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Marketplace & Licensing

Scholarly communication relies in part on the ability of research libraries to purchase published works. Traditional publishers are transforming their products and business models to accommodate digital publishing. The scholarly publishing market currently is a hybrid market involving both print and digital resources.

For a variety of reasons, the marketplace for scholarly publishing has developed in ways that increasingly challenge libraries’ ability to acquire the works needed by their users. Commercialization of publishing in both the for-profit and nonprofit sectors has led to egregious price increases and unacceptable terms and conditions of use for some key research resources needed by the scholarly community. ARL supports a healthy marketplace that reduces barriers hindering access to scholarly information.

Below are links to resources on the scholarly communication marketplace and licensing.

ARL & Licensing

ARL members collectively spend over $1.4 billion on materials and the average ARL academic library spends close to two-thirds of its materials budget on electronic resources, many of them licensed. The investment in those licenses is substantial.

ARL has a long history and interest in issues for licensing electronic content. In 1996, ARL and CNI held one of the first conferences for the research library community on licensing. ARL and its partner library associations issued a set of draft Principles for Licensing Electronic Resources in 1997 that is still referred to today and then developed a series of workshops on licensing to introduce the library community to best practices in contract terms and negotiations. As other library organizations and individuals developed expertise in license negotation, ARL's emphasis changed to that of data gathering for hournal bundles in order to provide information on the changing market for serial subscriptions. Those analyses also included information on license terms and conditions that are of special concern to research libraries. 

E-Books Initiative

ARL began its most recent licensing initiative in 2010 to identify a strategy for ARL to influence the marketplace regarding licensing rights, technical specifications, and business terms to meet the needs of research libraries. In November 2011 ARL signed an agreement designating LYRASIS as an agent to negotiate licenses for online content on behalf of interested ARL member libraries. Using an e-books requirements document (PDF) developed to detail the specifications and licensing principles ARL was seeking for e-book licenses, LYRASIS negotiated offers with university press aggregators for 2012 and 2013.

License Models and Clauses

  • Accessibility

ARL's Joint Task Force on Services to Patrons with Print Disabilities provided language for a model license

  • Author Rights

Author Rights Model License Language 

  • Nondisclosure

ARL statement on Nondisclosure Clauses

Cornell University Library's Position on Nondisclosure Clauses in Licenses 

  • General Models

LIBLICENSE Standard Licensing Agreement (May 2008)

NERL Model License 


In many cases, a shared understanding of business practices would be a more efficient approach to acquire content. The NISO SERU (Shared Electronic Resource Understanding) is a best practice from the National Information Standards Organization that provides an alternative to license negotiations. 

Journal Pricing

The escalating price of scholarly journals has been a cause of concern for researchers, research institutions, and libraries. The library literature is replete with studies of pricing trends and assessments of impact. An annual periodical price survey is published by Library Journal annually in its April 15 issue, using data from EBSCO, which also provides a serials price projection reportAllen Press publishes an annual study of subscription prices for scholarly society journals and the International Association of Scientific, Technical & Medical Publishers has published three editions of the STM Report, the most recent in 2012.

Bundles and the Big Deal

Karla L. Strieb and Julia C. Blixrud. "The State of Large-Publisher Bundles in 2012." Research Library Issues: A Report from ARL, CNI, and SPARC, no. 282 (2013). 

"Leaving the Big Deal: Consequences and Next Steps," Jonathan Nabe and David C. Fowler, The Serials Librarian, Vol. 62, No. 1-4 (2012).

 “Deal or No Deal?: Evaluating Big Deals and Their Journals,” Deborah D. Blecic, Stephen E. Wiberley, Joan Fiscella, Sara Bahnmaier-Blaszczak, and Rebecca Lowery, College & Research Libraries 74 no. 2 (Mar. 2013): 178-94.

Librarians and the Terrible Fix: Economics of the Big Deal,” Ted C. Bergstrom, Serials 23, no. 2 (2010): 77–82.

The State of the Large Publisher Bundle: Findings from an ARL Member Survey,” Karla Hahn, ARL Bimonthly Report, April 2006.  

An Orderly Retreat from the Big Deal: Is It Possible for Consortia?” Jeffrey N. Gatten and Tom Sanville, D-Lib Magazine 10, no. 10 (2004).

A Snapshot in Time: ARL Libraries and Electronic Journal Resources,” Mary M. Case, ARL Bimonthly Report 235 (2004).

The Librarians’ Dilemma: Contemplating the Costs of the Big Deal.” Kenneth Frazier, D-Lib Magazine 7, no. 3 (2001).


SPARC Resources on Journal Prices 

Economic Analysis of Scientific Research Publishing from the Wellcome Trust

Journal Economics During an Economic Downturn (ACRL Scholarly Communication Toolkit)



Mergers in the publishing industry often have been accompanied by significant escalation in the price of serial publications, eroding libraries' ability to provide users with the publications they need. New publishing practices may have anticompetitive effects and ARL supports a competitive, vibrant, and diverse academic publishing marketplace in which the interests of research, academic institutions, and the public are well served. ARL has a history in working to encourage state and federal antitrust enforcement agencies to adopt a new standard of antitrust review for publisher mergers and to examine anticompetitive practices in scholarly publishing.


"Issue Brief: John Wiley and Sons' Acquistion of Blackwell Publishing" (PDF) ARL, February 2007

"The Academic Publishing Industry: A Story of Merger and Acquisition," Mary H. Munroe, last updated 2007

"Information Access Alliance: Challenging Anticompetitive Behavior in Academic Publishing," Mary M. Case, C&RL News, June 2004

"Law Serials Pricing and Mergers: A Portfolio Approach," (PDF) Mark J. McCabe, Contributions to Economic Analysis & Policy 3, no. 4 (2004)




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