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Do University Site Licenses for Academic Journals Benefit the Scientific Community?

Listed author(s):
  • Bergstrom, Carl T.
  • Bergstrom, Ted

When academic journals were distributed only as paper editions, the obvious way for scholars to share a journal was to use the copy found on the shelves of their own university library. With the arrival of electronic access, the logistics of journal-sharing has changed radically. Physical proximity, which once made libraries the natural venue for shared access, is no longer important. Despite this change, university libraries have continued to act as publishers' revenue collectors and gatekeepers, by purchasing site licenses that entitle their faculty and students to access journals electronically. Since there is no compelling logistic reason for university libraries to do so, we ask whether university-wide site licenses perform a fiscal function that benefits the academic community. We and a surprising answer. If a journal is priced to maximize the publisher's pro�ts, scholars on average are likely to be worse of when universities purchase site licenses than they would be if access were by individual subscriptions only. But site-licenses are not always disadvantageous. Journals published by professional societies and university presses are often priced as if their objective is to achieve the largest possible circulation consistent with recovery of their costs. When such journals are sustained by institutional site licenses, the net benefits to the scientific community are larger than if these journals are sold only by individual subscriptions.

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Paper provided by Department of Economics, UC Santa Barbara in its series University of California at Santa Barbara, Economics Working Paper Series with number qt1xb913qm.

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Date of creation: 20 Jul 2001
Handle: RePEc:cdl:ucsbec:qt1xb913qm
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  1. Bakos, Yannis & Brynjolfsson, Erik & Lichtman, Douglas, 1999. "Shared Information Goods," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 42(1), pages 117-155, April.
  2. William James Adams & Janet L. Yellen, 1976. "Commodity Bundling and the Burden of Monopoly," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 90(3), pages 475-498.
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