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From the 2021 update report

Continuing Challenges: Communal Distribution


1 min read

2. Communal Distribution

The second trend the 2020 Update: SPARC Landscape Analysis & Roadmap for Action (INSERT LINK) highlighted was the intentions of leading publishers to launch communal research distribution services. The launch of Get Full Text Research (GetFTR) was ostensibly motivated by the desire of the publishers to facilitate researcher access to literature, and feedback from librarians suggests that GetFTR does address a real issue.

However, the launch of GetFTR also signaled a potential shift in the number of downloads of articles directly from the publishers’ servers at the expense of legitimate alternative sources like repositories. After one year of service, GetFTR indicated it had signed up 10 publishers and 11 integrators (such as Semantic Scholar). GetFTR does not release any activity report, so there are no visible data on its impact. The architecture of GetFTR is designed to take place behind the scenes, with no ability for libraries or other users to opt out. The strategic issue highlighted in 2020 remains unaddressed: the risk of diverting users to publishers and away from legitimate repositories that choose to stay out of GetFTR, which would hollow out the value of those repositories.

GetFTR has the potential to undermine the effectiveness of services like Unpaywall and Google Scholar that radically threaten the current publishing ecosystem. Cooperating on some features, rather than competing, is in line with the interests of commercial entities as well as some not-for-profit players that equate their interests with those of commercial players. The functionality of GetFTR won’t affect libraries’ subscription decisions or faculty choices about where to publish. Sharing this kind of infrastructure is a rational course of action for players that benefit from the status quo to fend off those who wish to change it.

About the authors

Portrait of Claudio Aspesi

Claudio Aspesi

A respected market analyst with over a decade of experience covering the academic publishing market, and leadership roles at Sanford C. Bernstein, and McKinsey.

Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition

SPARC is a coalition of academic and research libraries that work to enable the open sharing of research outputs and educational materials in order to democratize access to knowledge, accelerate discovery, and increase the return on our investment in research and education.