Periodicals Price Survey 2009

Lee C. Van Orsdel & Kathleen Born have just published their annual Periodicals Price Survey in Library Journal (4/15/2009). They paint a bleak picture showing that both libraries and publishers are bracing for big cuts. Still, they stress that the grim budgetary constraints may provide an increased opportunity for innovative systems of scholarly communication and open access. Excerpts:

As waves of grim economic news wash over state and federal governments here and abroad, libraries of all types and sizes are bracing for budget cuts the likes of which have not been seen in three generations. Unlike most financial crises, this one is ubiquitous, with all but a handful of states in the red and getting redder. Globally, the meltdown is playing havoc with currencies, and the cost of journals priced in currencies other than the pound, the euro, or the U.S. dollar have skyrocketed. Severe losses in endowment revenue, which in the past insulated materials budgets to a degree, have left even larger and wealthier libraries facing cuts. . . .

Some see in the financial debacle an opportunity to promote more open systems of scholarly exchange, and open access (OA) initiatives are clearly gathering momentum. Last year’s unanimous OA mandate from Harvard’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences was quickly emulated by faculties from Harvard’s Law School and from Stanford’s School of Education. New mandates are under development at over a dozen U.S. colleges and universities. The mandate at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) went into effect in April 2008. Early numbers indicate strong compliance and high usage. In September, Elias Zerhouni, then NIH director, testified that well over half of the articles funded by NIH grants were being deposited in PubMed Central, and 400,000 users were accessing 700,000 articles each day. The National Science Foundation (NSF) is considering a similar mandate. Lest one think the struggle is over, the publisher lobby is back in force, supporting legislation designed to overturn the NIH mandate and stop other agencies from following suit.

Nevertheless, publishers as a whole do seem to be making an effort to accommodate rising demand for OA-friendly practices, as evidenced in a report from the Association of Learned and Professional Society Publishers (Scholarly Publishing Practice, Third Survey 2008). Some are moving aggressively toward OA business models, but most are taking smaller steps—liberalizing copyright transfer agreements or facilitating manuscript deposit into designated digital archives, for example. Thirty percent now offer authors an OA option, up from 9% three years ago, with author fees typically running between $1000 and $3000 per article. Just over half of publishers have long-term archiving arrangements for their journals, most typically with Portico or LOCKSS. On a less hopeful note, as the number of repositories and the practice of self-archiving have grown, large publishers have begun to restrict authors’ rights to post final manuscripts on the web; more require embargoes if they allow it at all. . . .

As economic times get harder, the rationale for open access becomes clearer. A major research study on the Economic Implications of Alternative Scholarly Publishing Models by the Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC), released in January, estimates that British universities would save around £80 million a year by shifting to an OA publishing system. The study supposed that resources now used for subscription would be redirected toward the costs of journal publication and dissemination. It also concluded that significant additional benefits would accrue to business and industry as the result of greater accessibility to research findings. . . .