Publicly available data on international journal subscription costs

Updated June 2016 and June 2017 to add new information for Finland, on 23 August 2016 with information for Canada, and on 20 December 2016 with information for the Netherlands.

Financial data on the amounts spent by different nations – or their academic sectors – on journal subscriptions is not collated in any systematic way at present. I have argued elsewhere that it would be extremely useful if this were the case, but in the meantime here is a brief list of some of the information which is currently available. This is not comprehensive, so feel free to comment below if you spot anything that is missing. (A similar list can be found on an Open Knowledge International wiki, from which I have borrowed some of this information).


  • Data for over 150 higher education institutions over five years with ten publishers:
  • SCONUL collect statistics each year directly from the libraries of higher education institutions. This data is not open, but in 2014/15 the total expenditure of the sector on serials (a term which predominantly, though not exclusively, refers to journals) was around £180m.

Australia and New Zealand

  • CAUL statistics (1969-2010) are published for Australian and New Zealand university libraries. The expenditure figures are top level only, not broken down by publisher. In 2010 [xlsx], Australian university libraries spent A$181m* and New Zealand university libraries spent NZ$55m* on serials.
  • A Freedom of Information (FOI) attempt was made in New Zealand to find out exactly how much is spent on particular publishers, but this was not successful (Market failure in the research world)


  • Comprehensive national-level data is not known. The large and diverse nature of US higher education would make information difficult to obtain. An article in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences by Theodore Bergstrom et al., ‘Evaluating big deal journal bundles’ [link to supplementary data], used FOI requests to find out the amounts paid to a selection of publishers by a variety of individual institutions.



  • ‘Brazil has an nation wide agreement providing journal access to 423 academic and research institutions. It is called Portal de Periódicos, provided by CAPES. According to its 2013 financial report … CAPES spent US$ 93,872,151 (with US$ 31,644,204 paid to Elsevier). Some institutions that are not covered by the agreement, as they do not meet the eligibility criteria, had to pay in separate in order to get access to this portal, spending additional US$ 11,560,438.93.’ (figures from Ciência Aberta mailing list)




  • Public information shows that German libraries spent €130 million on journal subscriptions in 2011 ( ‘These figures are broken down in different sections in several documents – but all of these are in German only’ (email from Björn Brembs – more recent figures, for 2014, are now available).
  • Unverified estimate: A 2015 Max Plank policy paper ( said that ‘There are no consolidated figures for the country-wide subscription spending for scientific journals, but experts project these costs to be well beyond EUR 200 million per year.’




Article in German about the procedure: Gutknecht, Christian (2016). Transparenz von Subskriptionskosten in der Schweiz. In: 027.7 Zeitschrift für Bibliothekskultur 4(1). 26-32. DOI: 10.12685/027.7-4-1-103


* I’m not 100% sure whether I’ve used the correct currency here! The CAUL statistics just use a dollar sign.

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