SPARC-ACRL forum "Understanding the Implications of Open Education: MOOCs and More" June 29, 2013
Bergstrom and Bergstrom have conducted research on journal economics in the fields of economics and ecology, concluding that there are broad implications for scholarly publishing as a whole. There is a “startling difference between the prices that university libraries must pay for academic journals owned by commercial publishers and the prices for journals owned by professional societies and university presses.”
The authors write that in the fields of economics and ecology, the average institutional subscription price per page charged by commercial journals is about 5 times that charged by non-profit journals.
These price differences do not reflect differences in quality as measured by number of recorded citations to a journal. For commercial journals the average price per citation is about 15 times that for non-profit journals. Similar price differentials are found across a wide variety of scientific disciplines. These price differences have grown rapidly over the past 15 years. In 2001, the average real (adjusted for inflation) price per page of journals owned by commercial publishers has approximately tripled, while that of non-profit economics journals has increased by "only" 50 percent. Over the same time interval, the number of journals published has increased dramatically. In 1980 there were about 120 economics journals, half of which were commercial and half non-profit. In 2000 there are almost 300 economics journals, two-thirds of which are owned by commercial publishers.
Faced with a proliferation of new journals and a rapid increase in prices, libraries have increased their real expenditures on serials by an average of 4.6 per cent (8 percent unadjusted for inflation) since 1985. Despite this expenditure increase, university library collections have been able to provide access to an ever-decreasing fraction of published materials. While the number of journals published has roughly doubled, the number of journals held by university libraries has actually decreased by about 7 percent and the number of monographs have decreased even more rapidly. (Source: “The economics of scholarly journal publishing”. See also “The economics of ecology journals,” Carl T. Bergstrom and Theodore C. Bergstrom, Front Ecol Environ 2006; 4(9): 488-495)