Why Is Access to the Scholarly Journal Literature So Expensive?

“For more than 30 years the spiraling costs of scholarly journal subscriptions, often 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….”

Science Policy, Competition and Profits

How much India is spending on journal subscriptions? how difficult is it for Indians to access publicly funded research? A nationwide subscription proposal comes with a lot of financial and moral baggage. 

Knowledge Unlatched Strikes Again and Again | Jeff Pooley

“With a hat tip to the indispensable Richard Poynder, here is a quick follow up to yesterday’s post on Knowledge Unlatched’s latest move to disguise its for-profit status. I focused on KU’s Open Research Community (ORC), launched last year as an implied nonprofit. In yesterday’s post, I focused on ORC’s “Community Manager” Pablo Markin and KU head Sven Fund.

The plot is quite a bit thicker, though I won’t do the topic—KU and Sven Fund’s persistent failure to disclose—justice in this short follow-up….”

Knowledge Unlatched Strikes Again and Again | Jeff Pooley

“With a hat tip to the indispensable Richard Poynder, here is a quick follow up to yesterday’s post on Knowledge Unlatched’s latest move to disguise its for-profit status. I focused on KU’s Open Research Community (ORC), launched last year as an implied nonprofit. In yesterday’s post, I focused on ORC’s “Community Manager” Pablo Markin and KU head Sven Fund.

The plot is quite a bit thicker, though I won’t do the topic—KU and Sven Fund’s persistent failure to disclose—justice in this short follow-up….”

Dear Scholars, Delete Your Account At Academia.Edu

“As privatized platforms like Academia.edu look to monetize scholarly writing even further, researchers, scientists and academics across the globe must now consider alternatives to proprietary companies that aim to profit from our writing and offer little transparency as to how our work will be used in the future.

In other words: It is time to delete your Academia.edu account….”

One Journal Publishing Company is More Profitable Than Netflix – Library News

“If your article was published within the last few years, there’s a good chance it was in a journal owned by one these four companies: Elsevier, Wiley-Blackwell, Springer and Taylor & Francis. In the early 1970s, they published 15% of the researched produced in the world*. Today, it’s up to 53% of the world’s research.*

Over the years, these publishing companies have merged and acquired smaller publishers, in an effort to own even more of the journal landscape. The lack of competition allows these companies the ability to charge a high price, often not allowing universities to buy journals outright, instead only letting universities rent journals through subscriptions. Universities often pay millions to rent access to research their own faculty conduct.

The biggest contender in the journal publishing market is Elsevier. With 3,000 journals and publishing nearly half a million articles per year, RELX, the parent company of Elsevier, had revenues of US $9.8 billion in 2019. Elsevier’s profits account for about 34% of RELX’s total profits.

You can read more about these oligopolies (market shared by a small number of producers or sellers) and how they are contributing to the unaffordability of journals in the Vox article The War to Free Science. …”

Pengene bak vitenskapelig publisering | Tidsskrift for Den norske legeforening

From Google’s English:  “Most doctors relate to the pharmaceutical industry with a healthy skepticism. Scientific publications are also something all doctors and researchers have to deal with every single day, but knowledge of and skepticism of the scientific publishing industry seems to be less. The topic has become more relevant, as everyday publication has changed radically in recent decades. The Research Council of Norway has also, like 14 other countries, approved Plan S. This means that research funded by funds from the Research Council announced after 2021 must be published in open scientific journals (open access) ( 1 – 3). How does this change scientific publishing, and what will the industry itself have to change? The purpose of this article is to draw attention to existing problems with scientific publication and new problems created with open access and Plan S….

The most important thing we as users of the system can do is to be aware of the actual conditions and meet the publishing houses, journals and scientific publications we read with a healthy skepticism. With increased attention, the professional communities can put pressure on the industry and the authorities. This has already led to changes in Plan S….”

Pengene bak vitenskapelig publisering | Tidsskrift for Den norske legeforening

From Google’s English:  “Most doctors relate to the pharmaceutical industry with a healthy skepticism. Scientific publications are also something all doctors and researchers have to deal with every single day, but knowledge of and skepticism of the scientific publishing industry seems to be less. The topic has become more relevant, as everyday publication has changed radically in recent decades. The Research Council of Norway has also, like 14 other countries, approved Plan S. This means that research funded by funds from the Research Council announced after 2021 must be published in open scientific journals (open access) ( 1 – 3). How does this change scientific publishing, and what will the industry itself have to change? The purpose of this article is to draw attention to existing problems with scientific publication and new problems created with open access and Plan S….

The most important thing we as users of the system can do is to be aware of the actual conditions and meet the publishing houses, journals and scientific publications we read with a healthy skepticism. With increased attention, the professional communities can put pressure on the industry and the authorities. This has already led to changes in Plan S….”

Relx continues deal spree after spending nearly £800m this year | Financial Times

“With no end date for the pandemic in sight, many smaller participants in the events industry are facing bankruptcy. However Relx has been helped by its more diverse portfolio of subscription-based businesses, with events only contributing to 16 per cent of group revenue last year….

“The bulk of Relx’s business is in subscriptions and that is holding up very well,” said Sarah Simon, analyst at Berenberg….”

RELX PLC (RELX) Q1 2020 Earnings Call Transcript

“STM delivered underlying revenue growth of 1% in the first half, with growth in electronic revenues of 4%, partly offset by a higher-than-historical rate of decline in print revenue of 17%. In primary research, both subscription renewal completion rates and new sales are in line with recent years so far this year. Growth in article submissions for both our subscription and open access journals accelerated, with a total of 1.3 million article submissions in the first half. Submissions to our subscription journals grew by over 25%, and submissions to our expanded open access publishing program, which now includes over 430 dedicated journals, almost doubled for the second year in a row. Databases and tools continue to drive growth across market segments through content development and enhanced functionality….

The growth in open access, the rapid growth is — and the growth rate we talked about in submissions too that they have doubled now in the first half again for the second year in a row. Those are submissions to our stand-alone open access journals and not counting the — what’s going on in our submission journals because when you submit, you don’t indicate your payment model. So the stand-alone open access is growing very rapidly, and that’s therefore the majority of the growth. You said in our subscription journals, which you also access sort of open access sponsored articles, as you would refer to as hybrid journals, just many, a couple of thousand, it’s a very, very small portion that are open access articles. I mean order of magnitude, we’re talking about low single-digit percent as an overall ratio, right? It’s a few percent, right? So it’s very small. It’s growing, but it’s not growing at the same rate nearly as the stand-alone open access journals….

STM and R&BA delivered underlying adjusted operating profit growth in line with or slightly ahead of the underlying revenue growth, with cost action taken in reaction to the slower revenue growth compared to the full-year last year….

Onto margins. Although STM’s underlying profit growth was in line with underlying revenue growth, margins were higher as they benefited from exchange rate movements, including on the hedge book….

We have also continued to make progress on our key strategic and operational priorities with our primary focus on the organic development of increasingly sophisticated analytics and decision tools supported by selective acquisitions….

We think of ourselves as a service provider in the STM industry, and we think of ourselves as a service provider across a wide range of product sets. As you have noticed, it seems, again, that most of the questions here seem to be about academic primary research subscriptions to the academic market, which is a bit below half of the STM division. But we really focus on all the different tools, data sets and analytics for science and research across the world….”