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.