The rising cost of journals and journal packages

Here’s a common woe of academic librarians.  Many of our large journal packages increase in price from 8-11% a year.  There’s similar pressure on the individual journal subscriptions, especially the science ones.

When library budgets are flat, declining, or only increasing by a few percent per year, how are libraries going to sustain these increases? Are we supposed to raid the book budget to pay for an outrageous 25% increase on a suite of psychology journals?  Is the college really going to sell the climbing wall to allow “unnamed university press” to tack on exorbitant new journals we never asked for?

Here’s a chart I ran in Excel, assuming a starting cost of $2,000,000 for library materials budget, $900,000 for electronic resources.  Library budget increases at 2% and electronic resources increasing at a very modest 5% over 20 years.


Notice how the electronic resources overtake the library’s material budget – gradually at first, then quickly gobbling up the overall budget.

At a liberal arts college, there’s still some commitment to the book — as a book in any format, and the book as printed word.  We are not about to eliminate the vast majority of our books so the journal publishers can profit more.

In the past few years I’ve been hearing that big publishers are snatching up journals left and right, leading to a feeding frenzy and price inflation.  Well the sharks better settle down because we just. Cannot. Sustain. 8% increases.

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