Journal Pricing Category


Open Access Week begins today–take a quiz (courtesy of CUNY)

Today marks the beginning of Open Access Week. Open Access publishing is in part a response to the high cost of scholarly journals published by traditional means. To test your knowledge of journal publishing economics, try this quiz posted by CUNY:

When you get to question 4 you may not realize that the example cited there of a reasonably priced journal–Medieval Feminist Forum–is published for the Society that issues it by the University of Iowa Libraries.


New York Times article on scholarly journals & open access publishing

An article in the New York Times of September 18th describes growing resistance to high-cost, commercially produced journals. It opens with the following: 

After decades of healthy profits, the scholarly publishing industry now finds itself in the throes of a revolt led by the most unlikely campus revolutionaries: the librarians.

Primary focus is the pushback in the UK to package deals with Elsevier and similar publishers, and the growth of open access publishing. The article quotes Sir John Daniel, president of the Commonwealth of Learning:

“I’ve seen it from both sides,” said Sir John, who was once briefly on the board of Blackwell. “I saw the vast industry built up from publicly funded research, and it was never clear to me what value was being added. But if you needed the material, they had you over a barrel.”

His view that open access scholarly publishing is a matter of international justice has become increasingly influential.

The UI Libraries plan to observe open access week, which this year begins on October 24th.




“Of goats and headaches”–The Economist on journal publishing

The Economist takes note of the economics of scholarly journal publishing in a short piece, necessarily oversimplified, but catching the essentials. See “Of goats and headaches–One of the best media businesses is also one of the most resented”



Prices and Ratings of Economic Textbooks

Ted Bergstrom, Maxim Massenkoff, and Martin Osborne have launched Prices and Ratings of Economic Textbooks (POET). From the site:

The goal of this site is to encourage instructors to take price into account when shopping for texts.

Like doctors prescribing drugs for their patients, college instructors selecting textbooks for their classes have little incentive to pay attention to prices that they themselves do not pay.

Textbook publishers do not advertise their prices. Often it is even difficult to find prices on their websites. Nowhere have we been able to find current price lists for a full selection of competing texts.

Introductory Economics and Intermediate Micro and Macro texts commonly retail for more than $150….[T]here is little doubt that successful textbooks are enormously profitable and would be so even at much lower prices.

As economists, we are not surprised that publishers seek to maximize profits. Economic theory predicts that the ratio of a seller’s price to marginal cost will be high if demand is inelastic. While publishers are unlikely to respond to moral suasion, they are likely to respond to increased price elasticity. Thus we hope that this website will have two beneficial effects. The direct effect is that it may help you find a better deal for your students. An indirect effect is that the more attention that consumers pay to prices, the more elastic will be demand, and hence the lower will be the profit-maximizing prices.


Cost Profiles of Alternative Approaches to Journal Publishing

First Monday, Volume 12 Number 12 – 3 December 2007

By Roger Clarke


The digital era is having substantial impacts on journal publishing. In order to assist in analysing these impacts, a model is developed of the costs incurred in operating a refereed journal. Published information and estimates are used to apply the model to a computation of the total costs and per-article costs of various forms of journal-publishing. Particular attention is paid to the differences between print and electronic forms of journals, to the various forms of open access, and to the differences between not-for-profit and for-profit publishing undertakings.

Insight is provided into why for-profit publishing is considerably more expensive than equivalent activities undertaken by unincorporated mutuals and not-for-profit associations. Conclusions are drawn concerning the current debates among conventional approaches and the various open alternatives.

Excerpts from the Conclusion:

For–profit publishers have higher cost–profiles than not–for–profit associations, because of the additional functions that they perform, in particular their much greater investment in branding, customer relationship management and content protection. The difference is particularly marked in the case of eJournals — a computed per–article cost of US$3,400 compared with US$730. This point is sufficiently significant that further examination is warranted.

…..The distinctive differences that remain in for–profit publishing are:

* higher–quality branding;
* more active marketing;
* more aggressive customer management; and,
* content protection.

But the primary beneficiaries of these features are the publisher and its owners. Only in the case of for–profit business units within not–for–profit associations are the owners closely associated with an academic community. Academic communities have little incentive to contribute to the funding of sophisticated technical features that are designed to support organistions’ strategic and marketing objectives rather than community service. In short, the ‘value–add’ that for–profit publishers offer appears to be of little or no benefit to academic communities.

For–profit publishers have long been successful intermediaries between the authors and accreditors, on the one hand, and the consumers of refereed articles and their support services, on the other. Since the advent of the public Internet, however, much has been written about the way in which it converts marketplaces to marketspaces, extends the reach of market participants, and creates the scope for disintermediation (e.g., Malone, et al., 1987; Brown, 2001; Howard, 2001). In the new context, are for–profit publishers still needed?


Max Planck Society Cancels Licensing Agreement with Springer

Press Release, October 18, 2007

Following difficult negotiations, the Max Planck Society has cancelled the licensing agreement it has had for many years with Springer Verlag.

The cancellation will take effect as of December 31, 2007. Negotiations failed because no agreement could be reached regarding an adequate ratio between price and long-term services. “Springer held to excessive demands right up until the end of the negotiations; that’s why the MPS has cancelled the agreement,” according to MPS Vice President Kurt Mehlhorn. An evaluation of usage statistics and comparisons with other important publishers made it clear Springer was demanding approximately double the price for the offered journals than the Max Planck Society regards as reasonable.

The current agreement allowed all Max Planck Institutes access to around 1,200 electronic scholarly journals published by Springer Verlag. The failure of the negotiations means Springer’s SpringerLink research interface can no longer be provided centrally for the Society’s Institutes. The Max Planck Society and the Max Planck Digital Library will develop strategies together with the Institute libraries most affected to secure the supply of essential contents on a cost-effective basis.

The failure of negotiations with Springer represents a watershed in the Society’s relationship with various globally-active scientific publishing houses. Extreme price developments in the supply of information, as well as usage restrictions, are prompting scientific organizations around the world to rethink their policies. From as early as 2003, the Max Planck Society initiated the “Berlin Declaration on Open Access to Knowledge in the Sciences and Humanities”, which is intended to promote greater open publication opportunities for publicly financed research.

Springer Verlag’s insistence on maintaining its negotiating position confirmed to the more than 240 scientific organizations around the world that have so far signed the “Berlin Declaration” how important their project is. What is certain is that very few publishing houses can afford to undermine the public’s interest in the broadest possible access to knowledge through excessive price structures. If publishers have the market power to effectively implement such prices and if legislators are unwilling to subject such inappropriate behavior to legal controls, the only way left open to science will be to take matters into their own hands.


Dr. Ralf Schimmer
Max Planck Digital Library, Munich
Tel.: +49 89 38 602-255
Fax: +49 89 38 602-290

[The Max Planck Society for the Advancement of Science, operates 80 research institutes with more than 12,000 staff members and 9,000 Ph.D. students, post-docs, guest scientists and researchers, and student assistants. Read more about the organization at:]


Journal Pricing Reports Released: Shows Steep Increasing Costs for Social Science Journals and Merging Publishers

Two recent studies on periodical pricing trends have been released. They include information on trends in journal publishing, including pricing, mergers, and measurements of
Serial Wars (Library Journal’s Annual Periodical Pricing Survey)
by Lee C. Van Orsdel & Kathleen Born
April 15, 2007

In a year filled with drama and hyperbole, the serials marketplace churned toward a future whose shape is the subject of fierce debate. Forecasts from commercial publishers touting collapse and disaster seemed oddly out of sync with the profits they enjoyed—around 25 percent on average. Nevertheless, in a market where prices continued to rise and bundled content continued to sell, some of the very publishers whose fortunes are made in scientific, technical, and medical (STM) journals all but declared that the open access (OA) movement is apocalyptic in scope and will lead to the end of journals as we know them.

Open access is no longer a subtext in the annals of the journals industry. It stands alone as an alternative to the existing system of journal publication, which most say is unsustainable in its current form. It can mean different things to different proponents—a shared path to many ends. Libraries want relief from journal prices that are patently outrageous and defy cost-benefit justification. Authors want impact, and OA articles get cited much more often. Scientists want faster and easier access to others’ research, but a recent paper, “UK Scholarly Journals: 2006 Baseline Report,” found that half of all researchers in Britain have problems securing access to needed articles. Universities want a better return on their investment in intellectual capital, authors, peer reviewers, and editors. Taxpayers want to be able to read the research they sponsor.

Highlights on Cost History:
Avg. cost per title: $1676
% of change ’03-’07: 39

Business & Economics
Avg. cost per title: $820
% of change ’03-’07: 33

Avg. cost per title: $3429
% of change ’03-’07: 30

Avg. cost per title: $451
% of change ’03-’07: 46

Language and Literature
Avg. cost per title: $179
% of change ’03-’07: 39

Political Science
Avg. cost per title: $446
% of change ’03-’07: 53

Trends in Scholarly Journal Prices 2000-2006
Sonya White and Claire Creaser, Loughbourgh: LISU, 2007
[1.00 GPB = 2.00775 USD] (4/17/07)

From the Press Release:

The research updates the previous findings on pricing for biomedical journals, and has also been extended to analyze pricing for social science titles. Findings within the report show little variation to the original data published in 2004: there are continued trends in price variance across publishers, including median price increases ranging from 42% to 104% for biomedical titles, and 47% to 120% for social science titles. Median journal prices also continue to vary widely between publishers for both these disciplines, ranging from £198 to £859 in biomedical titles, and £119 to £513 in the Social Sciences.

Claire Creaser, Director of LISU and one of the report’s authors, commented “Serials pricing remains a key concern of librarians in all sectors. It is an area which is becoming more complex, with publishers seeking to adapt to the growing demands of authors and readers in relation to access and quality of research outputs. This report gives a valuable insight into a small part of the current debate, focusing on just two broad subjects and eleven major scholarly journal publishers. There remain many areas still to be investigated, and many factors which may affect journal pricing which are not covered here. LISU was pleased to be invited to carry out this work, and hopes to be able to take it further in the future.”
Highlights on Median Journal Prices by Publisher for Social Science Titles:

University of Chicago
median price: $238.92
% change ’00-’06: 119.7

median price: $528.04
% change ’00-’06: 107.1

median price: $720.78
% change ’00-’06: 100.8

Taylor & Francis
median price: $602.33
% change ’00-’06: 93.5

median price: $487.88
% change ’00-’06: 65.5

median price: $347.34
% change ’00-’06: 65.1

median price: $1029.98
% change ’00-’06: 62.2

Highlights on Median Journal Prices by Publisher for Biomedical Titles:

median price: $746.79
% change ’00-’06: 104.4

median price: $921.55
% change ’00-’06: 90.9

Taylor & Francis
median price: $831.21
% change ’00-’06: 90.0

median price: $929.59
% change ’00-’06: 83.2

median price: $1391.37
% change ’00-’06: 75.4

Cambridge Univ Press
median price: $397.53
% change ’00-’06: 72.2

median price: $1724.66
% change ’00-’06: 51.0

median price: $1515.85
% change ’00-’06: 51.0


University of California Libraries Announce Pursuit of Value-based Journal Prices

Press Release/Announcement

University of California Libraries Announce Pursuit of Value-based Journal Prices
January 18, 2007

The University of California libraries are pleased to announce the availability of a report describing their work on “value-based” prices of scholarly journals. Authored by a task force of the ten-campus library system’s Collection Development Committee, The Promise of Value-based Journal Prices and Negotiation: A UC Report and View Forward is a direct outcome of the UC libraries’ collective strategic priority to advance economically balanced and sustainable scholarly communication systems.

The report details UC’s rationale for value-based journal prices and modeling of prices for scholarly materials that are reasonable, transparent, and based upon the value of the material to the academic mission of the University of California. The report describes a value-based approach that borrows from analysis done by Professors Ted Bergstrom (UC Santa Barbara) and R. Preston McAfee (Caltech) on journal cost-effectiveness ( The UC approach also includes suggestions for annual price increases that are tied to production costs; credits for institutionally-based contributions to the journal, such as editorial labor; and credits for business transaction efficiencies from consortial purchases.

Through the report the libraries ask how an explicit method can be established, validated, and communicated for aligning the purchase or license costs of scholarly journals with the value they contribute to the academy and the costs to create and deliver them. In addition to describing the work done to date, the report provides examples of potential cost savings and declares UC’s intention to pursue value-based prices in their negotiations with journal publishers. In addition, the report invites the academic community to work collectively to refine and improve these and other value-based approaches.

The Promise of Value-based Journal Prices and Negotiation: A UC Report and View Forward is available at:

For more information, contact:
John Ober
Director of Policy, Planning, and Outreach
Office of Scholarly Communication
California Digital Library
(510) 987-0174

Julia Kochi
Director, Digital Library & Collections
Library & Center for Knowledge Management
University of California, San Francisco
(415) 502-7539