Thursday, June 11, 2009

Institutional pricing for theology periodicals

I was just speaking with co-worker that had been to a CARLI (Consortium of Academic and Research Libraries of Illinois) meeting on monograph collections. Apparently the meeting turned towards periodical collections because of the extent to which periodical pricing is putting strain on research library budgets. Some schools said that at the rate prices were going, they wouldn't be able to sustain any monograph budget at all if they remained subscribed to the same journals that they are now. Things are that bad.

As I understand it, the problem is much worse in the sciences than in the humanities. Things aren't as bad in places like Wheaton, where we don't require materials for the sciences that would sustain a doctoral-level program. But the pricing still adds up, and in bible colleges, seminaries, or Christian liberal arts colleges that might not have to deal so much with the scientific periodicals, there is on the other hand a lack of money on the scale of research universities... so the crisis, if smaller by the measure of raw numbers, can still be just as problematic when the proportions are taken into account. It's worth considering these sorts of things as theological writers when we decide where to publish- and this goes for monographs as well as articles.

Below is some quick work that I did searching around for institutional subscription rates for some prominent theology journals, trying to get a good spread from the big publishers and some sampling from the smaller publishers or self-published. The list is obviously just a fraction of what's out there- I tried to stick with general theology, tried to hit the big names, and I only covered English-language periodicals (and Brill is the only continental house... I included it more because of its importance as a publisher, although I think that the quality of Brill stuff can be of very uneven quality depending upon the series or subject). There is also no discussion of journal databases and how this would effect libraries, mostly because I'm not knowledgeable enough to speak to it. The numbers below are the institutional print & online prices, and I've also included the publishers of each journal. I've only posted the price for North America.

Please let me know what you think of all this. I'm refraining from comment in the post as there's already a lot of information here, but I do plan on revisiting this some more.

Modern Theology (Wiley-Blackwell), $700
International Journal of Systematic Theology (Wiley-Blackwell), $582
New Blackfriars (Wiley Blackwell), $230

The Journal of Theological Studies
(Oxford), $399
Journal of the American Academy of Religion (Oxford), $193

Vigiliae Christianae
(Brill), $466
Biblical Interpretation (Brill), $435
Ecclesiology (Brill), $263

Harvard Theological Review
(Cambridge), $108
Scottish Journal of Theology (Cambridge), $180

Journal of Religion (Chicago), $233*

Theological Studies
(Sheridan), $40** (print only)

Westminster Theological Journal (self-published), $35 (print only)

Concordia Theological Quarterly and St. Vladimir's Theological Quarterly, both published by their host institutions, appear to only offer individual print subscriptions at $20 (CTQ) and $50 (SVTQ).

*The Journal of Religion had some confusing pricing. This is the price for "Tier 2" (1,000-2,999 full-time students) institutional access.

**Theological Studies also has a special section for "Global South" individuals and libraries, making their periodical much more affordable to seminaries around the world. Blackwell offers "Developing World" subscriptions for institutions, but not for individuals. Oxford offers similar subscriptions (for JTS, not JAAR) to developing world institutions, but with no online access.


  1. In my neck of the woods we are dropping the paper subs in favor of the electronic-only in many cases [somewhat due to space]. Most of the ones you list are safe, but the trend is unsettling. Most electronic subscriptions have embargoes for current material. So we cannot access the most current stuff with that subscription.
    I would be interesting in others' thoughts too.

  2. CMWoodall,
    This is a real problem... I do hope that the embargo issue gets cleared up for more places, because it seems like an easy enough fix. In my recent posts about an article of mine that just came out in IJST, I also vent a bit about the annoyance of not being able to post the official version of my article for two years... while I'm a bit old-fashioned and still uncomfortable about what open access might mean for scholarly publishing, even I find it pretty reasonable to allow authors to retain more rights for sharing their work electronically.

    Yes, unless I'm reading the websites incorrectly these are annual fees... certainly at Blackwell it seems to be labeled explicitly as "annual", and that's the most expensive place.

  3. To my mind, anything over $200 seems a bit much.

    My experience attending a grad school with a (shall we say) research-challenged library was that I could get anything—via interlibrary loan—for free. So it worked out. But this was before electronic subscriptions took off…

  4. You'll find there are also a good many open (free) ejournals in theology and publishing on religious topics. is my search engine for over 3,000 such ejournals in the arts & humanities.