WSU Libraries

Journal Review

Why the libraries buy bundled packages of journals

Why do libraries buy bundled packages?

  • Library users have access to all of the publishers’ titles covered by the license for a relatively small incremental cost; more journal titles than previously held by the Library.
  • The Library purchases the entire package because the bundled price results in a lower cost per article download then if the Library purchased each journal as an individual subscription.
  • Price caps help control the ongoing costs of subscriptions.
  • WSULS payments for 1,584 subscriptions – through bundled packages– provide WSULS users
    with access to over 5,400 journal titles.

Publishers offer journals bundled together as a package, somewhat similar to the cable company offering 2 additional premium movie channels if you subscribe to HBO. At times the package of journal titles includes all journals produced by a publisher, other times the publishers break the bundles into subject centered bundles.

Content of bundled packages

Many publishers have subject areas that they cover extensively and some subjects that are covered sparsely or not at all, and it may make sense for a library to subscribe to a publisher full title list because that publisher has a number of subjects of interest to its faculty and students and a reputation of high quality journal articles. So, for instance, one publisher offers numerous titles in the science, technology and medicine areas; significantly more titles than WSULS could afford to subscribe. Prior to these big “bundled” journal packages, WSULS would subscribe to only the journals that of most value to our faculty and students.

However, faculty and students needs always extend beyond the Library’s collections. By providing elec- tronic access to bundles of a publisher's journal titles, the hope is that the Library gives faculty and students quick and efficient access to the journal article they want at a cost that is lower in price than interlibrary loan and of more value to the student or faculty because access was there at the time it was desired, instantly.

Pricing of bundled packages

A bundled package from a publisher may include all or selected publications offered by the publisher at a set list price for the bundle. In some cases, the list price for an Internet subscription to a bundle of jour- nals can vary depending on the size of the academic library making the purchase. The cost of the bundle is lower than the cost of individual subscriptions to each title.

In the case of big “bundled” journal packages from major commercial publishers, the price of the journal bundle is often based on the combined price of all the journal titles to which a Library subscribes -- plus an additional fee for the “extra” content. The Library may choose electronic only access to the journals or may continue to buy print copies of single journals that duplicate electronic titles; the price of the print copy is often discounted from the list price due to the bundle agreement.

For example, if the publisher printed, and the Library bought, 1) Journal of Ducks, 2) Journal of Clocks and 3) Journal of Computer Chips and the total cost of those titles in print were $1,000, the publisher would base the bundled electronic package on the original cost of the print titles, $1,000. If the publisher offers the ability to buy print copies of the same titles for 25% of that cost, $250 the total cost of the subscribed titles would be $1,250. The publisher assures the Library that the content of the subscribed journals is accessible forever for these 3 titles; licenses refer to this access as perpetual access.

“Extra” content consists of the publisher offering the Library access to the 97 additional titles that they pub- lish for an extra $500, but the Library often has no perpetual access rights. If the Library decided to not continue the big “bundled” journal package at any time in the future, the additional content of the 97 "extra" journals would be gone, completely. Perpetual access to “extra” content is covered by the license and rights can vary with each contract between the library and the publisher.


  • Library users have access to all of the publishers’ titles covered by the deal for a relatively small incremental cost; more journal titles than previously held by the Library.
  • Price caps help control the ongoing costs of subscriptions.
  • Multi-year contracts stabilize costs, making them predictable.
  • An agreement with a publisher for a bundled package may be tied to consortium membership -- leveraging buying power of the larger group.


  • Places some restrictions on library cancelling titles under subscription
  • Publishers use this method to lock the institution into a minimum annual expenditure over the year of the contract.

Wayne State currently participates in the following “big” bundled journal packages with the Michigan Library Consortium.

Cambridge 90 149  
Sage 114 375  
Elsevier (Science Direct) 645 1193  
Springer 268 1415  
Wiley-Blackwell 467 704  
Total 1584 3836 5420


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