen very large academic libraries have done a pretty good job of maintaining acquisitions budgets for things other than current serials, a good enough job that it tends to mask what’s happening elsewhere. The deeper I dug, the worse it got…

The Product and Publicity

This isn’t a terribly wordy study–Word says it’s just under 20,000 words, or about two-thirds the length of the current Cites & Insights. The figures and tables take up much of the space, but also tell much of the story.

The analysis project was inspired in part by Wayne Bivens-Tatum’s January 18, 2013 post, “Politics, Economics, and Screwing the Humanities” and in part by the work I was doing to prepare a three-hour Open Access preconference for the joint 2013 conference of the Oregon and Washington Library Associations. I see true OA as one possible medium-term way of ameliorating the damage done–with a whole bunch of caveats.

If you’re an academic librarian or concerned about the future of academic libraries, I believe you’ll find this worthwhile, but that’s your call. If it’s well-received, I’ll probably do a second edition when the 2012 NCES survey results become available.

Here’s the thing: I don’t have good ways to publicize this book, other than on this blog, in Cites & Insights, and via a tweet or two and maybe updates at Facebook and Google+. There may be academic library lists that should know about it, but it’s generally considered bad practice for an author or publisher to join lists and tout their own new books.

On the other hand, it’s entirely appropriate for other people to mention the book if they think it’s worthwhile.

I’m going to point you to another Wayne Bivens-Tatum post at Academic Librarian, this one posted May 1, 2013: “Walt Crawford’s Big Deal and the Damage Done.” I thank him for the mention. I encourage you to take a look at the book (the first few pages are available as a preview and, you know, the ebook‘s less than $10–if you buy it today, May 2, and use the coupon code SILEO, either version is 20% off). If you think it’s worthwhile, you’ll do me–and the chances of a followup 2012 study–a big favor by passing the word along.

If you think it’s terrible, you should say that, to be sure. And if you have suggestions for improvement next time around–if there is a next time around–I’d be happy to hear them.

Modified May 9, 2013: I’d forgotten to include the cover! And since it’s long past May 2, 2012, I’ve struck out the sale comment. Your best bet may always be to go to, look for a current sale (you never know…), then search for Walt Crawford or big deal damage

2 Responses to “The Big Deal and the Damage Done”

  1. The discount code does not work for the print edition.

  2. Walt Crawford says:

    As the post says: “If you buy it today, May 2…”

    The 20% sale ended on May 2. This is a Lulu sale (which leaves me whole on my portion), not a personal event (which would come straight out of my pocket).

    There will doubtless be more Lulu sales; I publicize some of them. They are almost never for more than 20%, which comes out to $3.30 for this book.