2002 U.S. Periodical Price Index

By Barbara Albee and Brenda Dingley

Publication of the 2002 U.S. Periodical Price Index represents the 42nd annual study of this type sponsored by the Library Materials Price Index Committee (LMPIC) of the ALA’s Association for Library Collections and Technical Services (ALCTS). For the 18th consecutive year, the price index is based on subscription price information supplied, compiled, and analyzed by divine/Faxon Library Services (formerly Faxon Library Services, RoweCom, Inc.), which shares the committee’s concern for and interest in serials pricing trends. The annual study follows guidelines, definitions, and criteria established in the ANSI standard (Z39.20-1983) for library materials price indexes. <1>

Purpose, Scope, and Methodology

The purpose of the index and accompanying tables and analysis is to measure changes in average U.S. periodical prices in a historical context. The information provided here is of use to librarians who must prepare annual budget requests for serials, as well as those involved in analyzing serials pricing trends over a period of years.

The scope of this study is a selected sample of 3,919 periodical titles published in the United States, each of which has an established subscription price and which fulfills the definition of a periodical outlined in ANSI Z39.20-1983: “A publication that constitutes one issue in a continuous series under the same title, published more than once a year over an indefinite period, with individual issues in the series numbered consecutively or with each issue date. Newspapers are excluded.”

Consistency with previous years’ indexes is ensured by maintaining the same periodical titles sample as in previous years, except for those titles which ceased publication or otherwise changed for the 2002 subscription year, and which no longer conform to the standard. Serial services, microform editions, electronic journals, annuals, and serial publications not adhering to the ANSI Z39.20-1983 definition of a periodical are excluded from the survey. Periodicals that change title are considered the same publication if volume numbering remains continuous.

Because of the need to maintain the continuity of current price index data with that presented in previous studies in this series, no additional periodical titles over and above the standard sample of 3,919 titles have been analyzed. Although the title selection procedure represents a deviation from the ANSI Z39.20-1983 standard, LMPIC’s emphasis on historical perspective justifies the sampling methodology used in this study.

Subscription price information for the 2002 subscription year is derived from Faxon’s online subscription rate file as of January 31, 2002. The price information used is established by the publishers for U.S. libraries. Annual subscription prices used in this study are publishers’ list prices, and exclude all related Faxon service charges as well as publisher discounts to Faxon. The 2002 subscription prices for 31 titles included in this study but not available through Faxon because of publisher policy were obtained directly from the publishers by telephone inquiry.

A total of 85 titles included in the 2001 price study were dropped from the 2002 sample for one or more of the following reasons:

  • title no longer published in the U.S.;
  • suspended publication;
  • title no longer available on a subscription basis;
  • title available free from publisher;
  • delayed or slow publication;
  • title no longer conforms to the standard definition of a periodical due to changes in publication pattern.

Replacement titles for 76 of those 85 titles dropped from the 2001 price index sample were selected according to criteria established by the LMPIC, and were selected on a title-by-title basis from the same subject category as those titles that were dropped. In situations where multiple possible replacements were identified, those titles with the greatest number of Faxon-placed subscriptions were selected for inclusion in the 2002 study. Replacement titles were identified in the Faxon database according to similar LC subject classification and price range. Nine titles in the Russian Translations category were not replaced in the 2002 study because suitable replacements could not be found. The titles in the category are becoming increasingly difficult to replace. Consequently, the total sample for this study is 3,919 rather than the 3,928 used in 2001.

The average annual subscription prices and price indexes for each subject category were computed using the methodology specified in the ANSI Z39.20-1983 standard. This procedure involves the following process:

  • For each of the 25 subject categories, the total annual subscription cost is divided by the number of titles in the category to determine the average price by category.
  • Each average subscription price for the current year is divided by the average price in that subject category for the base year (1984) and then is multiplied by 100 to arrive at the current price index for each category.

Periodical Price Index Highlights

The 2002 edition of the U.S. Periodical Price Index (USPPI) shows little change from the previous study. Overall increases were under the double digit for 2002. The average price for the sample, excluding the Russian Translations category, rose from $261.56 in 2001 to $282.31, which represents a 7.9% rate of increase, down 0.4 of a percentage point from last year. The rate has been very similar over the past four years with 10.4% and 9.0% increases posted in 1999 and 2000, respectively, and 8.3% and 7.9% in 2001 and 2002.

The inclusion of the 190 Russian Translations raises the average price for 2002 to $363.77, which is 7.6% higher than the 2001 price of $338.23. This rate of increase is slightly lower than the rate of 8.6% posted in 2001 and is in line with the increases of 9.8% and 9.2% posted in 1999 and 2000, respectively. In 2002, the increase for the Russian Translations category alone was 10.6%.

Table I of the study provides a ranking of average periodical prices for each of the 25 subject categories included in this survey and a comparison of the rankings with those of the previous three years. Russian Translations continued to post the highest average price in 2002, at $1,962.39. The next highest category in price was once again Chemistry & Physics at $1,519.83. These two categories continue to dominate the sample. The third highest category was Medicine at $789.44, slightly more than half that of Chemistry & Physics.

As in years past, Table I shows very little to no change in the rank order by average price of the 25 subject categories. The top 11 rankings remained the same as 2001; in fact, the top seven categories have remained constant since 1983.<2> These “usual suspects” are, respectively: Russian Translations; Chemistry and Physics; Medicine; Mathematics, etc.; Zoology; Engineering; and Psychology. The categories in the lowest tier, from 16th to 25th positions, remained unchanged. Up until 2000, these categories had remained unchanged for four years. There are only slight changes in the rankings of categories 12 and 13 from 2001.

Table II ranks the subject categories by rate of price change from the previous year and includes comparisons for the most recent four years of data. This table typically exhibits much more fluctuation in rank order than Table I, and the 2002 study continues this trend. Russian Translations remains in the top ranking position with a 10.6% increase in 2002 down from the 12.7% increase in 2001. The largest change in this table belongs to Industrial Arts from ranking 24th in 2001 to 4th in 2002 followed by Agriculture ranked 5th in 2001 to 20th in 2002. Other significant increases and decreases in rank include Sociology and Anthropology, from 13th to 2nd position and Labor and Industrial Relations, from 5th to the 17th position.

The data in Table II also shows that two of the categories increased in price in 2002 by a rate of at least 10%, which is down from the six categories that increased by more than 10% in 2001. Rates of increase in 2002 ranged from a high of 10.6% (Russian Translations) to a low of 3.5% (General Interest Periodicals). The median rate of increase for the sample was 7.8%, which is just under the median rate of 8.0% in 2001.

Table III groups 24 of the categories by broad subject and lists annual percent increases for each year over the most recent 10-year period. The Russian Translations category is not included since it is interdisciplinary in nature. An average annual percent change for each specific subject category is provided. As always, average increases for the Science and Technology categories continued to outpace those in the Social Sciences and the Humanities.

Average increases for Science and Technology ranged from a low of 6.4% (Agriculture) to a high of 9.0% (Industrial Arts). The median increase was 8.7% in 2000, 8.6% in 2001, and 7.95% in 2002. None of the eight categories in this group posted double-digit increases this year and six were down from the 2001 figures with Agriculture showing the most significant drop from 10.6% in 2001 to 6.4% for 2002. Industrial Arts showed the most significant jump from 1.6% in 2001 to 9.0% in 2002. Medicine dropped from 9.6% to 8.6% this year.

Comparatively, Social Sciences ranged from a low of 5.3% (Journalism and Communications) to a high of 10.2% (Sociology and Anthropology), with a median rate of 7.8%. For Humanities, the low category was 5.3% (Fine and Applied Arts) and the high was 8.2% (Literature and Language). General Interest Periodicals and Children’s Periodicals remain low at 3.5% and 4.1% respectively. The median 10-year cumulative rate of increase for the entire sample, excluding Russian Translations, was 7.8%.

Table IV provides a more detailed analysis of the Mathematics, etc., subcategory, a category under Science and Technology, which contains not only mathematics titles but, those from earth, life, botanical, and general sciences as well. This table shows average prices and percent increases for each of the five subcategories in this group over the most recent three-year period. General Sciences (including Astronomy titles), once again has the highest rate of increase in 2002 leading the category with an average price of $376.14, which represents a 20.3% increase over 2001. Mathematics showed an average price in 2002 of $779.36, for a 5.5% increase and came in fifth in terms of rate of increase for the lowest rate of increase in the group.

Table V examines each subject category in terms of the proportion of titles in each category that increased in price over the three-year period from 2000 to 2002. This table traditionally is dominated by the Russian Translations category, which typically has a very high percentage of its titles increasing in price each year. In 2002, the median was 41% and Russian Translations again posted the highest number of titles increasing in price at 97%, the only category with a figure of at least 90%. The next highest numbers came from Medicine and Psychology both at 88%, and Chemistry and Physics at 81%. No other categories had more than 80% of its titles posting an increase in price. The overall rate for the entire sample, including Russian Translations was 49% in 2002, which is the slightly higher than the three-year average rate for the sample of 48%.

Table VI is a detailed analysis of average price and percent increase by single and two-letter Library of Congress Classification Codes, for the three-year period 2000-2002. Average prices in this table for 2002, range from a low average price of $30.53 for Class TT (Handicrafts, Arts & Crafts) to a high of $1,770.65 for Class QD (Chemistry) followed very closely by Class QC (Physics) at $1770.25. Chemistry and Physics have maintained the positions at the top of the table for each of the three years shown and beyond. As always, rates of change vary widely each year in this table. In 2002, the lowest rate of increase was posted by Class TH (Building construction) at a negative 30% and Class HG (Commerce) with 1%, while the highest increase was 21% by Class Q (Science (General)), followed by 16% by Class TJ (Mechanical eng. & machinery).

Table VII provides detailed data concerning average price percent change, and price index for each category in the study. The highest index figure posted in Table VII in 2002 is 694.3 by the Zoology category. This means that the titles in this group have increased by 694.3% since the base year 1984. Chemistry & Physics was in a close second position at 664.0, followed by Medicine at 628.7. Mathematics, Botany, Geology & General Science is next at 566.0, followed by Psychology at 555.1, Engineering at 550.0. Russian Translations follows at 513.9, Sociology & Anthropology at 495.5, Political Science at 458.7, Labor and Industrial Relations at 454.4 and Agriculture at 453.5 representing all categories with index figures over 450.0. The lowest index figure posted in 2002 was by General Interest Periodicals at 170.5. The median index figure was at 423.7 while the index for all titles was 502.0 including Russian Translations and 513.6 excluding Russian Translations.

Finally, Chart A compares the U.S. Periodical Price Index (USPPI) to the U.S. Consumer Price Index (CPI) and the Higher Education Price Index (HEPI).<3> Chart A in this year’s study reflects the fact that the producers of the HEPI have reindexed that study to a base year of 1983. The base index figure is 100.0. The CPI posted a 2.8 percent increase for 2001. CPI figures for the current year are not yet available. The HEPI figures for 1999 and 2000 are now available. The inflation measures for schools, colleges and libraries for 1999 and 2000 were 2.4% and for 4.1% respectively. The 2001 updated HEPI figure is 4.8%.


Ongoing responsibility for continuing the U.S. Periodical Price Index rests with the ALA/ALCTS Library Materials Price Index Committee. Comments may be addressed to Sharon Sullivan, Chair, Swets Blackwell, P.O. Box 1459, Blackwood, NJ 08012; e-mail: ssullivan@us.swetsblackwell.com.

The authors wish to acknowledge with gratitude the able and continued assistance of the following divine/Faxon Library Services staff in generating and tabulating data for this report: Linda Medeiros, Barbara Celeste, and Kathy Kelleher and also Linda J. Fox at UMKC.

1. American Standards Institute, American National Standard for Library and Information Sciences and Related Publishing Practices—Library Material—Criteria for Price Indexes. ANSI Z39.20-1983. New York, 1983. <back>

2. See previous editions of this study, appearing in each April 15 issue of Library Journal (except for the 1985 edition, which appeared in the August issue) until 1993, when the study began appearing in the May issue of American Libraries. <back>

3. Research Associates of Washington, Higher Education Prices and Price Indexes: 2001 Update. Available from RAW, 1200 N. Nash St., #1112, Arlington, VA 22209. <back>

© Copyright 2002 American Library Association