Libraries and individual subscribers to journals have seen the problems that can occur when a publication moved or was sold from one publisher to another. Perhaps there would be an editorial change, leading to delayed issues. Perhaps all the subscription data wouldn’t be transferred or the data would be incomplete in some fashion. Subscription agents might not be informed, or might not be informed quickly enough and issues would be mislaid. In recent years we’ve seen articles that should be licensed for open access mistakenly lose that designation as the journal moved to a new platform. As the pace of journal transitions increased in the mid 1990s as the industry began a period of rapid consolidation, this problem became more acute. To address this problem, Nancy Buckley, then of Blackwell Publishing Limited, suggested a robust code of conduct for publishers to adhere to regarding the transfer of journal titles between publishers.
This led to discussions convened by members of the UKSG in April of 2006 and eventually the publication of Version 2.0 of the Project Transfer Guidelines in 2008. Project Transfer was eventually transitioned to NISO (the National Information Standards Organization — full disclosure, I am the Executive Director of NISO) as an ongoing maintenance initiative in 2015. The Transfer Alerting Service, a database managed by the International ISSN Centre, now contains more than 1,500 entries. The pace of transitions has been relatively consistent since 2012, with registrations in the system of somewhere between 150 and 250 titles moving from one publisher to another per year (2013 being the high outlier at 338).
Moving titles can be disruptive but there are other transitions in the community that can be equally — even potentially more — disruptive. With a majority of content now delivered to libraries and users electronically, other significant transitions can cause problems, that are perhaps less obvious but equally disruptive. Publishers often move their entire collection of titles, be they books or journals, from one in-house system to another, or from one hosted third-party platform to another. While these transitions don’t happen at the pace of journal transfers, they are not as infrequent as one might expect. Librarians have reported over 30 content platforms migrated from 2016 to the present.
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