Kütüphane ve Dokümantasyon Müdürlüğü
Elektronik Bülteni

Sayı : Mart/2006

Economic and strategic analysis of scientific journals:
recent evolutions*

*Bibliographical reference :
Journal of European Research Libraries
Vol: 15 (2005) , No: 3/4

Bas Savenije, Utrecht University Library,
P.O Box 16007, 3500 DA Utrecht, Netherlands,


As a consequence of the use of modern information technology, a lot of changes are going on in academic publishing. Many scholarly journals are available online and there are also a large number of e-only journals, often published outside the range of traditional publishers. There is also a worldwide movement advocating open access for scientific information. It is an interesting issue how these developments have influenced the policy of traditional publishers.

This article is mainly about commercial publishers. It analyses a number of aspects of the behaviour of these publishers, also taking into account the changes in the system. Section 2 deals with the publishers' pricing policy. Many libraries suffer from the so-called serials crisis caused by the huge price increases for scholarly journals. What causes these price increases and are they justified? Section 3 goes into the market of scholarly publishing: is it really operating as a commercial market? Is there enough competition and how does the large number of acquisitions influence this? Section 4 is about licensing. The traditional library subscription model is being replaced by site licenses for the electronic full text. We are confronted with the so-called Big Deals, which are highly controversial among librarians. Section 5 is about 'Open access': what does it mean and how do commercial publishers react to the open access movement. The article ends with some concluding remarks about possible scenarios for the academic community.





There is a worldwide movement to promote open access to scientific information. The   Public Library of Science (PloS),   SPARC and the   Budapest Open Access Initiative are examples of this.

To prevent misunderstanding: 'open access' does not mean that there are no costs involved. Of course there are costs involved in publishing activities. 'Open access' means that the costs are not paid by the reader.

Who is paying in open access models? There are several possibilities (Savenije, 2002).


The authors may pay for publication, as a kind of page charge. The Florida Entomological Society, for instance, lets authors pay when they want (in addition to a print article) immediate free web access (a so-called IFWA fee). Authors do profit from this online access because it is shown that the number of citations rises by providing web access.


Authors, or the institutions that employ them, may pay for the peer review because they profit from the acceptance of their contribution (for instance   The Review of Economic Theory).


Institutions or societies may support a journal or site when they need a medium for their own discipline. This, for instance, is the case with the   International Journal of Integrated Care (IJIC), published with the support of   Igitur, Utrecht Publishing & Archiving Services. The start of this journal was supported by a number of research groups working in this field..


Institutions or societies may buy the right for their members to publish in a certain journal or on a site. This is the case with   BioMed Central, a profit organisation introducing new financial models for academic e-publishing.


Finally, of course, there is the possibility of grants, donations, or sponsorships, by (inter)national funding agencies, organisations like   SPARC, or others.

A large number of publishing activities with open access have been undertaken. There is a   Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ) maintained by the University of Lund. In addition to this, a large number of university libraries are working on so-called institutional repositories. The library collects the e-version of every document that is published within its university, stores these publications, and offers free access through the university's website. This, of course, can be combined with institutional and personal homepages. If, in the long run, all publications are thus collected, these can be made accessible by discipline-oriented portals.

If an article is published in a journal, you need the permission of the publisher to put an e reprint on the website of the university. Some publishers give this permission, some do not. Larger commercial publishers are reluctant to give permission. They are afraid that subscriptions will be cancelled. There is also the possibility of free web access (immediately or later) by the publishers themselves. That is in line with the policy of the  
 Public Library of Science, which in 2001 demanded that every article should get free web access six months after publication. Up to now, only a small number of smaller commercial publishers offer free web access after a period of time. In fact, it is clear and not very surprising that large commercial publishers consider the open access movement to be a threat. Whatever may come out of this movement, it puts some pressure on the publishers to change their policy because in the long run they may not be indispensable.



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Igitur, Utrecht Publishing & Archiving Services.

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SPARC - The Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition.