Open Access, Library and Publisher Competition, and the Evolution of General Commerce

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12 Scopus citations


Discussions of the economics of scholarly communication are usually devoted to Open Access, rising journal prices, publisher profits, and boycotts. That ignores what seems a much more important development in this market. Publishers, through the oft-reviled Big Deal packages, are providing much greater and more egalitarian access to the journal literature, an approximation to true Open Access. In the process, they are also marginalizing libraries and obtaining a greater share of the resources going into scholarly communication. This is enabling a continuation of publisher profits as well as of what for decades has been called “unsustainable journal price escalation.” It is also inhibiting the spread of Open Access and potentially leading to an oligopoly of publishers controlling distribution through large-scale licensing. The Big Deal practices are worth studying for several general reasons. The degree to which publishers succeed in diminishing the role of libraries may be an indicator of the degree and speed at which universities transform themselves. More importantly, these Big Deals appear to point the way to the future of the whole economy, where progress is characterized by declining privacy, increasing price discrimination, increasing opaqueness in pricing, increasing reliance on low-paid or unpaid work of others for profits, and business models that depend on customer inertia.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)130-163
Number of pages34
JournalEvaluation Review
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 25 2015

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2014


  • big deals
  • open access
  • price discrimination


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