Academics have called for a boycott against Elsevier, with some success for instance because it has led to resignations (recently in the Lingua journal).

As I understand it, Elsevier is not the only publisher with absurd subscription prices, but it is being targeted because it is the largest one. Are there any similar initiatives against other publishers? (Springer, Wiley, Taylor and Francis, ...) If not, why?

  • On similar lines, 'Elife' was formulated.
    – Dexter
    Commented Nov 7, 2015 at 16:44
  • Elife is interesting but not analogous to the Elsevier boycott, it is an open access publisher. Not sure I got your point.
    – pintoch
    Commented Nov 7, 2015 at 16:54
  • 2
    What I think @Dexter meant was that the creation of Elife was a move away from the commerical publishers. Its existence is a a form of boycott, taken to the next level of ".. and we'll do it better".
    – Chris H
    Commented Nov 9, 2015 at 9:38
  • Yes, in addition, one of big reasons why Elife was formulated is to break monopoly of Nature - Science journals.
    – Dexter
    Commented Nov 10, 2015 at 17:48
  • If anyone wonders what "absurd subscription prices" mean, see Reference for annual journal subscription costs paid per university Commented Jun 24, 2016 at 16:20

2 Answers 2


The Elsevier boycott seems to be the largest one of its kind. I understand the argument to be:

  1. A boycott is easier to maintain against a single publisher than against several publishers at once, since it limits the cost to the participants while, if anything, making the boycott more painful to the publisher.
  2. There's a short list of likely candidates for a single boycott---probably just Springer and Elsevier, and perhaps Wiley, as the largest and most expensive academic publishers. Elsevier had been particularly active in lobbying on some related issues (SOPA, PIPA, and the Research Works Act), and had recently been involved in several publishing related scandals (the ones involving Chaos, Solitons, and Fractals, and the Australasian Journal of Bone & Joint Medicine).

(I personally found these arguments strong, but plenty of people didn't, and some people have refused to participate in the boycott precisely because they think such a boycott should be more widely targeted.)

  • 9
    From the Cost of Knowledge statement on the choice of Elsevier over Springer: "One reason for focusing on Elsevier rather than, say, Springer is that Springer has had a rich and productive history with the mathematical community. As well as journals, it has published important series of textbooks, monographs, and lecture notes; one could perhaps regard the prices of its journals as a means of subsidizing these other, less profitable, types of publications."
    – E.P.
    Commented Nov 8, 2015 at 20:28

Example of boycott against Springer leading to the creation of an freely accessible scientific journal: the Journal of Machine Learning Research:

The journal was founded as an open-access alternative to the journal Machine Learning. In 2001, forty editors of Machine Learning resigned in order to support JMLR, saying that in the era of the internet, it was detrimental for researchers to continue publishing their papers in expensive journals with pay-access archives. Instead, they wrote, they supported the model of JMLR, in which authors retained copyright over their papers and archives were freely available on the internet.

The journal Machine Learning was published by Springer.

A number of people have called for boycotts against JSTOR after Aaron Swartz's death.

Elsevier isn't indeed the only publisher to have high prices, some examples:

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  • Great, thanks! It would be useful to have sites such as The Cost of Knowledge for Springer and others, to make these local initiatives more visible, I think.
    – pintoch
    Commented Nov 7, 2015 at 22:05
  • 2
    @pintoch As long as people don't pay from their own pockets directly, the motivation is low... unfortunately. Too bad for the taxpayers. Commented Nov 8, 2015 at 16:20
  • Guys, this does not seem to be a scientific comparison of prices - rather just some numbers out of context. Price per click is what people normally use - may be you could find some trusted sources and add them as referenceS? Also, is SIGMOD record OA journal or do you really believe there is free lunch?
    – al_b
    Commented Nov 10, 2015 at 11:19
  • @al_b Feel free to edit the answer. Some other numbers: academia.stackexchange.com/q/31605/452 Commented Nov 10, 2015 at 17:18

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