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Home :: Archive :: 2006 :: December ::
Price of Academic Journals
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 17.1107  Sunday, 24 December 2006

From: 		Clay Shevlin <
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Date: 		Friday, 22 Dec 2006 03:06:12 -0800
Subject: 17.1055 Price of Academic Journals
Comment: 	RE: SHK 17.1055 Price of Academic Journals

 >Stanford University has held public discussions
 >for the past couple of years about the price of
 >academic journals what Stanford faculty might
 >do about it. Since this may be of interest to a
 >wider audience, I have supplied a link below so
 >that you may see what was discussed at the most
 >recent colloquium. It begins:

  >>Although there was little clear consensus about
 >>strategy among presenters, faculty and staff at a
 >>Nov. 6 colloquium on issues in scholarly publishing,
 >>there were two points on which almost everyone
 >>agreed: The high costs for journal subscriptions charged
 >>by commercial publishers in recent years are unsustainable,
 >>and the ability to distribute articles electronically has
 >>fundamentally changed academic research and publishing.

 >If this is of interest, you may read the article here:

 >http://news-service.stanford.edu/news/2006/november15/journal-111506.html

Thanks to Mike Jensen for the reference to Barbara Palmer's article. 
Interesting reading, prompting one to wonder if the cable TV companies 
are the ones who own the for-profit academic journals...

I noted Prof. Bergstrom's (Dept. Economics, U.C. Santa Barbara) comment 
that "[p]rices [of academic journals] should be decreasing rather than 
increasing, since the ability of scholars to publish papers on their own 
websites has reduced the value of journal subscriptions."

Given the rest of the discussion in Ms. Palmer's article - most notably 
the fact alluded to by Prof. Bergstrom: that a rather high percentage of 
articles appearing in such journals are available, without cost, on the 
internet - it's not at all clear that Prof. Bergstrom's conclusion 
should follow.  If the majority of such articles are available on the 
internet for free, then that might cause a material reduction in journal 
subscriptions.  And with such a reduction in subscriptions would come a 
reduction in revenues.  But, as those involved in the publishing 
business are aware, certain and significant costs of producing a journal 
are fixed and unrelated to the number of subscribers.  Thus, with a 
significant decrease in subscriptions, per-copy production costs could 
increase dramatically and thus compel the publisher to raise 
subscription pricing.

Now, with such a brief article, it's impossible to know what else Prof. 
  Bergstrom said in relation to this claim, including his assumptions, 
caveats, etc.  So my comments are not intended as a criticism, but 
rather an observation, and a rather simplistic one at that, since other 
factors affect academic journal pricing.

Clay Shevlin

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