Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Another Merger

This week's Chronicle of Higher Education reports another merger that will likely have huge repercussions for librarians and researchers--John Wiley & Sons is purchasing Blackwell Publishing Ltd. for approximately $1.13 billion. The combined Wiley-Blackwell will publish over 1,200 scholarly journals, putting it right behind Reed Elsevier and Springer in terms of numbers of journals published. Librarians are especially concerned "because Blackwell has been broadly regarded as the most benign of the for-profit scholarly publishers, and librarians are uncertain whether Blackwell's prices and practices will survive the merger." Most law librarians, who are veterans of a number of high-profile mergers in the legal publishing industry, would say that Blackwell will change as the result of the merger. Every merger that I can think of has led to dramatically higher prices and diminished quality of service, and there is no reason to think that the Wiley-Blackwell merger will turn out any differently.

The merger will likely get some measure of scrutiny from the U.S. Department of Justice, according to Mark J. McCabe, an assistant professor of economics at the Georgia Institute of Technology. He thinks the proposed merger would receive "at least a cursory investigation" from DOJ's Antitrust Division. Professor McCabe has written extensively on the effect of mergers on prices, and his article entitled "Merging West and Thomson: Pro- or Anti-Competitive?" appeared at 97 Law Library Journal 423 (2005). Not surprisingly, his article concluded that the West and Thomson merger resulted in significantly higher prices for consumers of legal information; law librarians didn't need an economist to make this point.

1 comment:

Betsy McKenzie said...

Dear Marie,
thank you for pointing us to this article, and linking the comment to the McCabe article. Although law librarians didn't need to be told the results of the Thomson-West merger, perhaps it will affect the way the DOJ looks at future mergers... I have to say anti-trust law today seems very counter-intuitive!