The shift to digital delivery of serials content has had a profound effect on the information ecosystem. Powerful discovery and social networking tools expose users to an incredibly rich world of commercially produced and open access (OA) content. Most publishers have explored new ways of pricing their content—such as population served, FTE (full-time equivalent), tiered pricing based upon Carnegie classification, or other defining criteria—or the database model, which treats all content within an e-journal package as a database, eliminating the need for title by title reconciliation. However, in the end, the pricing conversation always seems to circle back to the revenue generated by the annual subscription model.
What does fracking have to do with scholarly publishing and journal pricing? While the library financial landscape has improved since the depth of the Great Recession of 2007 to 2009, it still cannot be considered robust. As articles such as this one chronicle annual serials price increases, libraries, publishers, and vendors search for innovative ways to fulfill information needs within the finite, predefined budget environment. New business and access models ranging from the initial e-journal big deal packages, article pay per view, open access, mega-journals, and publisher e-journal database pricing have evolved in response to the environment; libraries, publishers, and vendors have merged, consolidated, or disappeared along the way. Just as fracking keeps the oil and gas flowing, these strategies enable the current scholarly publishing ecosystem to extract the necessary resources—intellectual and financial—to survive.
Even as the digital shift continues, print magazines remain a vital part of a multilayered, interconnected media marketplace. The new magazines launched in 2014 display publishers’ appreciation of, and commitment to, the value of the printed page. Mediafinder.com reported that 190 magazines were launched in 2014, compared to 185 in 2013. Last year also saw the closure of 99 titles, as opposed to the 56 that ceased in 2013.
The stock market has hit record highs, and unemployment has reached the lowest level since the recession began. Despite this good news, the library economic environment has not seen commensurate improvement. There continues to be a struggle to find the resources needed to support library collections and services, and conditions remain highly unsettled.