Scholarly journal publishing in transition – from restricted to open access

Authors : Bo-Christer Björk

While the business models used in most segments of the media industry have been profoundly changed by the Internet surprisingly little has changed in the publishing of scholarly peer reviewed journals. Electronic delivery has become the norm, but the same publishers as before are still dominating the market, selling content to subscribers.

This article asks the question why Open Access (OA) to the output of mainly publicly funded research hasn’t yet become the mainstream business model. OA implies a reversal of revenue logic from readers paying for content to authors paying for dissemination via universal free access.

The current situation is analyzed using Porter’s five forces model. The analysis demonstrates a lack of competitive pressure in this industry, leading to so high profit levels of the leading publishers that they have not yet felt a strong need to change the way they operate.

OA funded by article publishing charges (APCs) might nevertheless start rapidly becoming more common. The driving force currently consists of the public research funders and administrations in Europe, which are pushing for OA by starting dedicated funds for paying the APCs of authors from the respective countries.

This has in turn lead to a situation in which publishers have introduced “big deals” involving the bundling of (a) subscription to all their  journals, (b) APCs for their hybrid journals and (c) in the future also APCs to their full OA journals.

This appears to be a relatively risk free strategy for the publishers in question to retain their dominance of the market and high profit levels also in the future.


E-Journals and the Big Deal: A Review of the Literature

Author : Cindy Sjoberg

Faced with shrinking budgets and increased subscription prices, many academic libraries are seeking ways to reduce the cost of e-journal access. A common target for cuts is the “Big Deal,” or large bundled subscription model, a term coined by Kenneth Frazier in a 2001 paper criticizing the effects of the Big Deal on the academic community.

The purpose of this literature review is to examine issues related to reducing e-journal costs, including criteria for subscription retention or cancellation, decision-making strategies, impacts of cancellations, and other options for e-journal content provision. Commonly used criteria for decision-making include usage statistics, overlap analysis, and input from subject specialists.

The most commonly used strategy for guiding the process and aggregating data is the rubric or decision grid. While the e-journal landscape supports several access models, such as Pay-Per-View, cloud access, and interlibrary loan, the Big Deal continues to dominate. Trends over the past several years point to dwindling support for the Big Deal however, due largely to significant annual rate increases and loss of content control.


A Triangulation Method to Dismantling a Disciplinary « Big Deal »

« In late 2012, it appeared that the University Library, University of Saskatchewan would likely no longer be able to afford to subscribe to the entire American Chemical Society « Big Deal » of 36 journals. Difficult choices would need to be made regarding which titles to retain as individual subscriptions. In an effort to arrive at the most conscientious and evidence-based decisions possible, three discrete sources of data were collected and compared: full-text downloads, citation analysis of faculty publications, and user feedback.

This case study will describe the triangulation method developed — including the unconventional approach of applying a citation analysis technique to usage data and survey responses. Such a thorough, labor-intensive, method is likely not practical for analyzing larger, multidisciplinary journal bundles. When it becomes necessary to break up a smaller collection important to researchers in a particular discipline, this technique may provide strong evidence to support librarian decisions as well as involve faculty in the process. »


Evaluating big deal journal bundles

« Large commercial publishers sell bundled online subscriptions to their entire list of academic journals at prices significantly lower than the sum of their á la carte prices. Bundle prices differ drastically between institutions, but they are not publicly posted. The data that we have collected enable us to compare the bundle prices charged by commercial publishers with those of nonprofit societies and to examine the types of price discrimination practiced by commercial and nonprofit journal publishers. This information is of interest to economists who study monopolist pricing, librarians interested in making efficient use of library budgets, and scholars who are interested in the availability of the work that they publish. »


Deal or No Deal Evaluating Big Deals and…

Deal or No Deal? Evaluating Big Deals and Their Journals :

« This paper presents methods to develop metrics that compare Big Deal journal packages and the journals within those packages. Deal-level metrics guide selection of a Big Deal for termination. Journal-level metrics guide selection of individual subscriptions from journals previously provided by a terminated deal. The paper argues that, while the proposed metrics provide helpful quantitative data for comparative analysis, selection of individual subscriptions must also involve informed judgment about a library’s subject coverage needs and alternative sources of access. The paper also discusses how replacing a Big Deal with a reduced number of individual subscriptions may affect the collections budget, use of other resources, and interlibrary loan. »


Leaving Elsevier’s big deal an evaluation of…

Leaving Elsevier’s « big deal »: an evaluation of the Italian National Institute of Health experience inside the Bibliosan Consortium :

« In 2011 the Istituto Superiore di Sanità (ISS), the Italian National Institute of Health, has been forced, due to economic reason, to leave the Bibliosan Consortium contract with the publisher Elsevier. The contract, following the “big deal” model, provided for the maintenance of paper subscriptions and the payment of an additional fee for the whole electronic collection (more than 2,000 journal titles). The continuous increase of annual costs has led to unsustainable growth in costs and to the subsequent cancellation of the contract. This meant that more than 500 researchers of the Institute have suddenly had access to just 180 Elsevier current titles instead of the previous 2,000. The study traces the various stages which led to taking this unavoidable decision to cut about half of the Elsevier’s journals and analyzes its impact. »