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Precursor to the serials crisis: German science publishing in the 1930s: in the interwar years, the high volume and prices of German scientific publications posed a threat for library budgets and acquisitions policies

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In the interwar years, the high volume and prices of German scientific publicati ons posed a threat for library budgets and acquisitions policies.


German science and publishing recovered quickly after the end of the First World War. Scientific research was held in high esteem in Germany, and the quality of Germa n research in many scientific disciplines was valued internationally. German periodicals were a major outlet for European scholars and scientists, and many new journals and series were publ ished.

Germany was not the only country in which the rate of scientific publicatio ns was rising quickly. America, Great Britain, and France also contributed to an unprecedente d expansion The effect on already depressed library acquisitions budgets soon became apparen t. The Association of American Universities re - ported in 1926 that many science libra ries were spending almost all their budgets on serials subscriptions,(f.1) and questions w ere raised about the uncertain future of the development of library collections.

The Germans were to be singled out, however. Rapidly increasing volume, co mbined with rampant inflation during the early Weimar years, had driven up prices at a fast pace. Several schemes to stabilize the prices in the international market were proposed by the German Borsenverein der deutschen Buchhandel, but to no avail. As early as 1920, the B ook Buying Committee of the American Library Association began to monitor and report on the prices of German periodicals and concern among American librarians was growing.(f.2) In 1 924 a committee of the (American) Medical Library Association charged German publisher s with 'unreasonable and unjustifiable' prices for foreign subscribers.(f.3)

Wilfrid Bonser, librarian at Birmingham University in Great Britain, produc ed a detailed survey, demonstrating real price differences among British, American, German, an d other European periodicals...