It's notoriously difficult to get good numbers on publisher income, expense and profit -- even nonprofits like PLoS only publish what they have to -- and so I'm always on the lookout for more data....[F]or now I rely on articles like this one (via OAN) from McGuigan and Russell at Penn State:
...I just want to publicize this table of profit margins, comparing Elsevier S&M with the broader STM industry....
[PS: Here omitting table showing profit margins from 1998-2000 for Elsevier Science and Medical (avg. = 35.9%), for all Elsevier journals (avg. = 23.4%), and for all periodical publishers (avg. = 4.6%).]
...The 2007 LJ Periodicals Price Survey says that commercial STM publishers' profit margins were "around 25 percent on average" for that year, so the figures for "all periodical publishers" would seem to include a variety of non-STM publishers. Even so, Elsevier's science and medical division has a clear and commanding lead in the price-gouging stakes.
the top ten STM publishers pulled in 53 percent of the revenue in the $16.1 billion periodicals market in 2006....
Mind you, I don't mean to imply that we should launch another boycott; reigning in Elsevier's profit margins and/or market share would do little to offset the serials crisis. The only answer to that, in the long term, is Open Access, because it scales where Toll access doesn't....
Peter Suber at 12/21/2008 11:40:00 AM.
The open access movement:
Putting peer-reviewed scientific and scholarly literature
on the internet. Making it available free of charge and
free of most copyright and licensing restrictions.
Removing the barriers to serious research.