May 20, 2022

Journal Article: “Unbundling Practice: The Unbundling of Big Deal Journal Packages as an Information Practice”

The following article (full text, open access version) was recently added to the Western University repository (Scholarship @ Western). The final version was published in March by the Journal of Documentation.


Unbundling Practice: The Unbundling of Big Deal Journal Packages as an Information Practice


Samuel Cassady
Western University

Catherine Anne Johnson
Western University


via Scholarship @ Western
April 2020

Final Version Published April 2020
Journal of Documentation



The purpose of this article is to introduce a theoretical framework and approach for studying the evaluation and decision-making practices through which academic librarians attempt to reduce the cost of electronic journal subscriptions – an organizational practice known as the unbundling of big deal journal packages.


The article presents a literature-based conceptual analysis of several fields to delineate the elements of the practice of unbundling of big deal journal packages. Beyond analysing the prior literature, the discussion is supported by empirical findings from a pilot study on the topic conducted by two of the article’s authors.


The main finding of the article is that the unbundling of big deal packages is a case of what sociologist refers to as decision-making in a social context. By reviewing previous studies, the article identifies the social and material elements constitutive of this practice. This, in turn, allows to develop questions and concepts for future research on the topic and to position it as an area of inquiry within the field of information behaviour/practices.


The article is the first attempt to conceptualize the unbundling of big deal journal packages by highlighting its phenomenological status as a type of information practice. In addition, the article proposes a research approach for studying this type of information practice by drawing on insights from the information behaviour/practice literature and enriching them through practice theory contributions in organizational studies and sociology.

About Gary Price

Gary Price ( is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.