MU MU Libraries
home J. Otto Lottes Health Sciences Library, Resources and Services Journal Prices Increase More than True Inflation

Journal Prices Increase More than True Inflation

Every year, universities face journal subscription price increases. The health sciences have been feeling the impact of these increases for at least 20 years and have been dealing with unsustainable subscription pricing for a very long time, and now it’s a problem for all disciplines.

The cost of these journals often outstrips library budgets, leaving the libraries battling both price increases and revenue stagnation.

“Many libraries are cutting continuing expenditures by cancelling or breaking up journal packages and buying only those titles for which use or demand justifies the price. Others are aggressively renegotiating contracts with publishers to reduce ongoing costs.” [1]

Take a a look at subscription costs of a few journals in the early 1980s vs. what the University of Missouri system pays now.

Journal Title Cost in 1983 Cost if Based on True Inflation [2] Cost Today
Nature $220 $354.11 $40,292.31
Science $85 $136.82 $25,884.06
New England Journal of Medicine $48 $77.26 $18,890.00


Why are journal prices increasing so much from year to year? Publishing companies are big businesses and they must make their business profitable. Over the years, these bigger companies have bought smaller publishing companies, causing a lack of competition and the ability to set their own prices.

Do you know the price of the journals you write for and edit? How much did they cost 5 years ago? Contact us if you’d like the price history for a journal, or to learn more about how you can help bring journal prices under control.

[1] Costs Outstrip Library Budgets | Periodicals Price Survey 2020
[2] Based on the cumulative inflation rate from the Bureau of Labor Statistics consumer price index


Taira Meadowcroft

Taira Meadowcroft is the Public Health and Community Engagement Librarian at the Health Sciences Library at the University of Missouri.