How open are hybrid journals included in transformative agreements?

Author : Najko Jahn

The ongoing controversy surrounding transformative agreements, which aim to transition journal publishing to full open access, highlight the need for large-scale studies assessing the uptake of open access in hybrid journals. This includes evaluating the extent to which transformative agreements enabled open access.

By combining publicly available data from various sources, including cOAlition S Journal Checker, Crossref, and OpenAlex, this study presents a novel approach that analyses over 700 agreements and nine million journal articles published in more than 11.000 hybrid journals. Estimates suggest a strong growth in open access between 2018 and 2022 from 4.3% to 15%. In 2022, 58% of hybrid open access was enabled by transformative agreements.

This trend was largely driven by the three commercial publishers Elsevier, Springer Nature, and Wiley, but the open access uptake varied substantially across journals, publishers, disciplines, and country affiliations. In particular, comparing the developments in the OECD and BRICS areas revealed different publication trends relative to hybrid open access.

In conclusion, estimates suggest that current levels of implementation of transformative agreements is insufficient to bring about a large-scale transition to full open access.

URL : How open are hybrid journals included in transformative agreements?

Arxiv :

Assessing the Value of Subscription Journal Packages and Open Access Journal Articles in a Community College Context

Authors : Tim Dolan, Duncan Claflin


Academic libraries are facing two trends: the rising cost of journal subscriptions—the ongoing ‘serials crisis’—and the increasing availability of scholarly journal articles through free, open access channels.


This study analyzed the bibliographies from 116 research projects created by students across disciplines at a small community college, and classified citations to journal articles based on the simplest way students could have accessed them.


more than 60% of the scholarly journal articles that students used are available to them for free, while an additional 18% are available through state-sponsored database subscriptions available to any Massachusetts resident. Only 17% of the journal articles used were available to students solely through the library’s database packages, and more than half of those articles were used by students in the ADN nursing program.


These findings call into question the value of expensive subscription databases to community college libraries and suggest a pattern of diminishing return on investment and value. The trend towards cancellation of ‘big deal’ journal packages at large institutions addresses similar concerns, though the dynamics are somewhat different at small institutions.


The paper concludes by suggesting some steps that small academic libraries might take to adapt to this changing publishing environment, in the areas of collection development and information literacy instruction, in order to better serve students.

URL : Assessing the Value of Subscription Journal Packages and Open Access Journal Articles in a Community College Context


Is It Such a Big Deal? On the Cost of Journal Use in the Digital Era

Authors : Fei Shu, Philippe Mongeon, Stefanie Haustein, Kyle Siler, Juan Pablo Alperin, Vincent Larivière

Commercial scholarly publishers promote and sell bundles of journals—known as big deals—that provide access to entire collections rather than individual journals. Following this new model, size of serial collections in academic libraries increased almost fivefold from 1986 to 2011.

Using data on library subscriptions and references made for a sample of North American universities, this study provides evidence that, while big deal bundles do decrease the mean price per subscribed journal, academic libraries receive less value for their investment.

We find that university researchers cite only a fraction of journals purchased by their libraries, that this fraction is decreasing, and that the cost per cited journal has increased.

These findings reveal how academic publishers use product differentiation and price strategies to increase sales and profits in the digital era, often at the expense of university and scientific stakeholders.

URL : Is It Such a Big Deal? On the Cost of Journal Use in the Digital Era


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.”