Last month, Library Journal published their 2009 Periodicals Price Survey. In addition to a lot of helpful graphs analyzing trends in periodical pricing across subjects, years, and country of origin, the article has a great deal of background information about periodicals pricing and library budgets in the wake of the current economic disaster. Drastic budgets cuts, either current or projected, are forcing libraries to cut back severely on their subscriptions. Library associations are calling for publishers to take the crisis seriously and think flexibly to retain library business.

The article focuses heavily on Open Access as a solution to publishing woes, and calls for a massive paradigm shift in publishing. For starters:

A major research study on the Economic Implications of Alternative Scholarly Publishing Models by the Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC), released in January, estimates that British universities would save around £80 million a year by shifting to an OA publishing system. The study supposed that resources now used for subscription would be redirected toward the costs of journal publication and dissemination. It also concluded that significant additional benefits would accrue to business and industry as the result of greater accessibility to research findings.

Well, that’s pretty persuasive, considering the average price per title for a zoology publication in 2009 was $1,510. But what if the publishers don’t know where to start? How can they figure out how to convert to an OA business model? Oh, that’s easy:

Help may be forthcoming from the new Open Access Scholarly Publishers Association, which debuted in October 2008. Founding members include BioMed Central (now Springer), SAGE, Hindawi, and the Public Library of Science (PLoS). Its purpose is to develop tools and standards, as well as business models, that support OA publishing.

Hooray! This all sounds too good to be true, doesn’t it? Well, it’s not. It seems like the OA revolution we’ve all been waiting for has already begun, at least on the university level…

Harvard’s faculty passed its OA mandate last year out of commitment to the idea that a university’s research should be shared with the public for the greater good of society. Some of the most prestigious higher education organizations in the United States have now taken up the cause. On February 12, 2009, the Association of American Universities, National Association of State Universities and Land Grant Colleges, Coalition for Networked Information, and ARL issued a call for universities to begin taking active responsibility for the broad dissemination of the research produced at their institutions, outlining a range of strategies to ensure that happens. Five days later, Boston University’s governing council approved a position statement that endorses open access, calls for the creation of an institutional repository, and promotes five key faculty practices that will help the university begin systematically practicing open access.

But what about the publishers?

Springer, the second largest STM (scientific, technical, & medical) publisher, became the world’s largest OA publisher in October 2008 when it acquired BioMed Central (BMC), a pioneer in commercial OA publishing. Early this year, Springer and the University of California (UC) Libraries reached an agreement to experiment with a subscription model tried last year with the Max Planck Institute in Europe. Under the deal, articles written by UC faculty will become OA upon publication in Springer journals, and a PDF of the article will be deposited in eScholarship, UC’s digital repository. The Planck Institute, meanwhile, signed a similar deal this year with PLoS.

Well, that’s just peachy. Amid all of the signs of economic doom and gloom, there seem to be at least a few rays of light. That is, as long as you’re not in physics or chemistry, where the average price per title tops $3600.

Reality Bites: Periodicals Price Survey 2009 – 4/15/2009 – Library Journal.