British Library readers will now have instant access to more than 1,000 Elsevier Science journals.
The two organisations have signed a three-year contract allowing readers at St Pancras, and more than 20,000 worldwide customers of the library's document-supply service, to use the publishers' catalogue of its electronic ScienceDirect.
Elsevier, the largest scholarly publisher, has been criticised by academics for being expensive, monopolistic and unhelpful to the communication of science. It was investigated by the Office of Fair Trading last year following a proposal to buy rival Harcourt. Elsevier made £105 million pre-tax profits on a turnover of £3,464 million in 1999.
Although it cleared the merger, the OFT concluded that the monopoly potential of the merged company was so great that it referred the case to the Competition Commission. The commission is investigating the academic publishing sector and is expected to report later this year.
Elsevier journal articles will be supplied to the British Library at the same cost as other photocopied papers or electronically via the library's subscriber Inside service.
Lynne Brindley, the British Library's chief executive, said: "This continuing union (with Elsevier) offers even greater choice and faster access to science information for the library's users."
* The Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition has launched a consultancy arm to help academics set up their own journals. US-based Sparc aims to combat the high costs of scientific journals by creating publishing partnerships with academics.
The THES subscribers can use the Inside service free via our website www.thes.co.uk