Scholarly Publishing Marketplace  

Much of the scholarly publishing marketplace is profit driven, employing a business model whereby the publications resulting from publicly funded academic research are given to publishers and sold back to libraries, often at high profit margins.

We are dealing with an oligopoly in which five publishers control over 50% of the market and above 70% in some disciplines.


C: Companies | P: Publishers


Sample Costs

In an effort to increase the transparency of the Canadian scholarly publishing environment, the 28 University library members of the Canadian Association of Research Libraries (CARL) have jointly released their 2016-17 expenditure data for journal and database subscriptions licensed through the Canadian Research Knowledge Network consortium.

The CARL Scholarly Communications Roadmap identified the need for more collective action toward greater transparency of licensing information among member institutions. As publicly funded institutions, research libraries recognize that it is in the public’s interest that they provide maximum transparency about the costs and license information of the contractual arrangements for information resources and services into which they enter. 

In its brief Responding to Unsustainable Journal Costs, the Canadian Association of Research Libraries notes that for years the cost of journal subscriptions has risen steadily, far beyond rates of inflation:

  • Globally, from 2011 to 2015, the prices of academic journals rose about 5-7% per year, approximately 25% over the 4-year period, with similar increases experienced in 2016 and 2017. This reflects the culmination of a trend of excessive price increases that has been going on for three decades.
  • The Canadian Consumer Price Index rose less than 2% per year during this same period.
Costs for "Big five" journal packages licensed by Queen's
Subscription 2016-17 Cost (CAD, tax incl)
Elsevier ScienceDirect-Freedom Collection $2,031,175
Wiley-Blackwell Online Library $1,016,539
Taylor & Francis Journals $595,895
Sage Premier All-Access $183,416
Springer  Publisher license does not allow disclosure

Impact on Queen’s

Queen’s library is closely aligned with the university’s academic programs and research, and continually assesses how best to allocate resources to meet their needs. This is becoming more and more difficult, with the journal bundles sold together as "big deals" consuming 44% of the acquisitions operating budget.


There is very limited flexibility to truly curate our collections and purchase important resources beyond the big deals, such as monographs, streaming video and materials reflecting the diversity of new research and scholarship at Queen's. As well, our Journal Usage Project indicates that many of the journal titles included in the big deals are not highly valued by the Queen's community. We are seeking fair prices for the materials you need.

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