The term Big Deal isn't usually associated with scientific journals. But surprisingly enough we regularly come across this term in the Library. The Big Deals in question are the large contracts agreed with the publishers by the associated Dutch Universities and the National Library (UKB).
The difference between an ordinary contract and a Big Deal contract is that the consortium (in this case UKB) has access to all, or nearly all, the publishers' electronic journals whereby the cost is based on the costs of the original collection. Extra journals cost hardly any extra. For example: until the year 2000 Wageningen UR had approximately 400 Elsevier subscriptions. Under the consortium contract we have access to about 1600 journals. Several of these are hardly ever used, usage is still concentrated on the original collection. But the constant availability of both rarely and frequently used journals covering a wide range of 'Wageningen' disciplines offers considerable advantages. The disadvantages of the Big Deal contracts are, amongst other things, that such contracts have to be agreed for several years, thus reducing the flexibility of the collection (so that one becomes more and more bound to a small group of publishers) and that a fixed annual price increase often has to be agreed.
Big Deals have been agreed with Elsevier, Kluwer/Springer, Wiley and Blackwell, to name just a few. At the time of publication of this newsletter, negotiations with Elsevier for a new contract period have not been completed.