This is a big question and lots of people have weighed in on it. Many agree that one contributing factor is that the costs of higher education rise more quickly than the CPI. One small part of those costs are library collection costs -- particularly continued journal price inflation. Recently we saw a particularly egregious example of this when the Nature Publishing Group (NPG) raised institutional subscription prices on their new acquisition, Scientific American from $39.95 per year, to an amazing $299 per year. Three hundred bucks is not such a big figure in comparison with the hundreds of thousands of dollars we spend each year on library materials but a single order of magnitude increase does get my attention.
So this time we did not just roll over and take it.
I organized my Oberlin Group colleagues to sign a joint letter to NPG and publicized the letter with the media. Our ultimate hope is that NPG will reconsider this decision and revoke this price increase. If the letter doesn't achieve this, then I expect the marketplace will. Rollins, along with a number of other college libraries, have already cancelled their subscriptions.