Wednesday, March 24, 2010

“Cocaine Pricing” – a Strong and Stirring Metaphor from Harvard’s Robert Darnton

The other night, as a guest on “Charlie Rose,” Robert Darnton, director of the Harvard University Library, used the term “cocaine pricing” to describe the modus operandi of publishers of some highly advanced scientific journals who seduce librarians into buying an initial subscription (at a low price) and then, having hooked a library’s customers, start ratcheting up the cost, making the journal so expensive that libraries have to cancel several other subscriptions. The publishers of these scholarly journals know full well that librarians will be compelled to keep renewing because of pressure from readers.

As soon as I heard Prof. Darnton explain the insidious workings of some of these publishers, I realized that “cocaine pricing” is an incredibly appropriate and evocative metaphor to describe their MO--a metaphor that you and I can apply in many a situation.

For more on Robert Darnton’s use of the term “cocaine pricing” and his point of view, check out his interview on NPR.

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