Following on from this post, I manually extracted historical data for average scholarly journal prices in a dozen broad disciplines from the Library Journal Annual Periodicals Price Surveys by Lee Van Orsdel and Kathleen Born, and compared these with three datasets from the earlier post: ARL libraries’ median total serials expenditures (ARL all serials), Abridged Index Medicus average journal price (AIM) and the consumer price index (CPI):
My concern with the AIM dataset was that it was too small and specialized to support broad conclusions, but it turns out that the AIM data sit somewhere in the middle of the disciplines analysed. Astronomy is closest to the ARL all serials median, with math and computer science not much worse; general science is the worst offender, with engineering and technology, chemistry and food science not far behind. From 1990 to 2008, total price increases ranged from 238% (astronomy) to 537% (general science); that’s 3.7 and 8.3 times the increase in the CPI, respectively.
This dataset covers an average of around 3600 journals from 2005-2009, 3255 from 1997-2001 and 2655 from 1989-1990. I think this represents good evidence that historical price data for total serials, even though it shows a rate of increase far greater than that of the CPI, masks an even greater rate of increase among scholarly (scientific) journals. It’s difficult to look at that graph and believe that scholarly publishers are playing fair, particularly when one remembers that online publishing, with its attendant cost reductions, came of age during the same period of time.
The Van Orsdel/Born surveys include a number of other scholarly disciplines (art, architecture, business, history, language, law, music, etc etc). If I have the time I’ll work those up as well, to provide as broad a picture as possible. I should also include numbers of titles in each discipline, to give some idea of total influence. For instance: although general science (around 60 or 70 titles) shows the greatest increase, it likely contributes far less to the serials crisis than health sciences (more than 1500 titles).
(The data are available in this Excel spreadsheet.)