Something I’ve noticed lately in scholcomm and open access discussions on social media is a misunderstanding of the Serials Crisis. Typically when it gets referred to it is often interpreted that the ‘crisis’ is the high prices of scholarly publishers. The oligopoly they have and the 30% profit margins they make. This is a piece of the Serial Crisis, but what the Serial Crisis is really about is not the high costs, the dominance of a small number of publishers, or the high profit margins, it is about the rate by which scholarly publishers have increased their prices. I think this is an important distinction and I am going to try and explain why.
The price of serials usually goes up 5% – 6% per year while the rate of inflation is only around 2.5% per year (in the US). This essentially means that while the cost of everything else goes up 2.5% per year, the cost of serials goes up about double that.
This doesn’t seem like that big of deal though right? 2.5% and 5.5% are small percentages. An increase of a couple percentage like this is essentially just a rounding error, right? Continue reading