From time to time, a few people take actions about excessive journal prices. Here is one example.
The nine members of the editorial board of the Oxford University-based mathematics journal Topology have signed a letter expressing their intention to resign on December 31. They cited the price of the journal as well as the general pricing policies of their publisher, Elsevier, as having "a significant and damaging effect on Topology's reputation in the mathematical research community".
But according to Elsevier's Web site, in 2007 the cost of a single year (six issues) of Topology, in all countries except Europe and Japan, will be $100 for individuals and $1,665 for institutions.
Founded through the vision of the Oxford topologist J.H.C. Whitehead in mid-century, Topology has an "illustrious history" with "some of the greatest names of 20th century mathematics" among its editorial and honorary advisory editorial board members, the editors wrote in their resignation letter, dated August 10. "Elsevier's policies towards the publication of mathematics research have undermined this legacy".
Board resignations have occurred at other Elsevier publications, such as the Journal of Logic Programming and the Journal of Algorithms, and also at a variety of other publishers such as Kluwer and Taylor and Francis." "One editor of Topology, John Roe, whose specialty is the relation between geometry and differential equations, said the rising cost of journals has concerned academics, not just mathematicians, for a long time." "To those who favor free online access to scholarship, mass resignations of editors are "declarations of independence," a research professor of philosophy at Earlham College, Peter Suber, said. Usually, he said, an editorial board "has a long track record of failed negotiations with their publisher. The typical scenario is the editors resign, form a new journal at a lower price, and the old journal hires new editors".
A Lehigh University mathematics professor, Donald Davis, who moderates an online algebraic topology discussion list, said, "University library budgets are no longer adequate to subscribe to all the journals they used to." The Head Librarian of the Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences Library at New York University, Carol Hutchins, said, "The degree of choice is shrinking" and cited reasons such as the consolidation of publishing firms.
"Elsevier's prices are very high," said an emerita mathematics professor at Barnard College, Joan Birman, who resigned a few years ago from the board of an Elsevier journal, Topology and Its Applications. She said her feeling was, "We do the work, we check each other, we referee the articles, edit and typeset them and send them to the publisher, which slaps them between two covers and charges a huge amount".
A professor at New York University, Sylvain Cappell, who is an editor of Communications on Pure and Applied Mathematics, published by John Wiley & Sons with the Courant Institute, said in addition to bundled subscriptions, journals have complex subsidiary rights and other concerns: "You would need a staff as large as the publishing houses to keep track of that".