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Monograph and Serial Costs in ARL Libraries 1986-2015


Publisher Profit Margins

According to a recent presentation by library colleagues at the University of Virginia, publisher profit margins are competitive with tech companies, banks, and pharmaceutical firms:

  • Pfizer (pharmaceuticals):  42%
  • Elsevier (publisher):  39%
  • Apple (technology):  37%
  • Taylor & Francis (publisher):  36%
  • Springer-Nature (publisher):  35%
  • Industrial & Commercial Bank of China (banking):  29%
  • Wiley (publisher):  28%

Much scholarly journal content is written, peer-reviewed and edited by university scholars, then sold back to universities by publishers. 

Annual journal subscription increases regularly exceed the CPI.

Journal Usage Patterns

Research on COUNTER usage data indicates tht double-counting may occur; for example, when a reader navigates to an article web page, and subsequently downloads a PDF of the article, that is counted as two downloads, whereas in practice it is only one.

Bergstrom, T., Uhrig, R., & Antelman, K. (2018). Looking under the COUNTER for overcounted downloads. UC Santa Barbara: Department of Economics

Big Deals increase the number of academic journals to which libraries have immediate access. That increase, however, usually includes a substantial number of journals that receive comparatively little use. In most fields, only a small minority of journals is highly read and highly cited by scholars: research consistently finds that as few as 20% of available journals receive 80% of all use.

Nisonger, T. E. (2008). The “80/20 Rule” and Core Journals. The Serials Librarian, 55(1–2), 62–84.