April 22, 2021

Journal Article: “Why is Access to the Scholarly Journal Literature So Expensive?” (Preprint)

The article (preprint) linked below was recently made available by portal: Libraries and the Academy.

Title

Why is Access to the Scholarly Journal Literature So Expensive?

Authors

Bo-Christer Björk
Professor Emeritus of Information Systems Science
Hanken School of Economics in Helsinki, Finland

Source

Preprint
portal: Libraries and the Academy.
To Appear: Volume 21, Number 2

DOI

From the Introduction:

For more than 30 years the spiraling costs of scholarly journal subscriptions, of-ten called the “serials crisis,” have been a hotly debated topic. Academics and librarians have pointed out the high profit levels of the major commercial publishers, despite that the content they sell is provided by unpaid authors and reviewers. The publishers then resell it to the universities of these same authors and reviewers. Publishers have attempted to justify their prices by cost increases, their investments in information technology, and the value they add.

A useful framework for understanding the situation is Michael Porter’s five forces model for explaining the competitive conditions in an industry. Despite claims to the contrary, the degree of market concentration in scholarly publishing is not higher than that in many other industries, and it is not the main cause of the problem. But because the big deals of different publishers are complements rather than substitutes, the leading companies essentially do not compete for customers, in contrast to other industries, such as mobile phones or automobiles. The high barriers to new entrants, partly due to journal ranking lists and impact factors, as well as the low bargaining power of suppliers and customers, explain why this industry has been so well shielded from the disruptive forces of the Internet. The protected competitive position and high profitability are also major reasons why the big subscription publishers have been slow to adopt the open access business model.

Direct to Full Text Article (Preprint)
16 pages; PDF.

About Gary Price

Gary Price (gprice@mediasourceinc.com) 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 Ask.com, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.

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