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Scholarly Communication


What the experts and stakeholders say:

What the economists say:

  • Scholarly publishing is the business of the author exchanging copyright for peer-review, publication and distribution by which the publisher gains control.
  • The article is a market of one. It is monopolistic by nature since scholarly articles do not compete with each other the same way soda brands do.
  • The scientists need access to all articles but are not directly affected by cost issues relying on institutional funds to pay the subscription prices.
  • The publisher can and has been able to raise prices with no apparent market constraint. This is characterized as an inelastic demand market.
  • Commercial publishers use price discrimination to increase their profits.
  • Libraries, acting in collective interest, should agree to purchase a journal site license only if the price is close to the publishers' average cost.
  • Universities should charge back for the valuable inputs of their faculty where journal prices are profit-maximizing to the detriment of the scholarly community.


- Bergstrom, Carl and Theodore C. Bergstrom. “The costs and benefits of library site licenses to academic journals.” Proc. Nat. Acad. Sci. v. 101(3):897-902, 2004.
- Bergstrom, Carl and R. Preston McAfee. “Journal cost effectiveness.” Released Oct. 24, 2005. (A search engine linking various parameters to assess journal effectiveness.)
- Cornet, Marten and Ben Vollaard. “Tackling the journal crisis.” CPB Netherlands Bureau for Economic Policy Analysis, Working Paper 121, March 2000.
- McCabe, Mark and Christopher Snyder. The best business model for scholarly journals: an economist's perspective. Nature. Web Focus. July 16, 2004.


For additional information please contact Kimberly Douglas, University Librarian, at kdouglas AT library.caltech.edu.

Last updated: June 12, 2009 12:05