P.T. Barnum's List

"What are taxpayers for?" --Anonymous

 I am sure that  telemarketers and tv evangelists are willing to pay big  money for  lists  of  gullible people.  I am going to give you a similar  list  for  free, a list of libraries that apparently are either almost entirely  inattentive to cost or  have so much money that they don't know what to do with it.

The world's two most expensive economics journals are NOT the   two best journals. Not even close.  In fact, most economists haven't heard of either one.  The Journal of Economic Studies and the International Journal of Social Economics are each priced at more than $8000 for the 2002 volume.      They are rarely cited in scholarly work  and are not even included among the journals  from which  Social Science Citation Index counts citations. The third most expensive economics journal, Applied Economics costs only about $3000 per year, and though it is little cited, is not nearly so obscure as the other two.  In contrast, the six most-cited economics journals cost an average of $180 per year.

As you might expect, there are not many takers at these prices.  The remarkable thing is that there are some.  Below, we list the universities  that are recorded by the OCLC union list of library catalogs as having current print subscriptions to the two most expensive economics  journals in the world.  (Harvard is not inventoried by OCLC, but current copies of these two journals are listed in the online Harvard library catalog.)  I have discovered that some libraries  listed by the OCLC  as having these  journals have already canceled their subscriptions but didn't get around to notifying the OCLC.   I have removed their names from this page.

A university librarian who recently dropped subscriptions to these journals  explained to me that their library was able to maintain access to a bundled package of electronic-access journals published by MCB, so long as they did not drop subscriptions to any of MCB's paper editions. This helps to explain
a) why MCB would raise the price of these minor journals to astronomic levels. b) why any libraries still hold subscriptions to these two journals.

Quite possibly, most  of the  libraries on this list are getting these journals as part of a bundle at a lower price than the price listed by the publisher.  As more details arrive, I will report them.

  • As far as I know, this is the entire list of U.S. subscribers. There may be some more that are not listed in the OCLC database.  I have checked the catalogs of most of the large universities that are not in the OCLC.
  • Libraries  subscribing to the paper version of Journal of Economic Studies ($7599 per year, $14 per page)

    Case Western Reserve
    Harvard University
    Mississippi State University

    US Treasury (Listed by OCLC as currently subscribing. I have not been able to verify this directly.)

    Libraries subscribing to the paper version of International Journal of Social Economics ($8199 per year, $5 per page)

    California State, Fresno (gift subscription from an editor of IJSE)
    Harvard University
    (Villanova University's paper subscription seems to have been dropped as of 2003. They maintain an online subscription)
    (University of Miami has dropped their subscription as of June, 2006.)

    A Special Double Barnum Award ---As far as I can tell, there remains only one  library in the U.S. that claims to have  paper subscriptions to both journals.  Just a bit more evidence that people give money to Harvard precisely because Harvard does
    not need money.

    Harvard University

    Until recently this list had 3 members.
    (University of Michigan dropped its subscriptions to both in 2001. Go Blue! )
    (Georgia State has dropped its subscriptions to both journals as of 2004.)

     The following libraries appear to have electronic-only  subscriptions to one or both journals, purchased as part of a package from the publisher Emerald Press.  Prices and contents of the package vary. One library  reports paying  about $30,000 per year for a package containing 130 mediocre journals. That comes to only about $240 per journal. Most university libraries have apparently decided that this is not a good buy, but the case against subscribing to this package is not a slam dunk (unless you know a lot more than I do about the journals in the package).

    Arizona State
    Case Western Reserve
    University of Arizona
    University of Michigan
    University of Oklahoma
    University of Texas, Arlington
    Villanova University
    Worcester Polytechnic University