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Open Access and Scholarly Publishing: The Scholarly Publishing Crisis

A library guide with information about Open Access and Scholarly Publishing

Scholarly Publishing

Scholarly publishing is a process which starts with research and creative activity and ends with information about that activity being produced and shared with colleagues through publication in journals and books, performances or other creative works. Through this process, knowledge is developed or transformed, shared with the World and preserved for use by future students and researchers.

The Scholarly Publishing Crisis

Librarians and researchers are aware of the Scholarly Publishing Crisis. As journal prices rise, libraries are faced with two choices: increasing their budgets or reducing the number of library materials (both books and journals) that are purchased. As a result, researchers lose access to scholarly information. Since 1986, the price of scholarly journals has increased 180%, while the Consumer Price Increase has only risen 93%. The increasing cost of scholarly journals has a number of causes:

Commercial publishers control a larger share of the market, often taking over the publication of titles from scholarly societies.
A geography journal that cost $85 from a society in 1991 now costs over $1000 from a commercial publisher, an inflation rate of 1080%.

Publishers charge libraries more for subscriptions than they do their subscribers.
An individual subscription to an education journal is $15, but libraries are charged $730 for the same title, a 4800% mark up.

Commercial publishers have merged.
In the last 20 years, Pergamon Press and Academic Press have been acquired by Elsevier, Taylor and Francis bought Marcel Dekker in 2003 and Wiley Publishing bought Blackwell in 2006. A geochemistry journal published by Pergamon that cost $500 in 1990 is now available from Elsevier for $3262, an inflation rate of about 550%.

Some publishers will only allow individuals to subscribe to journals if their institution has a subscription.
One major publisher does not provide any information on individual subscriptions on their subscription price list page.

Commercial publishers continue to post profits, even in tough economic times.
In 2008, Wiley's profits increased 36%, Elsevier's increased 15%, Taylor & Francis' profits increased 13%. Wolters-Kluwer was the only major commercial publisher with a revenue drop last year.

The graph below, based on data from the Association of Research Libraries, shows the increase in book and journal costs and the U.S. inflation rate from 1986 to 2006.

Click on the graph below for the full sized image

Trends in Book and Journal Spending in ARL Libraries, 1986 through 2006 graph.  The costs of Journals have gone up over 300% while the costs of books have increased in proportion to inflation.