Skip to the Main Content

Note:These pages make extensive use of the latest XHTML and CSS Standards. They ought to look great in any standards-compliant modern browser. Unfortunately, they will probably look horrible in older browsers, like Netscape 4.x and IE 4.x. Moreover, many posts use MathML, which is, currently only supported in Mozilla. My best suggestion (and you will thank me when surfing an ever-increasing number of sites on the web which have been crafted to use the new standards) is to upgrade to the latest version of your browser. If that's not possible, consider moving to the Standards-compliant and open-source Mozilla browser.

May 24, 2009

Elsevier Journal Prices

Posted by John Baez

Do you have data about Elsevier’s journal prices compared to other journals? If so, let me know! Before we launch the revolution, we need to get our facts straight.

My friend the physicist Ted Jacobson wants such data. With the help of a librarian, he has compared the prices of Elsevier’s physics journals to other physics journals subscribed to by his university…

He writes:

Here are some numbers related to the University of Maryland subscriptions:

cost number cost/title costpertitle: (inthousands of (inthousands Elsevier/other ofdollars) titles ofdollars) Elsevier 234 42 5.6 1 NonElsevier 310 149 2.1 2.7 APS 22 8 2.8 2.0 IOP 90 50 1.8 3.1 \array{ & cost & number & cost/title & cost per title: \\ & (in thousands & of & (in thousands & Elsevier/other \\ & of dollars) & titles & of dollars) & \\ Elsevier & 234 & 42 & 5.6 & 1 \\ Non-Elsevier & 310 & 149 & 2.1 & 2.7 \\ APS & 22 & 8 & 2.8 & 2.0 \\ IOP & 90 & 50 & 1.8 & 3.1 }

Elsevier is 2.0 times as expensive as the excellent American Physical Society (APS) journals, 3.1 times as expensive as the excellent Institute of Physics (IOP) journals, and 2.7 times as expensive overall, i.e. comparing to all the non-Elsevier journals we get put together. Plus, note that included with the above costs we get electronic access to all back issues of the entire PROLA (Physical review online archive) as well as the IOP archive.

By contrast, electronic access to Elsevier back issue back to 1995 are included in the above, but before that costs extra. They are sold in subject packages. Nuclear Physics and Physics Letters and Physics Letters B are available from their beginning to 1994 in the High Energy/Nuclear Physics Collection, price $ 53,220 (includes 37 other titles). Physics Letters A is only available in the Physics General package which costs $ 100,890 (includes 78 other titles). According to one of our librarians, “these appear to be one-time costs”.

Ulf Rehmann has listed prices of math journals based on data from the American Mathematical Society, but it’d take a little work to compare different publishers’ prices. Has anyone already done this work?

And how about journals on other subjects?

Posted at May 24, 2009 9:47 PM UTC

TrackBack URL for this Entry:   http://golem.ph.utexas.edu/cgi-bin/MT-3.0/dxy-tb.fcgi/1974

10 Comments & 0 Trackbacks

Re: Elsevier Journal Prices

Depends exactly how the data is calculated, but if you can tell me that then I can tell you the mathematics results. For example, going from the AMS journal data (which is what Ulf Rehman bases his webpage on) then there are 38 Elsevier titles (including Academic Press/Elsevier) out of 276. The mean price per journal for Elsevier is 2638 dollars, compared with 918 for non-Elsevier titles and 1205 overall.

Publisher Number MeanPrice Mean Elsevierian ofTitles perTitle ofComplement Ratio Elsevier 38 2638 918 1 AmericanMath.Society 6 693 1152 3.8 CambridgeUniv.Press 7 693 1154 3.8 InternationalPress 5 515 1154 5.1 OxfordUniv.Press 8 729 1154 3.6 Soc.forIndust.Appl.Math 9 620 1159 4.3 SocieteMath.deFrance 4 328 1154 8 Springer 86 1380 1043 1.9 WalterdeGuyter 2 1600 1140 1.6 Wiley 9 2168 1110 1.2 Overall 276 1205 0/0 2.2 \array{ Publisher & Number & Mean Price & Mean & Elsevierian \\ & of Titles & per Title & of Complement & Ratio \\ Elsevier &38 & 2638 & 918 & 1 \\ American Math. Society & 6 & 693 & 1152 & 3.8 \\ Cambridge Univ. Press & 7 & 693 & 1154 &3.8 \\ International Press & 5 & 515 & 1154 & 5.1 \\ Oxford Univ. Press & 8 &729 & 1154 &3.6 \\ Soc. for Indust. Appl. Math & 9 & 620 & 1159 & 4.3 \\ Societe Math. de France & 4 & 328 & 1154 & 8 \\ Springer & 86 & 1380 & 1043 &1.9 \\ Walter de Guyter & 2& 1600 & 1140 & 1.6 \\ Wiley & 9 & 2168& 1110 &1.2 \\ Overall & 276 & 1205 & 0/0 & 2.2 }

I’m not sure whether or not the figures for Springer are fair since there are journals listed with ‘Springer’, ‘Springer/Birkhauser’, and ‘Springer-Verlag’. I’ve lumped all of these together.

Posted by: Andrew Stacey on May 25, 2009 10:01 AM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Elsevier Journal Prices

Thanks a million, Andrew! I passed this info on to Ted Jacobson, and maybe he’ll come over here and have something to say.

I think it’s fair to lump Springer and Springer/Birkhäuser together because Springer owns Birkhäuser. I know of no difference between Springer and Springer-Verlag: ‘Verlag’ just means ‘publishing company’ in German.

Posted by: John Baez on May 25, 2009 7:42 PM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Elsevier Journal Prices

I don’t know if it’s of any use, but there’s an interesting per-page journal price comparison here:

http://www.mathematik.uni-bielefeld.de/~rehmann/BIB/AMS/Price_per_Page.html

Posted by: A.J. Cain on May 25, 2009 11:51 AM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Elsevier Journal Prices

…Never mind: I somehow managed to miss the fact that that link was already there. Apologies.

Posted by: A.J. Cain on May 25, 2009 11:56 AM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Elsevier Journal Prices

By the way, there’s an awful lot of data out there on maths journals and it can be tricky to track down and gather into a unified document. I’ve put up some instructions on how to get the information that I’m aware of into a usable form on the web here. If anyone knows of any other sources of useful information either let me know or (as it’s a Wiki) add the information yourself.

Posted by: Andrew Stacey on May 25, 2009 12:17 PM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Elsevier Journal Prices

I don’t think the case against Elsevier should be made based on price. Price is an issue, but it’s not the only or even the most important issue. Elsevier’s prices are high, but not uniquely high.

Elsevier has an extensive history of poor behavior (arms fairs; fake medical journals; Chaos, Solitons, and Fractals; probably other examples we don’t know of yet). This behavior totally disqualifies them as stewards of the mathematical literature. Even if their prices were rock bottom, they have proven themselves unworthy of our trust, and publishing papers with them is a matter of trust (namely, trusting that they will make the papers available in the future at a reasonable price).

Of course, high journal prices alone are already a terrible thing, but that’s a much trickier issue. The problem is where to draw the line. If we insist on very low prices, we might damage quality or keep learned societies from using journal revenues to subsidize other valuable activities. If we allow moderately but not extremely high prices, then the best we can hope for is to end up with a ton of moderately high-priced commercial journals. (That would certainly be an improvement on the current situation, but it wouldn’t solve our problems.) It’s genuinely unclear how to pull this off.

On the other hand, we’ve already got plenty of other reasons to boycott Elsevier. This would not only remove a cancer from the mathematical community, but would also put their competitors on notice that good behavior is required. So, in making a public case against Elsevier, I’d mention high prices but make it clear that the problem is much deeper than just overcharging.

Once Elsevier has been dealt with, we can move on to the question of journal pricing in general. Am I the only one who thinks this is the right approach?

Posted by: Anonymous on May 27, 2009 4:08 AM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Elsevier Journal Prices

Anonymous wrote:

I don’t think the case against Elsevier should be made based on price. Price is an issue, but it’s not the only or even the most important issue.

There are lots of cases to be made against Elsevier, and maybe we don’t need to decide on what’s the most important one. I agree that a boycott is a great idea, and I think a bunch of people can agree that it’s a good idea, for various reasons.

To librarians, price is incredibly important. Academic libraries across the world are going broke because of Elsevier’s prices. And the prices, of course, are just a symptom of the oligopoly that the Big Three publishing houses have achieved. Of the Big Three, Elsevier is the biggest (and baddest).

For example, the University of California pays Elsevier $8.2 million each year. They sell us 34% of all the journals we get, and 27% of all the electronic content. The next biggest publishing company is Wiley-Blackwell — we pay them $5 million each year. The third is Springer — we pay them $3 million each year.

More to say, but I have to go now.

Posted by: John Baez on May 27, 2009 5:45 PM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Elsevier Journal Prices

I found out what the University of California pays for various electronic journals. All disciplines are included in this spreadsheet.

The American Chemical Society is the worst in one sense: in 2008 their journals cost an average of $13,767 per title, compared to $6,598 per title for Elsevier and $1,816 per title for Springer–Kluwer.

On the other hand, the average cost per use was $0.43 for American Chemical Society journals, $1.30 for Elsevier and $2.70 for Springer–Kluwer.

(There are also others listed, but I’m too lazy to type them all in.)

Posted by: John Baez on May 30, 2009 11:16 PM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Elsevier Journal Prices

You’ll forgive me for being pseudo-anonymous. My university library is having its budget cut, and yesterday it announced that it would like to cancel a lot of mathematics journals: including Crelle’s journal, Mathematische Annalen, Proc. LMS, GAFA, Inventiones and Duke, amongst others.

No Elsevier journals are up for cancellation, I believe because they are in bundles, and so cancelling a single journal is impossible (or simply wouldn’t save any money). Can anyone shed any light on how such bundles work? For example, large numbers were banded around in relation to Chaos, Solitons and Fractals (see [1] below). But how does this number relate to the cost of a bundle? Does that question even make sense?

The library claims to have usage stats for electronic accesses, and if these are accurate, then the journals listed above aren’t be used much at all (which I find hard to believe). However, it is a little hard to argue against the financial logic. But the net effect is that independent publishers, and learned societies (e.g. LMS, AMS, Australian Math. Soc, Canadian Math. Soc) are the big losers. I think we should be supporting these organisations (the profits go back into mathematics) and not the likes of Elsevier.

[1]: I notice that the latest issue of Chaos, Solitons and Fractals is back to publishing what looks like proper, non-linear dynamics stuff…

Posted by: Doormat on June 13, 2009 10:28 AM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Elsevier Journal Prices

anonymous wrote:
I notice that the latest issue of Chaos, Solitons and Fractals is back to publishing what looks like proper, non-linear dynamics stuff…

I don’t think so. At least if one does not think of that crackpot stuff to be proper:

Chaos solitons and fractals, volume 41, issue 3 (15 August 2009)

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/journal/09600779


BPS states, dualities and determining the mass of elementary particles, Pages 1263-1265, M.S. El Naschie


A simple direct connection between superstrings and E8 unification, Pages 1329-1330, M.S. El Naschie


E-eight exceptional Lie groups, Fibonacci lattices and the standard model, Pages 1340-1343, M.S. El Naschie

Apparently that journal continues to contain this crackpot stuff and Elsevier has no shame to publish it.


Posted by: Benni on June 13, 2009 3:12 PM | Permalink | Reply to this

Post a New Comment