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