We write to communicate an untenable situation facing the Harvard Library. Many large journal publishers have made the scholarly communication environment fiscally unsustainable and academically restrictive. This situation is exacerbated by efforts of certain publishers (called “providers”) to acquire, bundle, and increase the pricing on journals.
Harvard’s annual cost for journals from these providers now approaches $3.75M. In 2010, the comparable amount accounted for more than 20% of all periodical subscription costs and just under 10% of all collection costs for everything the Library acquires. Some journals cost as much as $40,000 per year, others in the tens of thousands. Prices for online content from two providers have increased by about 145% over the past six years, which far exceeds not only the consumer price index, but also the higher education and the library price indices. These journals therefore claim an ever-increasing share of our overall collection budget. Even though scholarly output continues to grow and publishing can be expensive, profit margins of 35% and more suggest that the prices we must pay do not solely result from an increasing supply of new articles.
Harvard has finally joined the rest of us plebes in complaining about the astronomical cost of academic journals. I’ve been a librarian for 10 years (10 years?!. Yep. Got my MLIS in 2002), and the high cost of journals has been a constant complaint at conferences, in classes, in budget meetings…. The refrain is “We’re not Harvard, we can’t afford everything.”
I guess even Harvard isn’t Harvard any more.
More on this from The Guardian: Harvard University says it can’t afford journal publishers’ prices