Quality and/or quantity: the art of pricing academic journals

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Client Oxford University Press (OUP)
Dates 2012
Service(s)Policy & Economics

CEPA were commissioned by Oxford University Press (OUP) to conduct a study of journal prices across ten academic publishers and five subject areas (biomedical, life sciences, social sciences, arts and humanities, and physical sciences). The study supported OUP’s ability to monitor and develop its value and pricing strategy relative to other publishers and to inform its sales team.

We analysed the evolution of journal prices over the past seven years and provided an indication of the quality- and quantity-adjusted prices that readers’ pay by using normalising factors such as impact factors and number of articles per journal. The study relied on median journal price as an indication of price levels across publishers and subject areas and average un-weighted prices for price trends.

A substantial part of the project included collecting price, subject area, impact factor, number of articles and other data from various publicly and privately available sources and consolidating it. The analysis focused on print-only prices (and print plus online where print-only were not available) to ensure maximum consistency of service across publishers. The model allowed for analysis at the aggregate publisher level and at the subject level to take into account the different pricing nature across subject areas (e.g. biomedical journals tend on average to be more expensive than social science journals). We examined how each of the publishers performed during the seven-year period in terms of the absolute price level as well as annual percentage changes and changes in the order of publisher ranking.

The analysis drew conclusions about OUP’s relative position in terms of price level and value for money as well as overall industry trends.