Monograph Purchasing Trends in Research Libraries: Did Electronic Journals Really Destroy the University Press?

Elisabeth A. Jones
Research Associate
University of Michigan


Given the rapidly changing economics of scholarly communication in the digital age, the importance of accurate, specific data on the resource flows within this realm has become increasingly important. Both the producers and the collectors of scholarly information require accurate information in order to nimbly navigate their changing roles in advancing the progress of knowledge. Two key actors in this area are university presses and academic libraries, which both hold keystone roles in scholarly communications, as disseminators and conservators of scholarship, respectively. As a starting point for assessing the relationship between these two actors, we have been conducting an exploratory study examining a contentious point of interaction between them: that is, trends in purchases of university press books by academic libraries. This work provides a preliminary empirical basis for evaluating frequent claims by publishers that declines in U.S. libraries’ monographic purchasing over the past three decades can be held primarily responsible for the declining economic fortunes of U.S. university presses over the same period. The results of the analysis to date indicate that this relationship is not as clear-cut as it may seem, for at least two reasons: first, to the extent that purchasing reductions have occurred, they have occurred much more recently than prior accounts have suggested, and second, purchasing trends vary significantly between different libraries and between different sizes of university press.

Researchers: Elisabeth A. Jones and Paul N. Courant, both of the University of Michigan


Last updated:  Wednesday, March 26th, 2014