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From the Scholarly Kitchen

Quantifying Consolidation in the Scholarly Journals Market

February 19, 2024  |  By

This article was published in The Scholarly Kitchen on October 30, 2023.


  • It is well-known in the scholarly publishing community that independent journals are partnering with larger publishers… but historical analysis to confirm this trend is complicated by the limitations of bibliometric databases. Persistent identifiers (PIDs) are dynamically updated, making it hard to track the origin of articles that have moved to new platforms as a result of market consolidation.
  • Web of Science (WoS)’ annual snapshots of the literature, however, are not dynamically updated. While WoS lacks some information on mergers and is a selective database, with the right filtering mechanisms, it can be used as a proxy for the entire market.
  • This historical analysis unveils notable market consolidation over the years, with distinctive waves of change linked to the emergence of The Big Deal subscription model and Open Access (OA) initiatives.
  • The Big Deal subscription model (transformative agreements) created immense challenges for smaller independent journals, which faced cancellations by libraries – resulting in a movement toward more consolidation.
  • Various OA policies that were implemented between 2006-2018 did not significantly impact market consolidation. But a resurgence in consolidation began in 2018, paralleling new funder regulations around OA.
  • Forcing the market into rapid change and new business models that are focused on volume and scalability has had unintended consequences, leading top publishers to dominate the market.
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David Crotty

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David Crotty is a Senior Consultant at C&E, where he helps clients better understand the professional and scholarly publishing market dynamics and to develop strategies to thrive in even challenging marketing conditions. Prior to joining C&E David was the Editorial Director, Journals Policy for Oxford University Press. See Full Bio

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